As part of Men’s Health Week (15-21 June) Richard Few, founder of Sales Geek in Altham, shared his own mental health journey and what he’s learned about building a business.

The title of this blog comes from the difference between what people see and what really happens both in a business and in the lives of those running them.

It’s lovely to receive recognition and get the occasional pat on the back but so much that happens under the surface goes unseen.

Setting out on a new path

My inspiration to start Sales Geek was a selfish one, I couldn’t stomach being miserable anymore. From the outside I was a success, 32 years old and leading a big sales function in a $300m business.

But I couldn’t live with the anxiety or the pressure anymore, travelling so much that I never saw my family and wondering why I set this as my goal in the first place.

With the support of my incredible wife and the realisation that there was more to life than flogging my guts out for something I didn’t believe in, I binned it all and set off on my own path.

Starting a business is the single most rewarding, yet hardest and most self-sacrificing thing I’ve ever done. The truth was I spent even less time with my family, put on weight, lost touch with friends, stopped some of my hobbies and gave 100 per cent of myself to getting Sales Geek off the ground.

I can’t remember the exact moment when I realised that this wasn’t sustainable, but I had a wakeup call one day.

Conflicting ideals

One of the hardest things about being in business is the conflicting ideals that get preached to you all the time. A few examples:

  • Sacrifice – but remember, life isn’t all about business
  • Create jobs, but retain low fixed costs
  • Celebrate success, but don’t gloat
  • Be relentless, but take holidays
  • Preserve cash, but don’t under invest
  • Be an entrepreneur, but be a responsible CEO

The life of running a business is tough and is made all the more challenging by having these conflicting ideals pushed on us through social media. Watching other people’s highlight reels while we fight our daily struggle can be really hard on our mental health.

At the heart of it I am a father, a husband, an average golfer, decent cook and a sports fanatic but at times it is easy to lose sight of who you are because you are too busy trying to be what people tell you to be.

Be your own person

Take inspiration from others but find a way to do it your way without feeling the need to conform or fit a stereotype.

It’s so important that you have the type of people around you that allow you to be open about it. For me, strength is learning to be okay with telling others that things aren’t always perfect.

I worry too much about things that aren’t important, I obsess about things being right, I hate losing, I find it hard to switch off, I put the needs of my business before my own and I probably care far too much about what other people think of me.

As I get older, I’m becoming more self-aware which helps me manage myself and how I respond to things.

So, in conclusion, get okay about being you. ‘Being comfortable being uncomfortable’ is something that has helped me.

I also realise how amazing the people I have around me are, I love them for everything they do that never gets seen. All that will ever be seen is the tip of that iceberg and the champagne moments.

There is a wealth of mental health support available for people in Lancashire. Boost has produced a list of organisations where people can receive wellbeing and mental health support during coronavirus.

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