Getting started

Does your business plan include a section for mental health?

- October 8, 2016 3 MIN READ

Starting a business is an exciting time, and having a business plan for growth is key to success. However, is your plan complete? You need to cover off more than just sales, marketing and finance.

I’ve written numerous business plans in my lifetime. I’ve done complex documents through to simple one-pagers. I’ve had them bound and available online in pdf, and I’ve been proud to have brainstormed plans on the back of a napkin. I’ve even taught other people how to write a business plan. Nowadays I spend my time lurking on websites that claim to provide business plan templates for those who are just starting out.  I spend my time on government sites, entrepreneur sites, educational sites and small business support sites.

This is a call out to all the banks, start-up advice sites, business chamber, universities and business coaches. Your business plan templates are missing a key area. They don’t address a strategy to develop and maintain your mental health whilst growing a small business.

I’m constantly amazed at how business templates can offer guidance on how to develop a marketing strategy, a financial plan, sales forecasts and production plans yet have nothing that addresses a person-plan. I’m not talking about recruitment. I mean a self-care strategy.

It’s exciting making plans to grow a business but once those plans are in action it can be stressful too. Over half of all businesses in Australia are sole operators. This means if you’re not well enough to grow your business, who will?

I wish I had developed a self-care plan as part of my growth strategy for my first business. I would have highlighted the tough times and tried to put in place a plan that may have buffered me against the strains of business ownership. I certainly would have put some building blocks to ensure I was growing my resilience skills in addition to my marketing and forecasting abilities.

If you’re using a standard template from a business provider, please go back to them and ask for the missing pages. Ask for the template guide that will encourage you to consider how you will maintain your mental health whilst growing a business. Ask them to ensure this section is included in every template they produce from that day forward. Ask them to help us nurture a small business community that recognises mental health development at work is just as important as sales development.

Want more articles like this? Check out the business startup section.

If you’re not using a template and have developed your own business plan, try including the following steps:

  1. Highlight all the growth stages that might be stressful to navigate at various stages of your plan. Red-flag them so you can prepare yourself in advance.
  2. Develop a new plan section called ‘Mental Health Strategy’. Identify what you are doing now to maintain your mental health and plan for what you will do as the business grows. Be realistic about what is possible for your work style. This might include walking each lunchtime, finding a mentor when the business is at a particular growth point, banning work from weekends, learning about mindfulness techniques. Plan your mental health development over the same time period as the rest of your strategy. Whatever outlines your template uses for your financial plan (for example) use the same format for your mental health plan.
  3. Incorporate your mental health plan into your final document and share it with others when discussing your business strategy. Talking about mental health in small business normalises the challenges and realities of business life and makes it easier to seek help if needed.
  4. Consult others for advice and support as needed. Your accountant helps with financial planning, your SEO expert helps with online marketing and a business coach can help with sales growth. Consider letting a counsellor help with your mental health as needed too.

We all know that what gets measured gets done. It’s no different when it comes to your mental health. Make the time to care for yourself throughout your business journey and you may find it easier to tackle the inevitable challenging times.