Staying well as a Small Business Owner

An interview with Mel Oliech

Tips to stay well in a small business and be more productive

One way to guarantee that your business journey will be tough is to run yourself into the ground.

Unfortunately, that exact situation is all too common. It is one of the hidden causes of business failure.

In this episode we’re joined once again by Mel Oliech, the co-founder of Imani Tribe Tranformations and is an expert in the area of looking after oneself when running a Business.

We chat about how important it is to look after your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing when setting out to build your own business.

Does a lack of well being contribute to a poor business outcome?

Yes, there are excellent benefits to a business owner through improved well-being and staying well.

Good well-being makes us:

  • more energised, 
  • we feel more balanced, 
  • more focused
  • more alert
  • and we have better clarity that can make us more productive and procrastinate less. 

We have better moods that can improve how much we worry about things and help us manage our time better to feel better. 

So all of these things have a significant impact on a good business outcome. 

Poor well-being means lower business productivity.

If we look at the opposite, a lack of well-being can often lead to: 

  • poor decision-making 
  • a loss of productivity 
  • the feeling we never have enough time 
  • we have even seen customers losing trust in owners
  • a lack of confidence in business owners themselves and what they do 
  • and this then can lead to how much money they make. 

We see this play out in many people’s lives and, you can see it as burnout, with the possibility of people losing their businesses and impacts on their personal life

Situations like divorce or missing out on kids growing up or broken bodies. Other negative impacts include being overweight and the illnesses that come with that, such as type two diabetes, heart disease, etc. Unfortunately, it’s a too common thing these days. People in business don’t realise how significant the snowball effect is of not looking after themselves. Often people don’t realise this until they hit a snap point. 

That snap point can come in the first, three to five years of someone’s business, or it can come down the track after 10, 15 or maybe 20 years. When things blow up in their face, they realise that “I need to look after myself now”. 

A well-being crisis is often the snap point to stay well. 

Interestingly, a catalyst has to happen before someone decides to do something about it? 

I think that’s probably pretty common, but you’d be the expert in that area. Is that what you see when people come to you initially that there’s been a snap point or some catalyst that’s caused them to change?

Yeah, people do need to have a snap point for change. But one of the things that we want to change and educate people is to reach their snap point a little bit earlier and not wait until it’s so late when things get bad. I think it’s way too common for people to wait until they’ve let things go and they’ve hit by something that scares them.  

Should I Own A Business Pathway integrates well-being 

It’s interesting that you mention that snap point thing. When Brendan and I mapped our pathway to business ownership, one of the things that came up very early was our idea to encourage folks to think about their well-being in the process of doing their business planning. 

Rather than when they get to that snapping point because I know in my work as a management consultant and mentor, I have seen this a dozen times. Usually, I would say when their business performance is tanking. And you can track it back to the owner or senior people in the business, just simply not being well. 

I think business owners sometimes don’t understand that they are often the magic in their business. They are the thing that drives it forward. And if that thing is not working, then it’s going to have this massive impact. So it’s interesting that you see that as well.

Include staying well in your business planning before you start a business.

Absolutely. And that’s why I’m so excited about what you guys are doing because I don’t hear the idea very often that people improve their health and well-being at the top of a business plan. And a big part of it. So it’s really exciting to hear other people starting to put it into the business planning phase.

I hope it really takes off. And I think that’s one thing that when you know, when you were originally telling me about Imani and what you guys are all about is why I thought that what you’re doing is so powerful. Yeah, because you’re talking about this transformation thing and, as you just mentioned there before, this idea of people reaching this point where they need to make a change. If we can help gently persuade people to move this up in the priority and go as hard as you can in developing your business ideas but look after yourself at the same time because if you fail, the idea will fail to more than likely. 

Physical, mental and emotional well-being for business owners

So what about this idea of, you’ve got the physical side of you, the mental side, perhaps the emotional side, are they all pretty much linked, do you think?

Yes, absolutely. So when someone comes to us, more often than not, people need to be re-educated. They need to learn a whole set of skills and habits around physical, mental, and emotional health. So when we’re helping someone and teaching them, it should improve three things, 

  1. how they look 
  2. how they feel 
  3. and how they function. 

So it shouldn’t just target how you look, for example. In our physical, emotional and mental well-being, not one is more important than the other. 

Everyone’s going to be at a different point on what they need to work on. Some people might have better skills around, let’s say, their emotional health but lack the skills to improve their physical health. So then, helping that person improve the skills towards their physical health probably would be their focus. 

If you’re working on one thing then and you do it the right way, it will positively affect something else. So it is a bit of re-education for clients because often, people have this mindset of an all or nothing approach. 

Quick fixes for staying well or business don’t work.

Most people have a quick fix point of view with health and well being, and it’s just it doesn’t work like that. There’s no quick fix for business, and your health and well-being works the same way as starting, developing and managing a business does. 

So there’s no get rich, quick schemes in business, and there’s no snap your fingers, and you’re healthy all of a sudden. You mentioned a word there that I think is critical, both in the context of building and developing a business but also clearly in your health and well-being space. And that’s habits. 

I know for sure that when folks leap out of employment into business or, you know, we’re talking a lot of at the moment about people taking their hobbies and turning that into an income-producing business, that often what lags is the habits. So in creating good positive habits around the things you need to do in your business, to make it grow is important. Something that many people struggle with is that the is the same in the health and well being?

Your habits and not your willpower will help you stay well.

Most people seem to rely on a willpower mentality when it comes to health and well being.  

They think: 

I should be able to do this and to get it done. I just got to do it. 

Using a willpower mentality means you don’t get far. We find there is a lack of awareness around building good health and well-being habits. Without these habits, any improvement in health and well being is very short-lived.

Yeah, I guess that would probably ring true for a lot of us, actually that that reliance on willpower because it ebbs and flows, doesn’t it? 

Some days you’re all gung ho, and the next day, you just want to stay in bed do nothing. So I can imagine that being a problem for sure.

That’s why we educate people to people to create some consistency. So rather than trying to do everything at once, do something small and do it consistently. Not for weeks, but build up over months and see the positive impact from that. And then you can make another change just like you’re doing business.

The link between business owner-manager productivity and well-being

It’s amazing to me as you’re talking that our two disciplines are just so interlinked. Perhaps I think you’re right in what you said before; I’ve never really heard these two things put together. But it is just so important. I think that, especially when you’re starting to move that rock along and pushing the boulder up the hill as at work with your business, the last thing you want is for your health to give way. And all that work that you’ve done, other than all the more important things about living a healthy life and longevity, come undone because you’re no longer physically or mentally or emotionally healthy. 

Are you able to put together some top tips for people who are probably going to be time-poor? Maybe for someone working full time at the moment and just dreaming about, their business idea, or perhaps starting the process of working out whether it’s for them or not. And then going through two things, we talk about business model design, business planning, etc. So they don’t have a lot of time on their hands. But what are some of the things that you think they might be able to do to progress in that area and try to get some maintenance of their health and well being?

Mels top tips for staying well in business.

Tip #1 Focus on less to achieve more.

Let’s take the example: you have a full-time job and transition to building a business. 

You might, as an employee, have time to train, or play a sport, let’s say three or four times a week. 

And then things get hectic in your business, and you drop the training from three to four times a week back to nothing. 

So instead of going from doing something four times a week to nothing, we want people to be able to realise that you don’t need a lot to have a positive impact on your health, your well being and your life. 

We teach people that training takes up 3% of your week. 

But can you transition depending on the level of how busy you are? 

Is one to three times a week something you can fit in? 

Can you fit in some sort of training that takes anywhere between 20 to 30 minutes at a time? 

And when you say training, does that needs to be a program or is there is simply like walking, for instance, or a gentle jog or something? Does it need to be specific activities?

Tip #2 Do as much exercise as you can but don’t stop altogether.

Training and exercise are not prescriptive.

No, it doesn’t have to be specific activities at all. We find with our business owner clients that it depends on what phase they are in. If someone’s going through a stressful time, our direction would be to maintain your walking. What that looks like will depend on what their week looks like. But it might be to start your day with a walk every second day or twice a week. If someone can maintain a walk two to three times a week during a stressful time of their lives for three months, that will have such a tremendous positive impact, rather than no exercise. 

And then, in the next phase, they might find that they’re back to having a bit more time, and they can change things up then. 

Tip #3 Plan ahead to stay well.

People need to plan their well being activity which is a skill to learn. It’s like changing the volume dial on the radio. You can turn it up when you need a bit more noise, and you can turn it down when you want it to be a bit softer, but don’t turn it off completely.

Gosh, good advice.

So depending on where the person is at and if they’ve got the skills and they might do some intense training twice a week, which is more than enough.  

I suggest starting your day with movement because with most business owners, particularly those with kids, getting something exercise is impossible by the end of the day.

Tip #4 Start the day with exercise

As a rule, it may mean you need to get up 20 minutes or 30 minutes earlier. But by starting the day with movement, it’s like starting your day with a business meeting, but it sets you up for the day, gives you focus, improves your energy, and improves your mood. It’s going to do a lot of things to help you get through your day properly. Get it done first thing in the morning. We don’t know many people that do well by training at the end of their day.

Yep, that makes perfect sense to me because a lot of the time, you’re just mentally drained at the end of a busy day.

Tip #5 Get a good nights sleep.

Sleep is a tough one to get our heads around but prioritising sleep as much and as best you can. It took me a while to, understand this concept, and yes, things will change in different phases of your life. But sleep is one of the things which has a huge impact on our well-being and health. And a lot of people will say that they don’t need it and they can be productive. And “I can get by with only a small amount of sleep”, but I don’t think we appreciate how much sleep plays a role in our life until we make it a priority. One of the things I learnt probably about five or so years ago now was all my stresses are still going to be there tomorrow. So just turn off and go to sleep and wake up to them with a fresh mind. Sleep will have a great positive impact on your well-being, and if all you can do is get to bed earlier, then I highly encourage that. If people are going to improve their eating and movement, but they’re sleep-deprived, they’re still pushing themselves up a hill, and it’s still quite hard. Then they go into giving up mode.

I can see how that’s that’s linked in my situation. That was probably the one area I was awful at for a long time. It was not unusual for me to still be going at 1 am and be up again at 0630 am.

I am a lot better at it now, thank goodness. And I can attest to that not just from my laypersons perspective, but in the way I felt. It makes a huge difference, I think. 

Tip #6 Don’t skip meals. 

Sometimes people might feel like they are time-poor and “I don’t have the time to eat” or don’t have the time to prepare proper meals. Skipping meals, I find, has a snowball effect again on how someone functions during the day. It affects their decision making, their level of procrastination, how much energy they have, so they waste a lot of time.

Eating is essential for our health, and skipping meals doesn’t do anything good for us at all. Putting a little bit more effort to eat those meals for even 15 minutes a day is going to have an enormous effect on your well-being long term. 

Compare someone skipping meals for five years with someone who didn’t skip meals. Imagine the dramatic difference in their level of productivity and how they feel within themselves. 

Eat your breakfast.

Something I’ve observed in the business community is that it’s often breakfasting that get’s skipped. That’s just anecdotal. Of course, I’ve got no, no stats to back that up. But, when you’re in business, you tend to have this “rush” thing going on in the mornings. Especially when you have got kids but also, perhaps there is a lack of proper planning of your day. I was terrible at that for a while, maybe because breakfast was the easiest meal to skip? But, you hear people talk about how it’s the most important meal of the day. 

It is a skill again, and You just touched on in proper planning.  

Tip #7 Time management and planning

If you feel time-poor, you have to master your planning and your time management. That in itself will have a high impact on your mental and emotional health. 

“I’ve put here to “eat the frog” first thing in the morning.” Get that hardest thing done first thing in the morning and tick it off. Whether that means eating a meal first thing in the morning or it could be the movement, and that will have a dramatic impact on how you feel, your functioning and how you live. We know all those things significantly impact how someone shows up in their business and what they achieve.

Well-being to build personal resilience

Experience has taught me to set aside time to look after your physical health, emotional health, mental health, and the better equipped you’re going to power through some of those challenges you will experience. 

Being mentally and physically well on its own is probably not a guarantee of business success. Still, it helps build a key ingredient called resilience, one of the key factors in long-term business success.

Yeah, resilience, management of stress and continuous improvement of yourself and your business. 

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The information contained in this podcast is general and does not take into account your situation. The content does not constitute business, legal or financial advice and should not be used as such. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where applicable, seek professional advice from a business adviser, financial adviser or lawyer in your jurisdiction. To find out more, please go to

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