5 Ways to Beat Business-owner Burnout

by Shaun R Smith on July 27, 2010

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Do you own a business that you love, and you’re proud of, and is successful — but sometimes makes you crazy?  Or maybe the picture is a little less rosy.  Maybe your business isn’t where you want it to be, and you’re a bit burned out and struggle to find the energy to turn it around.

You are not alone.

Love Lost

Many business owners have businesses that they have fallen out of love with.  It could be because:

– The business is not producing the results you expected.

– You love your business and what you do, but have been doing it for so long it’s gotten stale.

– The business is more work and/or more frustration than you want.

– Your life as a business owner isn’t what you expected.

– There is values misalignment or drama amongst your team that makes you not want to go to work.

If you find yourself relating to any of the above, and it’s more than just a one-off bad day every once in a great while, what do you do?  TAKE ACTION!  Here are some ideas to get you moving.

1. Quit

In Seth Godin‘s The Dip, he explains how often successful people quit.  The saying “Quitters never prosper” is nonsense.  Winners quit all the time — they just quit the right things at the right time.  Of course, the trick is determining when is the right time to quit.  How do you know whether you are:

– In a dip that is a part of every learning and growing process that you must push through to get to the next level?

– Or if you are in a dead end or have fallen off a cliff and need to close shop and forge a whole new path for yourself?

One way to gain some insight is to project out the current path that your business is on and see where you end up.  Another resource is to call on fellow business owners of similar businesses or at least similarly sized businesses, or business consultants, to get an outside perspective.

2. Fire C and D Team Members

I often tell my clients that the fastest way to change their businesses is to make changes in their team.  However most business owners fire underperforming or nonperforming employees too late.  They tend to make excuses for them and give them warnings and extra chances — while under estimating how much their business and the rest of their team are suffering.  If you’re a business owner who loves your business and still has a passion for helping your customers in whatever way you do but hates going to work, nine times out of 10 it is a team alignment and values issue.

The clinic is closed.  (There’s probably an entire blog post right there.)  You are in business to provide a great product and/or service for your customers, to create job opportunities in your community, to provide a return to the investors and owners, to create wealth for yourself, and hopefully to leave your legacy.  You are doing a disservice to everyone mentioned above when you keep around team members who are not A players.

3. Revisit Your Vision

When I hear that undercurrent of frustration and pointlessness in a clients’ voice, many times it is because they are drowning in minutia.  They have been sucked into firefighting and have forgotten what really matters to them about their business in the first place.  Revisiting your vision at this time is vital.  Ask yourself the big questions:

– What am I looking to achieve with my life?

– Where do I want my business to be in 20 years?  In 100 years?

– What impact is my business having on the lives of others?

4. Fire Yourself

Maybe the problem is that you’re in the wrong position in the business.  When you started the business, you wore all the hats.  You were everything from the CEO to the director of sales to the bookkeeper to the administrative assistant.  However, as the company’s grown, you are still wearing hats that don’t fit.  Sometimes, that might mean giving up even the CEO chair.  Stacey Bendet, founder and designer for alice + olivia, did just that so that she could stay focused on being a great designer and get someone with the right skill set to professionally manage her company.  Craig Newmark is another famous example of a founder of a very successful company (Craigslist) who hired someone else to run his company.

However, you might be the perfect person to continue to run the business – but you’re stifling your company’s growth by not surrounding yourself with an all-star senior management team.  Stay the CEO, but hire a VP of sales to manage your sales team.  Or a CMO to run your company’s marketing department.  The challenge is (1) choosing someone better than you for the position (without ego or jealousy sabotaging the process or the hire), and (2) trusting this new leader you’ve hired and letting go of the reins to let her take over.

5. Get Help

(Subtle shameless plug to follow.)  Find someone, like an advisor, a consultant, a coach, a mentor, or a board member, who will help you navigate the murky waters you find yourself in.  It should be someone who is trustworthy, experienced, and capable.  This person or group of people can help you decide which of the above strategies would be most appropriate given your circumstances and can support you in implementing the actions to create the needed change.

An Ounce of Prevention…

When you feel yourself losing energy, passion, and/or enthusiasm, act fast and dramatically.  Unfortunately, burnout is a slippery slope, and the further down that you fall, the harder to climb back out.  In fact, you’d be best served by following these five pointers on an ongoing basis and not waiting until you’re in crisis mode.

What else has worked for you or your colleagues to get you back from the brink?

Photo by Lightmatter

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July 28, 2010 at 1:25 pm

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