We expect to fall out of love. We accept if we decide to make a massive career change. But, oddly, few people expect entrepreneurs to fall out of love with their business.
Like many a relationship, the owner-business one can develop in unexpected ways and both parties involved will change over the years. There is undoubtedly a honeymoon period when we start up, all that excitement and optimism. But when reality sets in, it can be a very different reality, despite other people’s assumption that you are “so lucky” to have your own business.
I know what this is like from personal experience, having fallen truly, madly, deeply out of love with my business. I also know many entrepreneurs who have a love hate relationship with their business, but I was still surprised by the figures from a new survey by Vistaprint showing that 32% of business lose their motivation after starting up and a quarter of them feel like this several times a year.
The signs are all similar to when any relationship goes wrong. The pride and enthusiasm you once had in your achievements starts to wane. You have to fake feeling excited about any good results. Achievements start to feel meaningless. Your energy levels are suddenly rock bottom, and you complain of feeling tired a lot. There is that awful feeling of being both bored and exhausted at the same time. Even the most important of business projects lapse behind. All of this inevitably makes you feel guilty, adding to the misery.
You drag yourself in to work everyday and survive by ticking off what has to be done. Your creativeness, once a key reason for the business’s success, fails to flow. You veer between apathy and anger. You keep going out of a sense of duty. You may even end up consulting the doctor for a mix of anxiety or depression, unthinking that it could simply be that you are no longer happy running your business.
Vistaprint identified 3 top passion killers, and two of those being financially orientated. Many find the erratic income provided by business too unstable to live with. Others are disappointed by the earning potential not being delivered on. I know only too well what that is like, writing business plans and cashflows that appear totally realistic on paper; getting excited and then finding a stream of unexpected crises reduce you to another year of scraping by. You square your shoulders, agree to live and learn and start over, only for it to happen again the following year. It is hard to be passionate when your dreams are continually shattered.
Stress was found to be the other factor. Stress usually comes from causes we can’t identify or things beyond our control. Till we realise that the honest truth may be that our business causes us stress, then we cannot deal with it. But more extensively, business is a full of things we cannot control; customers going bust; interest rates going up, technology failures, political nonsenses. All impact on our businesses, often with little or no warning and with little we can do about them.
Changes within your personal life can impact on your relationship with your business. You may have decided on different priorities at home or in a relationship. You may develop different values as time goes by, and start to question if this financial reward (real or promised) is enough for the sacrifices that you make, the impact it all has on other parts of your life.
Yet, we try desperately to keep our businesses going because we feel we should, making ourselves promises of financial rewards or extra holidays which never materialize. Yet oddly, very few people, around a fifth, actually consider closing their businesses down, despite the old axiom that you should never keep a business longer than 10 years.
We are hitting extraordinary political times at the moment and it is hardly surprising that many business owners are finding it extremely tough, which means it is a perfect time time to re-consider the relationship with your business and decide if it is worth re-kindling the romance.
To do this effectively, you need to accept that it is a choice to go on and check where, for you, the unhappiness has set in. If it is truly not for you anymore, don’t try and keep it going because it is the right thing, or even it feels like the only option. I went that route with a business for several long years and it doesn’t work. Not only will it make you miserable, but however hard you try, you will not be performing as well as you used to.
If you decide the relationship is too good to lose, start re-kindling. Look after yourself again, both body and mind. Take time out of the business, to get you back to top form. Within the business, identify the tasks that kill your mojo and re-assign them.
Take time to remember what made you fall in love in the first place with your business and reflect on the reasons that you started up. Ask if they are as true for you today as they were then and let them excite you all over again. Focus on the most exciting bits and see if any of those can be re-created in a new and exciting way, be it developing a new service or winning an unlikely customer. Make it fun again, for you and the people around you.
Running a business and staying in love with it, means re-kindling the passion on a regular basis. And you sometimes need to consciously spend time doing just that.