The responsibility of the entire network rests on the franchisor’s shoulders. So leaders must take care of their own mental health for the welfare of the franchise
Running a franchise isn’t for the faint of heart. “As a franchisor, [it] can be intense with tight deadlines and sales targets to make the business model work,” says Joel Kern, founder and managing director of children’s performing arts franchise Make Believe. Add to that the pressure of having the entire network depend on you and it’s understandable why some franchisors may feel stressed at times. However, it’s equally important that this stress is managed correctly or franchisors risk it affecting the network as a whole. “We must treat mental health issues in the same way as physical ones,” argues Kern. “Just because you’re not in hospital doesn’t mean [you’re] physically healthy. Similarly, mental health works on a spectrum too. As we eat well and exercise to manage our physical wellbeing, we need to be more aware of when our mental wellbeing needs attention.”
And there are clear reasons why franchise leaders should take their psychological health seriously. “[A] franchisor should ensure they [take] care of their own mental health as, being the leader of the operation, a mental wellbeing issue at this level can be disastrous for the whole organisation,” argues Matthew Harding, franchisee mentor at BBX UK, the business community.
Indeed, while a little bit of stress can sharpen the senses, too much can have detrimental effects. “People who are stressed over long periods of time are much more likely to make poor and irrational decisions,” says Shaun Thomson, CEO of Sandler Training UK, the business development consultancy franchise.
Indeed, counteractive as it may seem, people experiencing a lot of stress tend to focus too much on potential positive outcomes and ignore the negative risks, according to research published by the Association for Psychological Science. The researchers claim this could be the reason why people who experience a lot of stress often engage in long-term destructive behaviours like taking drugs as their impulse control may be impaired. Obviously, a franchisor with poor impulse control and an inability to accurately weigh different options equally is no good for any business.
So how severe can the consequences of a franchisor not taking care of themselves really be? “It can affect businesses in terms of potential lost business, lost revenue, late fees, lost recruitment, admin failures and so on, which is exactly why [a mental health issue] needs to be dealt with as early as possible,” explains Helen Venables, managing director of House of Colour, the stylist franchise.
Sadly, many company leaders fail to take the matter seriously. For instance, 53% of UK small-business owners have experienced burnout, 81% have kept working even when they’ve been sick and a staggering 86% have sacrificed personal care like missing meals or cancelling social plans, according to research from FreeAgent, the cloud accounting company.
Luckily, there are ways for franchisors to prevent this from happening. For starters, they can learn to recognise the signs in themselves. “Stress can show itself in so many ways from emotional to physical symptoms,” states Venables. The Mental Health Foundation, the organisation funding mental health research, lists five signs of depression franchisors can look out for. Franchisors should be concerned if they’re feeling low confidence, losing interest in activities they normally enjoy, having loss of appetite, getting tired easily and possessing a tendency to feel tearful, nervous or irritable. Similarly, people affected by anxiety may have difficulty concentrating, be irritable, try to avoid certain situations, appear pale and tense and be easily startled by everyday sounds.
But recognising the signs is hardly good enough. Franchisors must also create systems that help them tackle any mental health issue. One of those could be to create a team to talk and delegate work to. “I find a lot of franchisors and business owners get into trouble when they try and do everything and take things far too seriously,” says Kern. “The art of any business – especially a franchised one – is delegation, so build a team that enhances your business and helps you.”
Similarly, it’s important franchisors establish a culture where everyone, including themselves, should be able to talk about their mental health. “A healthy workplace should mean we can all feel open to talk about our mental health without fear of being penalised,” says Venables.
Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. For example, 31% of workers wouldn’t feel comfortable about revealing a mental illness at work, according to a survey from ADP, the HR service provider. The same research also revealed that 61% believe their boss doesn’t care about their mental health. And if franchisors want to create a culture where every employee and franchisee feel like they can talk about their mental wellbeing, franchisors must start with themselves. “I believe franchisors who can admit vulnerability are likely to be better leaders, can potentially foster open dialogue amongst workers and reduce stigma, thereby helping the individuals and the bottom line,” Venables continues. Leading by example is a clearly a good move even when it comes to mental health issues.
But you can also shield yourself from psychological ailments by hitting the gym. While most people feel happier after a workout, engaging in physical exercise for at least one hour per week can help you prevent future depression, according to study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry. And if nothing else, it will get you out of the office. “It’s important to have a balanced life, get plenty of sleep and make time for leisure pursuits, whether that’s exercise, walking the dog or seeing friends,” says Kern.
Similarly, just like taking care of your physical health means eating right, the food you put in your body can also affect how you’re feeling. Eating more fruit and vegetables can help put you in a better state of mind, according to research from the University of Leeds and the University of York This is something Kern already does. “I behave in the week and then eat whatever I want when it comes to the weekend,” says Kern.
Mental health issues aren’t to be taken lightly. So make sure you take care of yourself and, in the process, your franchise.