Boston Chauffeur Driven Show
Wednesday, November 13, 2019
By Kristen Carroll

Burnout Burnout is the curse of the high achiever. It’s rare for people who have found a healthy work-life balance with an undemanding job and plenty of leisure time to feel pushed to the brink. Instead, it’s self-motivated, competitive, and passionate people working well beyond 40 hours a week who are most prone to burnout. If you are a celebrity, you can check yourself into the hospital for exhaustion for a few weeks or months, or if you’re Michael Jordan, you can play baseball for a few years. But how can entrepreneurs and small-business owners spot burnout on the horizon and re-engage with their businesses?

Dr. Eva de Mol and her coauthors at Harvard Business Review note that “[s]ome evidence suggests that entrepreneurs are more at risk of burnout because they tend to be extremely passionate about work and more socially isolated, have limited safety nets, and operate in high uncertainty. This has important consequences for economic growth—entrepreneurial firm failure and bankruptcy is likely to contribute significantly to the $300 billion that burnout costs the U.S. annually.” Entrepreneur burnout has consequences on a more local level than the U.S. economy, since employees and customers depend on these businesses for their livelihoods as well as necessary products and services.

Even if you have 100 employees, owning a business can be extremely isolating. It’s challenging, stressful, unpredictable, exciting, rewarding, and terrifying all at the same time. And even though you are surrounded by members of your team cheering you on and building your faith back up when it falters, at the end of the day, the buck stops at you. You are balancing the extremes of the best and worst as a business owner: At best, your company’s thriving and you’re in the black; at worst, the hardest decisions are yours to make–but you do it because of the sense of accomplishment anyway. If you’re experiencing a cash flow crunch, you are the only one who can’t walk away and hope for the best. If you aren’t sure how you’re going to make payroll, you are the only one who has to fix the issue and forgo a check yourself, to ensure your employees are paid. If you have a great idea about the direction of your company, you can ask for the feedback of your team members, but ultimately, it’s your decision and your responsibility.

People often think they want to work for themselves so they can have more freedom, but owning or running a business can be anything but freeing. You sleep with one eye open because you never know when you’ll be summoned to put out a fire. Often, you enjoy the tax benefits of expensing your life through the company, but you don’t actually pay yourself, or at least you don’t pay yourself an appropriate amount. At any point in time, you are one incident away from losing it all through a lawsuit, employment claim, or PR nightmare—even when you do everything perfectly. Running a small or midsize business comes with extra challenges that large corporations do not face. Small businesses take the bulk of governing bodies’ scrutiny. When small to midsize businesses make money, they pay taxes on it. When they pay their employees, they spend money in their communities. It’s an economic cycle that has served our country well for decades. Unfortunately, many large corporations evade paying any taxes whatsoever by routing their money out of the U.S. to tax havens. They also outsource jobs to countries without U.S. worker protections and regulations, sending more revenue out of the country and reducing jobs for American workers. Small and midsize businesses are good citizens, but it’s easy to feel that the deck is stacked against us.
"People often think they want to work for themselves so they can have more freedom, but owning or running a business can be anything but freeing.”
As a small-business owner myself, I know how challenging it can be to stay enthusiastic in the face of injustice. I started The LMC Group because I realized the chauffeured ground transportation industry was filled with companies struggling to be profitable while fighting against businesses and even empires with much deeper pockets. It didn’t seem like a fair fight, so I wanted to use the years of experience I’d gained in the corporate world, both internally and as a consultant, to help the Davids fight the Goliaths. Sure, I knew I’d never make the money I would in the corporate world, but I didn’t care: It was a mission aligned with my values, so I was in!

I still have that same vision and purpose, but it’s been challenged many times—and it’s only natural to expect that every business owner will face not only some incredible peaks but also those frustrating valleys over the course of their careers. Internal and external forces, personal and professional stress, and hurdles both expected and not will always be there to chip away at your passion as a business owner and make you question how much longer you can keep running on empty.

Burnout So how do you keep going, day after day, year after year? For me, I consciously connect to my purpose. I’m well aware that I’m free to go at any time. The services that The LMC Group offers have been customized for the chauffeured ground transportation industry after many years of fine tuning, but most of them are translatable to a wide range of businesses. We could simply pivot into a new industry or niche, but that has never been our strategy. For the number of frustrations we may experience, there are 10 times more people who have blown us away with their charity of spirit, enthusiasm, drive, and support. When I am feeling fatigued by the exception to the rule, I remember all the people who have shared their goodness and generosity with me. I choose to focus on the positive, and I’m grateful that the positives are overwhelming.
"If you have created a business that can’t survive a short vacation without you, you are doing it wrong.”
When financial challenges arise, as they always will, I use it as an opportunity to get to know my business even better. I’m not afraid to change course. I’m not afraid to scrap an idea that didn’t pan out. One of the greatest risks a business owner faces is not knowing when to pull the plug on a favored program or service offering. It may just be that the timing or the climate isn’t right, but having to give up on something we valued can be a very hard pill to swallow. It shouldn’t be, however, and the sooner we acknowledge it, the sooner we can have a realistic view of our future.

If you find yourself fatigued by your business, take a break from it. If you have created a business that can’t survive a short vacation without you, you are doing it wrong. We cannot grow if we are always burdened by weeds. We need to be exposed to sunlight to truly reach our potential. Take time to find the sun, relax, grow, and even thrive. Don’t be afraid to examine whether your business is the right business for you. If you aren’t the very best at what you do, making a solid profit while you enjoy yourself, STOP DOING WHATEVER YOU ARE DOING. Life is short, and if we aren’t careful, we’ll lose time—profound amounts of time that we will never get back.

If you know you are in the right business but still find yourself struggling to reignite your passion, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Why did I start this business?
2. What is my exit strategy?
3. Am I proud of what I have accomplished?
4. Have I conducted myself as a strong and good business owner/executive?
5. Do I have a business plan?

Here’s some feedback on your potential answers:
1. Why did I start this business?
Was it for security, meaning, passion, or something else? Are you realizing those goals?

2. What is my exit strategy?
How much money do you need to retire? At what age do you want to retire? It’s hard to plan where you are headed if you don’t know your ultimate destination, so give this careful thought.

3. Am I proud of what I have accomplished?
If yes, please list your accomplishments. If no, what’s holding you back?

4. Have I conducted myself as a strong and good business owner/executive?
If your worst days as a business owner were videotaped and projected across the world, would you be happy with what people saw?

5. Do I have a business plan?
Again, you can’t plan for a future without knowing where you are headed and how you are going to get there. If you haven’t created a business plan before, there are templates online that you can use as a jumping-off point. It doesn’t have to be formal; you just need to know your vision, your plan, and your goals for growth—as well as when you want to tap out. With that information in hand, you can figure out quite a bit.

If you do not feel that spark and have decided not to reengage, there are plenty of ways to help you find a buyer. But until that time, remember why you started this work in the first place and lean into that vision while you find your sea legs for the next phase of your career.    [CD0519]
Kristen Carroll is the Founder of the LMC Group. she can be reached at kristen@lmc.group.