How to beat business owner burnout
Ever feel trapped by your business? You’re not alone. Job burnout is a growing phenomenon among UK entrepreneurs. A recent survey found that 60% of business owners are unhappy with their work/life balance, while 38% even said they had experienced relationship problems at home as a result.
Burnout syndrome is defined as a prolonged response to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job. In general terms, burnout is the body’s response to the failure of coping strategies to manage stress levels.
Oxfordshire entrepreneur Tom Woodard, who sold his event registration software business in 2015, speaks for many business owners when he says: “I was ready for a change. I didn’t have the same level of energy I had 20+ years ago. I was always conscious that I needed to be on hand, and lots of customers knew me personally and wanted to deal with me.”
The feeling that you are always ‘on call’ is common. Whatever sector they operate in, many business owners and entrepreneurs experience similar challenges. From our own internal analysis, the following three points are key:
- You feel frustrated and cynical – you’d never admit it to anyone, but you don’t care as much as you once did. Maybe it’s the stage your business is at, but it’s just not as much fun anymore.
- You’re always at work – you are always first in and last out, but are your skills focused in the right areas? While owners have to be seen to be putting everything into their business, is it really essential to answer emails 24/7/365?
- Your performance is below par – you keep making mistakes, and others are noticing. You may even be short-tempered as a result, which affects your staff and the atmosphere in the business.
So, how do you beat the burnout?
Every situation is different, of course, but there are some steps you can take today that may help – all linked to stepping away from day-to-day micro-management, and looking at the ‘big picture’.
- Time management – regain some control by delegating and delaying more, and focusing on high-value tasks
- Focus on priorities – stop fire-fighting and spend time separating the urgent and important from the trivial and banal.
- Ask for advice and help – this is not so much about therapy, as professional help. A life coach can refocus you on your goals, consultants can help you recruit and build a senior management team around you to help spread the load. Or if you really are ready to move on, a business sale advisor will help you prepare to sell up and go do something else.
That last point may sound daunting. Taking the decision to sell is another big call many business owners feel they have to make alone.
Andrew Sesemann, who has sold two businesses with BCMS, offers his unique perspective: “Selling a business is like scaling a vertical cliff. In many ways, speaking to someone else, rather than keeping the idea internalised – makes it real. Once I’d talked about it with someone else – and the world hadn’t collapsed around me! – that made it easier. Any advice, material, or information you can get can break down that vertical cliff into smaller steps. It makes that huge decision a little bit easier to make.”
For Andrew, selling up was the solution. It opened new possibilities, new roles, and – crucially – allowed him to get his life back: “After the sale, as the months went by, I started to find the person I was 30 years ago. That person had been beaten out of me by the pressure and stress of leading a business and trying to have a life at the same time.”