1674957109 Mental health the entrepreneur that stalwart hero

Mental health: the entrepreneur, that stalwart “hero”

The co-founder and CEO of Connect&GO, who developed the electronic wristband for large public events like the Osheaga Festival, knows what he’s talking about. He hit rock bottom before bouncing back and becoming a sort of spokesman for these businessmen, these superheroes that are hard to imagine, tired, exhausted and at the end of their tether.

With his voice echoing around his company’s Mile-Ex premises in Montreal, Mr. Gagnon confides in his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diagnosed late in life, in the midst of moving to new offices. He is also said to be dyslexic.

This cocktail is enough to make an entrepreneur’s life very complicated, he admits.

The shock of the pandemic

Connect&GO, perceived as a leader in its field, has been seriously shaken by the health crisis. The COVID-19 tsunami has shattered all cards, shaking the strongest companies and worsening the situation of the most vulnerable.

“I hit several lows, but the pandemic low was one of the lowest. »

— A quote from Dominic Gagnon, co-founder and CEO of Connect&GO

In addition to episodes of intense anxiety and stress, he was addicted to excessive alcohol consumption.

I wasn’t feeling well, it was difficult. I cried in the car in the morning. I also cried before unlocking the door to my office.

Mr Gagnon was going through a period of denial and he thought it was temporary.

At first I thought it was temporary that it was just a bad day, he says, recalling one evening he downed several glasses of alcohol in a very short space of time, prompting his wife’s surprise and then concern.

This happened when I was due to announce 15 layoffs the next day. Alcohol was a way to put evil to sleep, he explains.

The pandemic caused him to lose 98% of the company’s revenue and he only had uncertainty on the horizon.

How do we get there and how do we deal with these situations?

Entrepreneurs are often on the last line and stress levels are quite high, says Nicolas Chevrier, a psychologist at Séquoia Psychological Services.

Nicolas Chevrier.

Nicolas Chevrier, psychologist.

Photo: Radio Canada / Karim Ouadia

It has long been known that the higher one is in the hierarchy of an organization, the higher the stress level.

We are also evolving into a culture based on performance and a specific definition of what leadership should be. The entrepreneur must be a strong, independent person who doesn’t need help, reminds Mr. Chevrier.

The pressure on entrepreneurs at the top of a small or medium-sized company is diverse and intense. The situation is even more complex if you’re a woman, says Ruth Vachon, president and CEO of the Quebec Business Women’s Network (RFAQ).

It is often a “one woman show”. They start with family pressures, spouse pressures, and funding pressures […] If there are fewer than five employees, the woman in his company is often an accountant and sales manager. It’s too much on her shoulders, Ms Vachon argues.

The pandemic has exacerbated the situation in an already fragile ecosystem, says the CEO of the Réseau des Femmes d’affaires du Québec. There is less money and less business development. The mental strain has become much heavier with the financial and personal pressures.

If you’re not doing well, not many people in your organization will be doing well, Ms. Vachon continues.

“The business woman knows how to take care of others, but sometimes she forgets about herself. »

— A quote from Ruth Vachon, President and CEO of the Quebec Business Women’s Network

Ruth Wachon.

Ruth Vachon, President and CEO of the Quebec Business Women’s Network.

Photo: Radio Canada / Karim Ouadia

A vulnerable population

According to Nicolas Chevrier, it would not be wrong to say that entrepreneurs are more exposed than others to professional exhaustion, also known as burnout.

Sometimes there are events that cause us to lose the right level of control. When the brain senses this lack of control, stress mode is triggered to try and take charge of things. But it’s not always easy, Mr Chevrier admits.

The psychologist explains that being exposed to chronic stressful situations for a certain period of time has an impact on mental and physical energy reserves over time.

However, according to Chevrier, there are numerous signals. They express themselves, among other things, through emotional exhaustion. It becomes noticeable through irritability, anger, lack of concentration, fear or sadness.

The body is no exception. There are also physical symptoms like back pain, abdominal pain and others that act as an alarm.

You also notice a certain indifference, which is reflected in cynicism, criticism of the organization or detachment from one’s own role in the company. In addition, there is this impression of no longer being able to fulfill oneself professionally and of being in a “mental fog” in which one feels much less intelligent.

Mr. Chevrier also reports behavioral symptoms. We often tend to try to manage this stress with alcohol, social media, video games, or prolonged isolation.

The importance of the network and the support of loved ones

Dominic Gagnon could have sunk into the abyss of depression but he spoke up and was listened to. Today he says he is fortunate to have the support of those close to him.

I was also privileged to already have access to a psychologist who followed me, he reiterates.

Today he speaks openly about his experiences and leads conferences to bring his stone to the building. If it benefits me, other entrepreneurs could benefit, he says.

Mr Gagnon was able to turn his experience into a positive story. Talking about his mental health issues on public outings didn’t hurt him, but it took a lot of courage. Prejudice dies hard.

You know, he said, it wasn’t easy to talk about it the first time. Me, my parents, are one of those people who thought we were going to a psychologist because we were going to commit suicide.

After some hesitation, he finally made his decision.

I spoke to my employees about it and it was very well received, he says with relief.

    Nataly Riverin.

Nathaly Riverin, Founder of Entrepreneurial Perseverance.

Photo: Radio Canada / Karim Ouadia

Nathaly Riverin, who has been working in the field of entrepreneurship for thirty years, is the initiator of Persévérance Entrepreneuriale, a program aimed at supporting entrepreneurs in need but who also want to continue on their way.

Ms Riverin met at her home on Île d’Orléans and stressed the importance of a program that aims to be structured over time.

“Just because your business failed doesn’t mean you failed as an entrepreneur. »

— A quote from Nathaly Riverin, initiator of Perseverance entrepreneuriale

The support offered under this program ranges from several hours of individual training to the free services of an accountancy firm specializing in reorganization and insolvency.

It’s about connecting the entrepreneur who needs it with a network that will allow them to get back on their feet.

In order not to be forgotten

Paying your employees and keeping up with your suppliers is a hurricane that doesn’t allow you to take care of your health, Ms. Riverin recalls. If you’re struggling with fatigue or mental fatigue, you don’t have time to get diagnosed. We deny, she continues.

“The solution for entrepreneurs who are struggling now is to ask for help. »

— A quote from Nathaly Riverin, initiator of Perseverance entrepreneuriale

When we’re scared, Ms. Riverin explains again, our field of vision narrows. And when health problems add to financial problems, we rarely see the solutions that can be offered. Therefore, help is important, which should not be limited to psychological support.

seek balance

Despite the difficulties, there is a salutogenic factor in entrepreneurship, notably through the independence and decision-making power that ensures the entrepreneur a form of balance, affirms Maripier Tremblay, Chair of Leadership in the Teaching of Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurship Development at the University of Laval.

Maripier Tremblay.

Maripier Tremblay, Chair of Leadership in Entrepreneurship Development and Entrepreneurship Development at Université Laval.

Photo: Radio Canada / Karim Ouadia

However, the life of an entrepreneur is not linear, notes Ms Tremblay. There are times when the entrepreneur experiences particularly difficult situations […] He lives very isolated. He is often alone in his boat.

” He [l’entrepreneur] will not discuss his stress with his wife or children to protect them. He certainly won’t tell his banker that. »

— A quote from Maripier Tremblay, Chair of Leadership in the Development of the Entrepreneurial Spirit and Entrepreneurship at Université Laval

Therefore, this isolation has to be broken by external resources that can be found in entrepreneurial groups. Access to resources, particularly emotional support, remains an important issue, according to Ms Tremblay. Sometimes just talking about it helps.

A report titled “The Challenges of Emerging Entrepreneurs in Quebec” by the Institute for Research on SMEs, Trois-Rivières, Quebec shows that government resources and support, when adequate and adapted to needs, can have a positive impact , reports Ms Tremblay .

Help entrepreneurs to save the entrepreneurial structure

According to the latest research from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), three quarters of the small business owners surveyed plan to sell their business within the next 10 years. That’s more than $2 trillion in corporate assets that could change hands, according to the CFIB report released Jan. 10.

Of the 76% of owners who want to part with their business, retirement is the top reason given. But for 22% of them, it’s exhaustion that drives them to make that choice.

According to the CFIB, barely one in ten business owners (9%) have a formal, written succession plan.

We’re heading into choppy waters for Ms. Riverin. And we will see more bankruptcies and more entrepreneurs with mental health problems. If we project to ten years, the entrepreneurial fabric will be increasingly weakened, Nathaly Riverin fears.

The next few years are important for supporting entrepreneurs, says the initiator of the Entrepreneurial Perseverance program.

Having come a long way, Dominic Gagnon remains a dynamic businessman, still at the helm of his company Connect&GO, which provides a technological platform that facilitates transactions in the entertainment industry.

He faces adversity as before, but with a little more wisdom now that he knows his weaknesses.