As somebody who has built and sold a Managed Service Provider (MSP) business, I know all too well the fact that running an IT Solution Provider can, at times, be a lonely, stressful business.

Some days, it can feel as though you are a house of cards as a business leader, just one stressful situation away from collapsing.

If you’re reading this as an MSP owner and secretly thinking “that’s me”, then I want you to know you are not alone.

It’s time we talked about Mental Health for MSP owners.

Mental health for MSP owners

The charity Mental Health UK recently shared that four in five small business owners tell us that they’re experiencing poor mental health.

While a lot of small business owners (and, indeed, most of us as human beings) have undoubtedly been challenged by the uncertainty and fear that society has experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, I know from speaking to MSP owners that these mental health concerns are nothing new.

I’ve gone on record in talking about my own challenges with clinical depression, and thanks to talking about mental health in podcasts and media interviews, I’ve had a steady stream of MSP owners reach out to me to say “I thought I was the only one feeling this way”.

Indeed, while depression and other mental health issues used to have a stigma attached to them, society as a whole has become much more understanding of these challenges.

So, how can MSP owners improve their mental health?

It all starts with realizing you’re not alone.

You are not alone

Fellow Ateran and MSP owner Dave Long recently shared his journey through mental health and how he realized from engaging in IT community groups that he wasn’t alone in balancing helping clients while helping himself.

Dave’s experience reflects my own journey into mental health.

Once I started speaking to others about the way I was feeling, I realized that far from being alone, I was surrounded by others who felt the same way and people who understood and were very supportive.

If you wouldn’t know where to start in talking to your peers, the owners of other IT businesses, then go and join the Atera Users Official Community on Facebook. You’ll find thousands of other Atera-based MSPs who talk about everything and anything, including the challenges of running an MSP business.

Then there is the online community The Tech Tribe, where 2000+ MSP owners, vendors, and industry experts hang out every day. We talk very openly about mental health.

Tribal leader Nigel Moore and I have hosted special mental health-focused Tribal Gatherings, live community meetings where Tribers have talked openly about how they are feeling.

It is my experience, both as an MSP owner and as someone who now works with MSP owners, that by sharing how you are feeling, you won’t be judged by others.

Rather, you will find that people listen and, if you want, offer practical advice.

Practical mental health advice for MSP owners

When I wrote my book “The IT Business Owner’s Survival Guide” in 2016, I did so because I knew MSP owners needed practical advice for getting out from under.

Three practical pieces of advice I give to any MSP owner who is too busy to think are:-

  • Realize that your mind is a good place for creating ideas, but not for storing them. Use task management tools, a Professional Services Automation (PSA) tool like Atera, or even good old pen and paper to make lists of the things you need to do, and the people you need to speak to. You’ll instantly feel lighter for doing so.
  • Understand that you are not going to out-work this problem. You need to start working smarter, rather than harder. That means putting barriers in between your work life and your home life, and taking time out to recover and think. It’s ok to work hard from time to time, for big projects or busy periods, but don’t kid yourself into thinking you can do this indefinitely. You can’t.
  • Focus, by turning off notifications. If you’re constantly living in an interrupt-driven environment, it will fray your nerves. Turn off the notifications icons and sounds in your email app, on your smartphone, and then use tools such as Brain.FM – Music to improve focus, meditation, and sleep to focus on one task at a time. You’ll get much more done and feel more fulfilled.

Mental health resources for MSP owners

While most advice I’d offer on improving your mental health focuses on non-technical solutions such as business journaling, getting more sleep, and walking every day, technology can play a part!

If like me, you got into this industry because you are a techy geek and love helping others, then I want to highlight some technology that can help you with your mental health.

The DARE App allows you to Break Free From Anxiety. If you find yourself experiencing surges of panic or anxiety, then I’ve found the DARE app can genuinely help you.

MindDoc is Your Mental Health Companion. By prompting you on how you feel each day, you can find patterns and start tackling sources of stress in your life.

I highly recommend another app that has consistently helped me. Action for Happiness is An Action Coach in Your Pocket. Each day, it shares inspiring, motivating thoughts with you that can help you to focus on healthy, positive actions in your life.

Finally, if you feel uncomfortable talking to a human being about your mental health, then why not try Woebot – An AI-based Therapy Chatbot to Help with Depression and Anxiety. I’ve found it very effective at helping to reframe negative thoughts into more helpful, positive suggestions.

Plus, there are a ton of books, podcasts, guides, and other technology that can help you.

If you’re interested in finding out more, then check out my Mental Health Resources for MSPs.

Conclusion

The rise in mental health challenges is something that affects us all as a society.

But the impact on MSP owners is here and it’s real.

Running an MSP business is not the easiest job in the world. At times, it can feel draining and hopeless.

But there is hope.

You can get out from under.

You are not alone in how you are feeling. You are surrounded by a community of people who will listen and support you.

Let’s change our industry’s perception of mental health so that no MSP owner ever has to struggle alone again.

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