Why Business Owners Experience Burn Out

The story is all too familiar. You decided to quit your 40hr work week so you can “be your own boss” and free up your time. You purchased your cool laptop, your business cards and office space only to find that the customers don’t just fall in your lap. You actually have to work harder at your new startup than you did answering phones at your previous 9-5. No one told you things would be this hard!

Every entrepreneur goes through it. There is a difference between the idea of owning your own business and the reality of it. In the past decade it has actually become trendy to own your own businesses, but most underestimate the work that goes into getting something to launch and the time it takes to be successful. Just like in the 80’s when everyone wanted to become an astronaut because of the movie Space Camp, today everyone wants to become the next Facebook app developer or run the next Amazon. The 50% small business failure rate is partially due to the funds running out and partially due to just plain burn out. We start our businesses with lots of hope, inspiration and determination only to find the fuel draining by the 2nd year. 

Here are a few suggestions on how to avoid small business burnout, from one business owner to another:

1. You Need An Outlet Not Business Related
Sometimes your business can become all consuming. In the midsts of being preoccupied with everything your doing to launch your business, or keep it going, you can lose your identity. You and your life are more than your business and making money. Yes, you need that bottom line to increase. Yes, you need to hire new staff that will take your business to the next level. With that in mind, you also need to remember where you came from. You need to be reminded of the story of why you started your business in the first place. Remember your passions outside your business and make sure to find time to relax, rejuvenate and be refreshed. Get into the company of people that are outside your social and business circles. This could give you tremendous perspective.

2. You Need To Think Long Term
Speaking of perspective, you’ll need a double dose of long term perspective to stay in the game. Just because you had a few light days, weeks or even months doesn’t mean you need to close the doors. There have been many times where I felt like it was over for my business because I had something bad happen in the short run. You always have to keep the long run in mind. In order to last, you have to pace yourself and remember that the end is better than the beginning. If you really want to leave a legacy, you’ll have to be patient and stay focused on long range goals. Patience is a virtue that you will need to cultivate if you are planning on staying in business for the long term. I always use the carrots and asparagus analogy. When you plant carrots, you can usually harvest them within a few weeks, but asparagus requires about two years after planted to see any kind of results. We all appreciate carrots with dinner, but when you pull out the asparagus its special! You need both, but anything of value is going to take time. 

3. You Need To Deal With Energy Issues
Burn out is called “burn out” for a reason. In business where you are constantly meeting new people, having multiple meetings per day and out selling your product or service till late in the evening, it can be easy to forget to rest. Yes, sleep is a sign of success, but the one thing money cannot buy is health. Your health needs to become a priority. Health includes both getting good nights sleep, exercising and proper diet. Watch what you are eating, especially out on the road. I know it’s tempting to crush those 6 red bull cans in one sitting, but if you do, you are sure to crash and burn. Money flows where the energy goes. If you have no energy to attack the morning or move over the 3 o’clock afternoon hump, your money is going to stop flowing. You also need to consider where you are putting your mental energy. If you are watching CNN, negative news or binge watching on Netflix all the time, you’re probably not making the most of your mental energy. You’ll want to stay on the upside. Optimism will help with your momentum. 

4. Celebrate 
Don’t forget to celebrate your wins! Not only will you appreciate this, but those around you will appreciate it. These are great times for you to recognize valuable players on your team, cast more vision and just have fun! The more fun you can have doing what you love, the more people will want to work with you and the less you will want to throw in the towel and quit. Celebration keeps the energy up and the momentum going with your business. It can also be a great cause for news to travel and create marketing buzz around it to help get the word out! Celebrate with employee dinners, awards or something simple as doing a mid day dance party. Throw on some music, pump it loud and show of your best dance moves for a good 30 mins. Don’t just celebrate company achievements, celebrate anniversaries, birthdays and new milestones. Find a reason to celebrate! 

5. Watch Your Financials 
Business is a numbers game and you need to stay on top of your financials. Much of the stress that business owners experience is due to mounting financial problems that they are either ignoring or don’t want to face. When I first started my business I didn’t know what a profit and loss statement was or a balance sheet. If you don’t want to handle these items, hire an accounting service or outsource the work to someone to provide you with monthly statements for you to see an overview on how the business is doing. How can you know what you need to charge, how many units you need to sell or if you need to find a lesser expensive vendor if you haven’t been watching your financials. I recommend businesses evaluate things financially every quarter. If you stay on top of your financials, you’ll feel better and get sleep at night. You may even find out your business is doing better than you thought! 

Being a small business owner is definitely a challenging role. It has it’s benefits and is highly rewarding, but is not for the faint at heart. There are many emotional ups and downs with running your own business. One moment you can be riding high on that new account you landed or the high sales month you experienced. The next moment you can experience a low of a partner backing out of a deal or an unhappy customer that you can’t do anything to please. Regardless, the journey is worth it small biz owner! Welcome to an elite club. Your the one that makes the world go around. You create jobs, you control your destiny, you create your paycheck. For that, you should be proud! 


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Russell is the founder and owner of Severity Design. Severity Design is a digital marketing studio located in Elgin, Illinois, a Northwest Suburb of Chicago. We help small businesses get the word out and gain attention.
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