Business Owner Burn Out

Business Owners – You’ll burn out before your staff or your business does

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – UNTIL IT DOES

Resilience and Persistence are an essential ingredient if you want to be a Business Leader.

However, as a business owner these traits may unknowingly drag you into a mental health abyss.

One piece of advice I often hear given to Business Owners is that you need to “Let go of control”. Rubbish !  You need to BE IN CONTROL.


You may have been told that being controlling does not allow creativity and growth and that’s true, but it’s different to being in Control

I’m sure you’ve experienced having competent staff that you trust enough to delegate to and that is a liberating moment.

Having systems and processes add value to the business and Control to how you operate.

Some concerning research into the mental and financial health of business in Australia

The 2020 worldwide pandemic has delivered opportunities to some and challenges to others. Regardless of which camp you’re in, the indications are the effect on you as the Business Owner is the same – increasing levels of stress.

In a report titled “Small Business and Mental Health: Supporting Small Business when they are Facing Challenges”  speaks to the declining mental health across all sectors.

It’s interesting the research indicates that the over 50’s have a tendency to be ‘old school’ and tough it out. I’m a fan of ‘old school’ in some circumstances. I’m not sure ‘toughing it out’ is a wise strategy in this situation because I can’t remember the old school ever experiencing something like what we are experiencing now.

My reading of the Report suggests the best result for the Business Owner, if nothing changes, is they work longer and harder (not a great outcome), or the worst is a family breakdown, physical or severe mental health issues.

As a fellow Business Owner I can certainly relate to these and as a confident to my clients I know it’s a deep seated concern.

I’d like to share the key finding here and also some strategies to reduce the stress.

The first level of stress is Finance.

Can the business manage the cash flow? This applies to both expanding and contracting values.

Can we predict whether sales and revenue are going to grow, stay the same or decline?

What expenses should we ditch, keep or increase?

Can we afford to fund the unexpected growth?

Can we afford to keep the doors open?

The next issue is People.

Some businesses are able to ‘operate from home’ whilst others can only exist with the ‘doors open’

So again, regardless of the situation, you as the Business Owner, are charged with the responsibility to resolve the people issue, and it’s a challenge.

For the staff who have had a taste of working from home, they are rethinking their options. Being home with their families, flexibility of work, not having to travel, are proving to be an advantage for them, but possibly not you as the Business Owner.

The other side of the coin is the isolation that staff experience working from home and what ‘duty of care’ with respect to their mental health should you be addressing.

The staff who ‘have’ to be at work have the dilemma of their family operating in a different framework and that comes with it’s own level of stress.

So you, as the Business Owner, are navigating your way through these minefields, finding ways to maintain and attract quality employees and with that comes it’s own level of stress.

The Business Owner’s guilt attached to being at work and at home.

I know that when I had a young family this was always an issue for me. Even now with a grown family, it’s easy to fall into the trap of ‘all work and no play’.

It’s great to have the goal of  detaching yourself from the day to day operations so you can enjoy the benefits of being the Business Owner.

I wholeheartedly agree with this but its easier said than done because it’s the Catch 22, the family relies on the business’ success.

If the business is you then this is a real challenge.

In this current crisis you may be leaning in to your resilience and can-do attitude, taking on more and more in an attempt to stay in front of the game and ‘tough it out’. The risk you run is taking on too much and feeling you are the only one who is obligated.

What it also highlights is how much your business relies upon you or the level it can operate with your minimal involvement.

Ken Blanchard wrote the “The One Minute Manager meets the Monkey” in 1999 about the Manager who positioned themselves as the ‘solution to the problem’ and the Monkey jumped off the staff’s back onto the Managers.

If you feel like you are carrying a troop of monkeys on your back it’s time to think differently. The solution is simple but not easy and it’s not too late to start planning the change.

It’s not all doom and gloom

I don’t have all the answers and your business will be different based on your  factors.

I get very annoyed when the ‘guru’ says they have the secret sauce. Really, then why are they still working?

Your business is unique and no one size fits all. You’ll have differences in age, size, management expertise, and the support around you. But I do have some First Principles that I believe, when applied at the right time, can contribute to a reduction in your stress levels.

Get Control of your Management Information System

Having a handle on your finances gives you a sense of Control.

You may not like the numbers now, but at least you won’t be blindsided at the end of the quarter.

Having a Dashboard with your Sales activity, Orders (Revenue), Expenses, Debtors and Cash Flow projections are the bare minimum.

There are plenty of fractional Chief Financial Officers who create these in their sleep and can integrate them with your CRM and accounting software.

Put Accountabilities in place

Be ready to roll your eyes. Job Descriptions! Yes it’s the best way to be very clear on what you expect from your staff in terms of their roles and breeds independence. These don’t need to be War and Peace, nor are they a list of tasks.

Accountability is simply ‘your Monkey’. You own it, it’s yours and it’s not allowed to jump off your back.

Processes and Procedures

Another layer of Control that takes a little more intention and time to create.

Don’t be too quick to document every process. it’s much more efficient to map them out first to see how they flow (or get stuck) and you’ll see where the blockages are. Sometimes removing a process opens up the flood gates.

Communicate and be kind to yourself

The most important thing here is to be open with your communication. If things are bad, tell the family. They need to know so they can help. There is no value in hiding the truth. If the financial news is bad then they need to know so they can be a part of the solution.

If you need to work longer hours, let them know you have a plan to get the monkeys off your back.

But when you are home and with the Family, be there and present. Turn off the phone, stop looking at emails (nothing is that important).

Be interested, not interesting.

Ask for help

If you are feeling the stress and it’s all too much, reach out and ask for help from those you trust or get Professional advice.

The Report indicates most Business Owners go to friends for advice. I agree with this on the proviso that your friend has run a business. I prefer a Mentor, someone from your industry who you respect and trust.

I interviewed David Shillington, ex Roosters, Maroons and Australian Rugby League front row forward about the work he does in mental health. It’s a great listen.

Vulnerability is a strength so lean into the people around you for support.

Be clear on what Coaching, Consulting and Mentoring is

Finally, you may need additional resources to help you make better decisions.

You should understand the difference between a coach, a consultant and a Mentor. They all have a role to play but at the end of the day they should be helping you make better decisions.

Author Stephen Sandor Business Performance Strategist and Creator of the Scale to Success System

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