27.10.2020 The Kusnacht Practice Podcast #008 Interview with CEO Eduardo Greghi on entrepreneurial stress related to COVID-19

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“When you are the CEO of a business you hold the full responsibility of the future of the business on your shoulders.” – Eduardo Greghi, CEO of The Kusnacht Practice.

A study by the National Institute of Mental Health found that 72% of entrepreneurs are directly or indirectly affected by mental health issues compared to just 48% of non-entrepreneurs.

In the eighth episode of The Kusnacht Practice’s new podcast series, we are talking with CEO Eduardo Greghi about entrepreneurial stress related to COVID-19.

Eduardo discusses the burden of leadership and the apprehension resulting from the ongoing pandemic, while sharing his advice on maintaining good mental health and the ‘importance of presence over productivity."



Presenter: Hello, we are here today with Eduardo Greghi, the CEO of The Kusnacht Practice. Good afternoon, Eduardo. A study by the National Institute of Mental Health found that 72% of entrepreneurs are directly or indirectly affected by mental health issues compared to just 48% of non-entrepreneurs. Eduardo, what do you think about this?

Eduardo Greghi: It’s very clear that entrepreneurs have a lot more pressure. When you are an entrepreneur, most of the time you are investing. Especially if you are a small entrepreneur, you don’t have that much liquidity whenever something like that happens on a global scale; you are immediately the one who has to find a way out of it, right?

So you are the first one affected by distress, affected by the doubt, by the insecurity. In my case, you are immediately faced with the worst situation that you can have, which is clients cannot come or you have no clients, everybody’s full of fear. And in most cases, I would say if you have fixed employees, you are then of course facing a situation where ‘How am I going to provide the salaries of my employees? Is my company going to survive?’

Many entrepreneurs have taken debt, or money from investors to run their businesses, and that’s a huge pressure. Often, what you will face, and I have seen this in my own environment; I’ve seen people facing the end of their livelihood as it was, and the complete destruction of their business. And it often means losing everything.

So yeah, I’m not surprised that the entrepreneurs are affected 72% to 48%. If you are an employee, you have a lot less to lose in most situations. And you can apply in Switzerland, in this case, for welfare and you are secure for a couple of months. And you can look for a job somewhere else. In the case of a business, you cannot simply move on; you are tied to it.

Presenter: That leads me to the second question I wanted to ask you today. 23% of entrepreneurs that have family members who have faced these problems, compared to just 16% of others with family members who have faced the same type of issue. That is precisely reflected in what you are saying, being that the family of the entrepreneurs are way more exposed than the families of non-entrepreneurs in that respect, right?

EG: Yes, I mean, we are a society, we actually are a family society, right? Although many of us live alone, we all think family-wise. To most of us, the well-being of our family is as important, or even more important than our own well-being. So it’s not surprising that often, let’s say, the patriarch of the family, or if it’s a family business, whenever distress is affecting you, it affects the whole family, immediately. Even when there’s no way around it.

And especially if the livelihood of the person managing, let’s say the entrepreneur, it directly affects the livelihood of his entire family. I particularly have seen cases, I know people who have lost everything. And then they need to move, they need to sell their house, their kids cannot have the same kind of life. So it can be incredibly stressful and very destructive.

And many of these people, they’ve reached an age in their life where they’ve burned most of their oil, and it would be a massive effort to get back. A lifetime of hard work and savings can be destroyed in a short period of time. I can talk from personal experience. I have three siblings, and all of them lost their jobs during the pandemic. It stressed me out as well. I felt very highly affected by it as a person, and they can share this personal experience here. It’s very difficult for a family member to face it.

PR: Are you surprised that mental health cases and burnout amongst CEOs also claim to have doubled during the pandemic, according to The Daily Telegraph?

EG: No, oh my god, not at all. I mean, that applies similarly to the entrepreneur. And, you know, when you are the CEO of a business you hold the full responsibility of the future of the business on your shoulders. And you are in check really, and what are you going to do? The pandemic hit, you have no clients. Now, like in the hotel industry, it’s a disaster from one day to the other.

And then you face the situation of having to cut costs at times. And it’s very hard to let go of people who you have hired, you have trained, they’re working hard. And for any reason, because of something that’s outside of your control. Making those decisions are very hard.

On top of it, your own livelihood as a CEO is also at risk. You need to consider, you know, and often the board will consider. Often the CEO has a larger salary than most employees, and he or she is also at risk of his own job. I’m not surprised at all, the pressure is on him or her. That really takes a toll on a person.

PR: And corporate pressures associated with COVID-19, including depressed revenues and redundancies, as you mentioned; the stress of managing staff affected by the pandemic and running your company from home will all play into burnout and mental health crisis won’t it?

EG: Yes, I mean, this is, of course, a completely new situation. For example, I would say in my own business here, at The Kusnacht Practice. We were not used to doing video conferences. We had our huddle in the morning, every day, physically, everybody got together to discuss the day, every day. So to adapt to the new situation, to try to, to play this musical chairs with your eyes closed, it’s a new thing to most people, you’re not used to it. So we need to adapt. And that has to do with adaptability.

No matter how adaptable you are, so many changes at once, plus the pressure of the pandemic, plus the restrictions that you have by government. Now you can go out, now you cannot, you can travel, you cannot. All of this adds up ever so persistently, and it causes a massive amount of stress. Even on people that are not at risk of losing their jobs, simply adapting to the new way of working has a huge effect. And then comes the changes in our own private life; to stay home, many people are not used to staying home with their spouses for so long. And that can be a huge change in their lives, just the change itself can cause problems in the relationship. And those problems affect the performance at work and the ability to manage. So I’m not surprised that there are burnouts even though you are at home, people really feel the stress of the situation.

PR: Precisely talking about spending more time at home. Relatives, and also friends can look out for an entrepreneur or CEO that may, what are the kind of signs that may indicate that they are suffering from mental health stresses or burnout?

EG: Well, I mean, there are so many people here in my team who could answer this question a thousand times better than I will. I’ll give a try here, I would say the first things you should look out for when your loved one is, that the person is still exercising, if possible. He or she is eating well, sleeping well. So those are the first signs that a person has started to feel anxiety.

They don’t sleep so well, and then if you don’t exercise well, you don’t eat well, often you’ll start to have consequences. They’re ever slow but persistent, and those changing habits, they take a while to show, and this basically is a kind of a mild depression. The person is not that excited to do things, normal things in life. Often in a healthy brain, a healthy relationship in an individual, people take great pleasure in having a meal with their kids, in playing with their kids, in spending time with their spouses and friends.

So the first thing that starts to happen is that people start to isolate themselves a bit. Then often, it can be added with drinking a bit more and taking prescription drugs, feeling more anxious. So when you notice that, it’s definitely some of the signs that can precede burnout. Although I really would like to ask that question to one of our psychiatrists here, who are very well trained and can answer that question better than me.

PR: And what tip would you give to a CEO or entrepreneur who may be concerned about their mental well-being?

EG: The number one thing I would say is that presence is more important than productivity. This is the number one advice I would give. There’s very little we can control. The only thing you can control is yourself. Be present, take care of yourself, really, I mean, for instance, one of our values here at The Kusnacht Practice is well-being. So it’s nearly a religious thing, to do your sports, in my case, I do have a massage once a week as part of my investment in my own health.

Meet people you love, spend time with people you love as much as you can. And sleep, that’s definitely also a key element of staying healthy. People often, they neglect their sleep. And that’s the beginnings. And yes, give. As a CEO, one of the things I always think to myself is, I would think not from the point of ‘Okay, I need this, I need that, the company needs this,’ keep thinking, what can you give? What is it that I can give? Without expectations. Similar to when I give you an apple, I expect nothing back but your smile. And if not, that’s also okay. So it’s really take care of yourself, your health, your sleep, your mental health, and give. Because when you take care of the people around you they will take care of you. That’s what I can tell during the pandemic here. I really felt helpless for a while, it hit me very hard. And staying calm, and giving the team the confidence. And when you take care of them they do take care of you. So that’s my experience.

PR: And that concludes the interview for today. Thank you very much, Eduardo. We were here today with Eduardo Greghi, the CEO of The Kusnacht Practice.

EG: Thank you.