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Often a business owner will walk into our office and tell me that they want to leave their business.  When I ask when, the answer is often “yesterday”.  When I hear this answer I am reasonably sure I’m facing a case of owner burnout.

Business owner burnout is usually a symptom of doing things that the owner doesn’t like to do, but believes they must in their business.  After twenty plus years of doing activities they have to do, but don’t enjoy they feel that’s it time to throw in the towel.

In most of these cases burnout is caused by spending too much time doing things the owner has become good at, but doesn’t have natural energy or interest.  I call this working outside your zone.

Some of the reasons you might be forced to work outside your zone are:

The activity needed to be done and you were the only one to do it.

When an owner tells me this they are usually talking about something they started to do twenty or more years ago when they first started the business.  As time went on, they developed a skill to do the activity but never really enjoyed it.  And, as with many things in business, the owner just never got around to training someone else to do that particular thing.

A customer demanded that you provide personal service to them.

When we start a business we often are the chief cook and bottle washer.  We do everything in the business, which includes servicing customers.  The owner has gotten used to servicing customers.  The owner has talked themself into believing that if they don’t personally service their customers they will all stop doing business with their company.

It might set a bad example for others in the business

This is a biggie.  The owner believes that if they aren’t willing to do everything in the business then they’ll be setting a bad example for others.  At some point you will need to have others do things that you don’t do.  If you don’t let go, you not only become a bottleneck in your business, but you keep your business from having growth.

No one can do anything better than I can

This is another dangerous belief.  As you start your business and you can’t afford to have quality people work with you, this might be true.  (but probably isn’t)  As your business grows, I can guarantee that others can do many of the activities in your business better than you.

I can’t afford to hire good talent

I see this one all of the time.  The business owner is making $500,000 per year in their business and they believe they can’t afford to hire good people.  As a result the owner is stuck doing things they don’t really want to do.  This is where our concept of the free hire comes into play.

If you’re making a reasonable amount of money and don’t have a good “number two” you can often hire this person and your profits will increase.  This is even after the salary you’re paying your new person.  The bonus with this is you won’t have to do things you hate doing, even as you’re making more money and your company provides better service.

In my experience burnout is a really bad time to exit a business.  First, fix the reason you are feeling burned out, then decide if you really want to leave your business.  If you do this, you’ll likely be making a much better decision.

Josh Patrick

I’ve put together a special report on relationships and roles in your business.  You can read out case study on how some business owner’s deal with burnout through managing their relationship with their business.  I think you’ll find the time invested worthwhile.  To order this complementary special report, click on the button below.

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Topics: business exit planning, unique ability, Exit planning for advisors, exit readiness

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