Thursday, 02 August 2018 21:03

Start-up leaders under stress to establish their businesses: report

Start-up leaders under stress to establish their businesses: report Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Professional services firm KPMG is creating a new program aimed at unlocking sustainable high performance by Australian start-up executives faced with high stress levels due to long working hours and other pressures in establishing their businesses.

KPMG Australia is preparing to launch its Founder Program following research it undertook revealing a link between founder well-being and business performance due to long hours, high stress and low pay, which it says is now the norm for most Australia star-tup leaders.

“The KPMG Founder Program launches later this year and has been designed to enhance both personal and business performance. It will be led by a team of facilitators ranging from athletes to serial entrepreneurs, and focuses not only on the health of the start-up, but on the well-being of the founder as a whole,” says Amanda Price, head of KPMG Australia High Growth Ventures.

The “first-of-kind research” by KPMG Australia’s High Growth Ventures, supported by venture capital firms including Blackbird Ventures, AirTree Ventures, Square Peg Capital, Reinventure and Right Click Capital, polled the founders of 70 Australian venture-backed startups.

“Founders play a key role in driving innovation, taking massive risks, both personal and financial, to solve industry problems and build global businesses – yet there is very little data around the mental and physical toll of leading a startup,” Price said.

“A founder’s individual performance is one of the critical factors to the success or failure of their business. Our research aims to shine a light on some of the unspoken challenges founders face, and to help highlight the link between founder wellbeing and business performance.”

The KPMG research found that, on average, start-up founders work 64 hours a week, with 40% working seven days a week.

Two-thirds (66%) said they were very, or extremely, stressed, and 57% said their stress had a large impact on the ability of their start-up to succeed.

A significant majority of founders (70%) told researchers they drew less salary than in their previous role, and some reported that personal financial worries were affecting family relationships.

Other findings include:

The top three barriers to success for start-up founders were the ability to hire the right people (66%), ability to close sales (57%) and access to funding (53%)     

  • Fifty-three percent of founders work during time off.
  • Fifty-eight percent relax for less than an hour a day.
  • Twenty-three percent haven’t taken three consecutive days off for over a year.
  • Sevnety-two percent take their mobiles to bed.

When it came to health and fitness, and the relationship it has with business success, founders viewed a decline in physical activity as adversely impacting their business – and 88% of founders acknowledged that their physical well-being had a direct impact on their start-ups.

Yet only 26% of founders reported being able to devote more than four hours per week to physical activity and, 43% were unhappy with their level of fitness.

Price said that leading a high-growth venture also affected family relationships, with the research finding that the overwhelming majority of start-up founders felt they were not spending enough quality time with the people they care about.

In addition, only a third feel they spend sufficient time with their spouse, and only 22% say they spend enough time with their children.

“While the Australian start-up ecosystem offers a lot of support and understanding for founders, much of this is one dimensional, focusing on the mechanics of starting and building a business,” Price says.

“If we want more Australian start-ups to transition into global businesses, we need to help more founders become world class leaders. This means taking a more holistic approach, and participating in programs focused as much on the mental and physical well-being of the founder as on the performance of the start-up.”

For the full KPMG report — Fitness, fulfilment and foresight: Research into the well-being of start-up founders and entrepreneuers click here.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired and is a "volunteer" writer for iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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