Anyone who owns their own business or organization will soon discover that the freedom of independence that’s glorified with entrepreneurship comes with a serious price. That price usually looks like the welfare of your mental health and the health of your dearest relationships. With entrepreneurship on the rise, the topic of mental health maintenance and balanced business practices is a conversation worth having.
I decided to talk with Jonathan Bodnar, a friend of mine who I’ve closely witnessed evolve over the course of his entrepreneur journey. I watched him face the anxieties, the breakdowns and rebuild-ups, the impossible clients, the creative challenges and persevere to a sustainable place and growing success with Apollo Apps today. I’m grateful he’s taken the time to share with me and anyone else on the entrepreneur path, the importance of making mental health a priority concern in today’s glorification of “busy”.
Tell us a little about yourself, the name of your company and what you guys do.
My name is Jonathan, I’m 26 and love creating things. My goal in life is to live every day on purpose and try to help others get one step closer to a passion filled life. I don’t really like sports, instead politics are my playoffs and elections my superbowl. One day I’d love to run for public office and help contribute to this incredible nation we’ve built.
I started my own business when I was 17 and fell in love with building companies. I’m currently working on my third and most successful venture yet, Apollo Apps. No, we didn’t name the company after Apollo the Greek god. We pulled the name from Apollo 11, the first rocket to land on the moon successfully. We saw that as a sort of goal, to do things no other company in the industry had done before. At Apollo we build custom church apps along with business and organizational apps as well.
How long have you been running your own business?
I started my first company when I was 17. I offered on the go computer repair services. I had previously spent a few years fixing motherboards and other computer parts for my brothers company so I figured I was in a good position to start building my own client base. I spent about 2 years working on that. I quickly realized I wanted to be more creative in what I offered clients.
During my first year at Christ for the Nation’s Institute, I leveraged my clients from my computer repair work and started a small creative design agency. I made websites and marketing material for small to medium sized companies. After some time I started working with large ministries, mostly consulting work, and really found a passion for helping them grow. Not just creatively, but strategically.
One day in early 2015 I began looking for an app for one of the ministries I was working with and found only 2 companies that offered an aesthetically appealing app. After 2 weeks of research into the industry I went to a few of my partners and pitched my idea of Apollo Apps. I wanted to offer the best custom church app around, and that’s what I did.
What have been the pros and cons of carrying a business in regards to your mental health?
The benefits to owning your own company is the flexibility. Any entrepreneur will tell you it’s better to work 10 hours a day for yourself, than 5 hours a day for someone else. It’s freedom- choosing what and when to work. It teaches you daily discipline, focus, and time management skills as well.
However, on the con side, if you’re not careful, you take on the identity of the business as yourself. If someone insults your company, they’re insulting you. If someone compliments the company, they’re complimenting you.
I had this client almost a year and a half ago who needed some marketing materials and a website (back when I was still doing websites on the side). I went so overboard to help her with her website, even remaking it 5 times over the span of our relationship. It just never worked out, she ended up very upset, frustrated and confused. Even requested a refund after I had done about 5x what I was contracted to do.
I’m not sure why I held on for over a year. It’s just something you as the business owner take personally and when the product or service fails in the client's eyes it feels like you’ve failed. I’m convinced a good business owner will always find it hard to separate between his clients and his own needs in this sense. I should have “fired” her a long time ago. But instead, to prove I was who I envisioned myself to be, I held on like a kid his toy.
More importantly the responsibility of running a company ways on you. If you’re not careful, it’s the only responsibility you see as important. People’s livelihood is now your responsibility. Your employees are married, have kids, or trying to pay their way through school- all of which is now on you. When we first started, there were weeks I had absolutely no clue how we were going to reach payroll. But we did, every time. I’m convinced sheer weight of responsibility drove the success.
That can weigh on things like your marriage or other important things that provide balance in life.
Why do you think mental health should be a priority concern for entrepreneurs and business owners/managers?
Simple: If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others. Your mental state controls so much. Not just how creative you can be, but how well you handle or defuse situations that otherwise could get out of hand quickly. Which, if you’re doing something right and creating something incredible, happens every day.
You mental health should be one of your biggest priorities. It helps you maintain balance between the ever screaming to do list and the things in life that really matter. Whatever you do, don’t give up what matters most now for success. Success isn’t a number in your bank account, it’s a mindset. And if you think pushing out friendships, health, hobbies, or balance “temporarily” will get you there faster, you’re going to end up never reaching what you truly wanted to begin with; fulfillment.
Some of the wealthiest people in the world agree that you have to build the lifestyle you want now, before reaching success. So start now, today, finding balance in life.
As a business owner, what are some boundaries you've established to keep your mental health intact?
Stop working. Choose to put the computer away, turn the phone off, and just stop working. Your business becomes your baby. Like building a house, every day you just want to add more to it. Seeing it one step closer to your vision is the reward. But some days, you have to fix rotting walls, or remove uneven timber, then instead of resting after a hard day you just want to add something else.
Truth is, the more you rest, the better you become. The better you are, the better the business is.
Is there a practice or activity that you make time for to recenter and refuel yourself when you feel overwhelmed?
When I feel myself losing focus and getting frustrated or overwhelmed I turn the lights off in my office, put some calming music on and meditate for 10 minutes. When I’m done meditating, everything seems so much smaller and less significant because I’m no longer approaching them emotionally.
I would say also, the more I read, the more balance I find and the more efficiently my mind thinks. I’ve started to read a book a day, like many new internet inspirations like Tai Lopez, I find it increases my creativity, keeps me centered and keeps me one step ahead of the curve.
What advice would you give to the entrepreneur that is starting up their business but is burnt out, stretched too thin, seeing little return and wondering if it's worth it anymore?
You are not an extension of the company, the company is an extension of you. The better you become the better your business becomes, not the other way around. If your business is strong, and healthy, but you’re empty and passionless, you’ve gained nothing and the company cannot survive.
Like a child in the womb your company is connected to your passion and vision through an umbilical cord. It feeds off your direction and dedication. This is most true in the first 3 years of business. If you’ve fed the business enough vision and direction, by the time you leave, it can operate on it’s own.
If you’re burnt out, somewhere along the line you lost balance and stopped hanging around the right people. Granted, you might not be able to hang out with millionaires. But you can get mentored by them, and pull from their endless pool of wisdom in your area. How? Yep, you guessed it, reading. Every day you can hang out and learn from someone who’s been in your shoes and overcome.
Moreover, as Seth Godin describes in his book “The Dip”, every success story has a dip right after they see “beginners luck” and everything feels great, and right before true success and accomplishment kicks in. Don’t stop. Work past “the dip”. Stay strong, have a routine, and read, read and read some more.
Lastly, how can someone get in contact with you if they're looking to build an app or just need some advice?
Feel free to visit our website ApolloApps.com or email me directly, firstname.lastname@example.org