Aykut Sayan has been in hospitality for 30 years. Which is perhaps why he knew that of all the challenges Covid-19 would throw at the industry, one of the biggest was going to be maintaining personal wellbeing – his own and that of his 20 staff at Sydney’s Circa Espresso cafe.

Sensing what was coming, Sayan made a pre-emptive move and closed the cafe in early March, before takeaway-only restrictions and before Jobkeeper had been announced. He says looking after his employees’ wellbeing had two elements: financial and emotional.

“I knew my staff would reflect my behaviour,” he said. “[So] if I was calm and relaxed, then they would be, too.”

Sayan kept his staff connected to the business by changing the focus. They still came into work, but instead of their usual duties serving customers they did other things: online marketing, branding, working on new menus and future projects. They had lunch together and looked out for one another.

“Being in a positive state of mind is so important,” he says. “[If you’re] doing something you like and waking up every day looking forward to your work, anything else is a bonus.”

We asked Sayan for a few more tips on how to find calm and balance when running your own business.

Ask for and accept help
“People tend to suffer in silence,” says Sayan. “That will only lead to depression and anxiety. Once you get down there, it’s hard to get back up.” Sayan says it’s easy to think you’re tough enough to handle anything, but it’s essential to recognise the early signs that you’re not coping. “Bad times don’t last. But if you get yourself into that state of mind, they can last for many years.” He recommends talking to friends and family about how you’re tracking, and seek out mentors from your industry who have been in the same boat.

Double down on your strengths
Sayan says when times are tough it helps to find something about your business you do really well and focus on it. “It’s so easy to get side-tracked and to forget what makes you good in the first place,” he says. “Don’t compromise your principles.” Look for silvers linings, he adds: Covid-19 presented him the opportunity to think more clearly about the “mental health and wellbeing” of himself and his staff.

Get exercise
Sayan has been taking advantage of the season’s crisp weather by going for a run every morning. Running might not be your thing, but evidence shows getting out and doing exercise makes a massive difference to your mental wellbeing. “Find something you love doing and [try and] make it a priority every morning,” says Sayan.

To learn how to find balance when you run your own business, try the Small Business Program in the Smiling Mind app here.

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with MYOB and Smiling Mind, together bringing you the Small Business Program. With mindfulness meditations for navigating stress, building resilience and finding balance, the program is designed to help business owners thrive. So let’s make mental health everyone’s business. Try the free Small Business Program under the “At Work” section in the Smiling Mind app today.