Small business promotion with retail speaker Tom Shay
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Are we having fun yet?

Dealing with the issue of burnout

Those involved with a small business are among the most fortunate individuals today. Most of you are entrepreneurs; members of an elite group of people. There is much being written in the weekly news magazines and daily newspapers about being an entrepreneur and about the many people leaving their corporate jobs to attempt a career at owning their own business. 

Perhaps one of the attractions of a business to others is the ability of the business to take on a personality that is reflective of its owner. As owner, you usually hire team members (employees) that you like and enjoy working with. You also merchandise your business or tailor your services, to a certain degree, to reflect your own special interests.

As examples, there are few people who sell sail boats that think sailing is a waste of time and would prefer to be in a powerboat. The same is true for the person that sells clothing, or has a restaurant; these people love what they do.

When many of you got into a small business, you expected to financially maintain your family as well as have fun while providing necessary products and services for your community.

Unfortunately, this is not the same small business today that it was years ago.  So many of the products and services of today did not exist back then, and the competition has been coming out of the wood work, it seems. Your small business is a part of an industry that will continue to change whether or not you are a part of it.

If you make a habit of visiting with those attending trade shows and other industry events, you will always find individuals expressing various levels of exhaustion and burnout with the business. Several of these people have sold their business; others have businesses whose appearance reflects their exhaustion, while some have been able to renew the self-drive that makes business fun.

Unfortunately, most have experienced times when they have felt "burned out" with the business. It is not an experience that is exclusive to the owners and managers of the business.

Long-time, valuable employees can also experience this; and in today's growing market with a challenging availability of qualified help, it can be potentially devastating to your business. Motivation—and the loss of motivation—are crucial to the success of your business, no matter in what part of any industry you participate. When loss of motivation occurs, it is important to be able to identify it and to react.

Short-term burnout seems to begin with minor situations such as an irate customer, losing a valued employee or perhaps experiencing a major foul-up by an employee.  String together a few of these events, and your disappointment begins to grow to the point where it becomes evident to your staff and customers.

One successful business in this industry deals with these situations by looking at a list of projects, both short and long term, which is posted on the office wall. Completion of one of the easier projects can often lift one out of the doldrums. The projects list has items that are for employees as well as items that specifically require the attention of the owner or manager. In isolating oneself and beginning to address one of these tasks, the solitude and accomplishment of the project can often provide the necessary morale boost.

For yourself, or perhaps for one of your key employees, taking a short trip to a nearby town for a weekend seems to do wonders for clearing the mind. This idea may seem to be expensive, but a survey showed that it could cost a business the same as one-third of a year's salary to replace an employee. Put into that perspective, you will probably agree that a weekend getaway is comparatively inexpensive. Those who have resorted to this "therapy" have stated that these weekend trips often include finding a business that is similar to the one they own.

Observing another operation causes the thought process to begin rolling, and you can get several new ideas to take home to try in your business. If you are purchasing inventory through wholesalers, they often provide management or merchandising seminars that you can attend. Having the chance to visit with others within the industry will show it is not always knowing the answers, but knowing where to get them.

Unfortunately, there also exists a more severe level of burnout. This is often caused by repeated occurrences of the problems already discussed and/or having experienced many months of declining sales, continued severe employee problems, or the arrival of competition that has greatly cut into your share of the market. 

Maybe someone is just tired of the business or has found another type of business to be more interesting. Then perhaps it is time to ask yourself, "Are we having fun yet?" If the answer is “no,” then possibly it is time to make arrangements to sell your business.

As for employees with what appears to be a severe problem, there is a fine line of which you should be aware. There are questions that might be asked in your efforts to determine if there is an outside problem that you can assist with, or a problem that is beyond your expertise and ability to resolve. Termination of the employee may be the answer.

Hopefully, this home remedy will be of value to you. Our industry, like any other industry that has retail customers, needs folks who are happy to be a part of it.

Tom Shay is a fourth generation small business owner providing proven management and business building ideas through his Profits Plus Seminars, Profits Plus Solutions coaching, books authored, and articles written. Tom can be reached at 727-464-2182 or through his web site:

Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179