Is Work Stressful?

by John Pepper


In 1970, my wife Shirley, and I started a new business, printing computer stationery. This business grew very quickly, along with the growth of computers, and in 1987, this company went public, on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

The problems we encountered in this growing company, soon became too much for us to handle. I am an entrepreneur, and have no formal training in management procedures, or the desire to manage others. I first appointed a new Managing director, in 1982, to run this fast-growing company, on a daily basis.

The company continued to grow, after it went public. Soon afterwards, I found that the company was not sticking to its tried and tested culture, and I appointed a new Managing Director. This improved the company’s performance, but it did not bring the culture back into line.

In 1974, while all these problems were developing, I did something very unusual. I started to write a suite of computer programmes, which would run this burgeoning company from the time the orders came in, to the time the client received his account. It also ran everything else, except the final accounts.

I found it impossible to train other computer programmers to take this workload off my shoulders. I landed up running the business during the daytime and writing programmes during the night. This became too much for me to handle, when I got down to sleeping for only three hours a night.

I set up another company, to take over the writing of these programmes, and also to broaden the market for these programmes, to include all different types of printing. However, I was never able to find anyone capable of writing those programmes, for the production and estimating functions.

I soon realised that it would be easier to find a professional manager, to run the printing company, than it was to find someone who was able to write computer programmes and, at the same time, solve the problems of how to quote any type of printing job. I appeared to be the only one able to do this work.

In 1992, when I was first diagnosed, I decided to take that final step. I resigned from my position as the CEO of a this large printing company. I also closed down the software company, which I had founded in 1976. Both of these changes had made an enormous difference to the high levels of stress, under which I had been working.

The company was soon taken over by some large conglomerate and my late wife’s and my own involvement in it, have long since been forgotten. Was it all worth it? Yes. I proved to myself that I was as capable as anybody else of creating something good.

In answer to my own question at the beginning of this article, NO! Work is not stressful, unless you allow it to get you down!