Small business owners take on more than their fair share of stress and anxiety in running a small business. Ensuring sales growth, retaining employees, paying for regular monthly overheads such as staff and rent can all pile onto a business owner and their senior management teams, particularly when times are tough or sales slow down. On top of external pressures, businesses shouldn’t need to worry about cash flow. Cash flow issues are often brought about by slow or late payments.
As a business, we’re concerned with the toll this is taking on the mental health and wellbeing of Aotearoa New Zealand small business owners. The uncertainty surrounding when a customer might pay, or when you’ll have enough cash to be able to order your next batch of supplies is at best a headache, and at worst, a stressful, anxiety inducing situation.
If you or someone you know is suffering from the mental health impacts of sluggish cash flow, this could be a great article to share. Observing feelings of frustration, helplessness and even depression are all signs that your mental health and wellbeing needs support. For some, working with trusted colleagues or partners on an action plan could be all you need to get into a better headspace. For others, talking to a trained counsellor or doctor can be the better course of action. Read on for our take on the impacts of late payments on mental health and some strategies you can employ today to make meaningful changes.
How big is the mental health problem for small businesses?
Kiwi businesses shouldn’t have to send an invoice and hope it will be paid, on time. If the job or project has been completed there are no excuses for customers not to make the agreed payment, within the agreed timeframe. Particularly in a digital age when transactions can be made quickly and accurately. After all, we’re not posting cheques in the mail any more!
The reality is that having slow payers or bad debtors can cause stress and anxiety, especially if these amounts are significant and prevent you from growing the business or paying for key items that keep your business operational. A 2019 study by Xero UK and PayPal reported that:
- 43% of small business owners saying that they’d had sleepless nights worrying about cash flow,
- 37% considered closing their business due to cash flow issues,
- 26% thought they’d enjoy better physical health if they didn’t have late payments.
A more recent UK study by tech company Sage, found that when late payments are an issue for small businesses and their employees, they have a knock on effect on their suppliers and the wider economy. Paul Struthers, Sage’s MD for UK and Ireland, commented: “SMBs who struggle to maintain cash flow for their day-to-day business activities because of late payments have an obvious economic impact, but the mental health impact of late payments cannot be overstated. Consistently being paid late causes stress and anxiety for owners who struggle to keep their businesses afloat.”
Mental health and wellbeing of New Zealand business owners
In 2023, Matt Peacock, the co-founder of IPromise joined the Adnan Belushi Podcast to discuss mental wellbeing in the Aotearoa New Zealand construction industry. Matt recently attended Building Wellness Taranaki Trust’s very first ‘Tradies Tools Down’ event.
You can tune into the full podcast here, but we wanted to share some of the key talking points from their discussion:
- If you work in the NZ Construction Industry, you’re 6 times more likely to die by suicide than from a construction related incident.
- The NZ Construction Industry is notorious for not focusing on praise for employees, but on the few negative aspects of someone’s work or the project. The strict health and safety focus in the industry exacerbates this problem: why not celebrate the 95% of quality workmanship, rather than dwelling on the 5% aspects of a project that didn’t quite hit the mark?
- Employees then bring this negativity home, impacting their families and children.
- Internal negative dialogue creates issues with mental health and wellbeing – there is a need for more self-love and self-reflection in the industry.
- Key stressors for the construction industry include money – will I be paid, can I pay my internal costs and external suppliers?
- If payments aren’t made on time, extra effort and expense is often required by the business to dip into their overdraft or arrange invoice financing.
Strategies for improving mental health
So what can be done to improve the mental health and wellbeing of employees and business owners in the construction industry? Our top tips are outlined below – they don’t all need to be actioned at once, try picking up a new strategy every week to help you navigate through a particularly challenging time.
1. Seek support and perspective
Support can come in many different forms. For some business owners facing cash flow problems, it could be useful to chat with family or friends who are also business owners to see how they manage the same issue in their respective industries. Chatting to professionals such as your accountant, or a financial advisor that works with others in your industry can provide you with options, a different perspective and a clear action plan.
Asking for help can be as easy as chatting to your team about the late payment or bad debtor issues you’re facing and see if they have helpful ideas you can implement quickly. In more extreme instances, booking in with a professional counsellor may enable you to get clarity on the situation, and understand the steps you need to take, and what is blocking you from making the changes required.
For many people with busy jobs, families and other personal commitments, making time for yourself can be difficult. Self-care can be physical exercise for some people, meditation for others, or simply having some regular alone time every day or week.
Take a look at your week and assess where you can carve out some ‘you’ time. Getting up 30 minutes earlier each day for quiet meditation or planning your work day over a coffee first thing works wonders for some people, as does the daily commute for others, or a lunchtime walk or jog.
Prioritising time for yourself is important to clear your head and organise your work or personal life. When you’re in a more productive, positive mindset, you’re able to better manage the many challenges of being a business owner, or working in a demanding industry, without letting more stressful situations get to you.
3. Create an action plan
With support from your business or personal network, or by getting yourself into a better mindset, you’ll be able to more clearly create an action plan to reduce the business stressors you’re facing.
If late payments and bad debtors are a key source of stress and anxiety for you, consider the strategies you could put in place – having clearer payment terms, promptly following up on slow payers, or introducing new ways to support timely payments. Having a plan, and clear steps to reach your goals are invaluable to ensuring you support your mental health and wellbeing.
4. Need more support?
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment provides a free support service for Aotearoa New Zealand businesses. If you need urgent support, you can speak to trained counselling professionals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Use these services if you need them, to make an impact on your business today. Your family and team will thank you for it.
Lifeline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 354
Depression Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 111 757
Healthline (open 24/7) – 0800 611 116
Samaritans (open 24/7) – 0800 726 666
The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.
Cash flow, late payments and bad debtors are key stressors for many businesses. If you need to take immediate action to improve your small business cash flow, the IPromise app and its 100% secured customer payments, before the job begins, is a game changer. The reassurance that you’ll be paid immediately after the agreed job is completed can enable you to get on with doing the parts of the business you really enjoy. And who doesn’t want less admin?
IPromise conveniently integrates with Xero accounts, automatically copying IPromise approved quotes/invoices into Xero to reduce your payment administration time by up to 80%.
Whether you work in Professional Services, Construction, Consulting, Manufacturing, or any other service-based industry, IPromise will add payment security, improve cash flow, reduce administration time and enable open, easy communication for your projects.