What do you do when you suddenly find yourself overwhelmed and out-of-touch with the business you labored so hard to start up?
Of Ups and Downs and Hitting the Wall
It’s one of the givens of running a business: they’ll be ups and they’ll be downs. It’s pretty common as a small business owner to find yourself stuck in a rut along the way, and when you do find yourself there, often all it takes is a few small changes to pull yourself out.
But what happens when even those things don’t work? What if you find yourself utterly exhausted and depleted of all enthusiasm? Do you close up shop? Try to ride it out? Try something else, entirely?
If you find yourself in such a situation, here are a few points to consider:
First realize where it’s coming from. One of the biggest challenges in endurance sports, like marathoning, is to avoid “hitting the wall” towards the end of a race. For those of you who have never experienced this, your body simply shuts down. It’s not a matter of trying to push through. You practically can’t, and this is on top of the fact that you’re also emotionally drained and you’re head is swimming. Most new small business owners hit the ground running. They work hard, they work long, and they give it their all. Then, a few years out, just as the business is really starting to give back, they basically run out of steam.
Once you can recognize what the problem is, you’ve taken the vital first step towards getting past it. The worst place to be at that point is not knowing what’s happening. Having lost your bearings, there’s no way to get back on your feet. Instead of trying to refocus your energies, you can simply become engrossed in the fact that you have no motivation to move.
Slow down, and where possible, stop altogether. Once you understand where all the fatigue is coming from, don’t fight it. It’s there for a reason and it’s giving you vital information that you’ll need in order to make your next move. As hard as it may be, you’ve just got to step away or at least step back from running your business for a few days.
Re-evaluate. Once you’ve slowed down the pace, now the real work begins. You have to reconsider why you went into business in the first place, how the business is performing, and how you are feeling next to it all. Realize that sometimes the problem is that you have changed. You’ve out-grown your business, or you now have a different set of priorities. Sometimes the business changes. It kind of takes on a life of it’s own. It becomes something that you didn’t think it would at the beginning. The question that you really want to answer at this stage is: given all of this, do you really want to keep running the business?
Plan your next steps. If the answer to that question is “no” then it’s time to shut down or sell. If, however, you decide to continue running the business, then you need to be very clear about the changes that will need to be in place in order for you to do it successfully. This will almost always mean bringing in other people- employees, contractors, or consultants. So be prepared for that. But, if you take the time to research your options and make informed decisions, you’ll be back on your feet in no time and have the enthusiasm to be in it for the long-haul.