Small business owners can struggle with burnout when they try to do too much by themselves and for too many hours in a day. Those who have found themselves burned out have developed strategies aimed at preventing a recurrence. Among them:
Set limits: When Victoria Bogner gets home after a day at the financial advisory firms she runs, her phone and laptop goes into a separate room; she doesn’t answer calls or emails while spending time with her two young children. And, Bogner says, “I’ve trained my clients and staff that, unless there’s a big emergency, I’m not working on the weekends.” Bogner, CEO of McDaniel Knutson Financial Partners in Lawrence, Kansas, was burned out five years ago from working 60-plus hours each week.
Delegate, delegate: Paul Altero and Bill Hart tried to build and run Bubbakoos Burritos restaurants themselves and then realized they were burning out. The partners, whose company is based in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, were so exhausted they considered giving up on their plans when the chain had grown to eight locations. They began making big hires — managers, construction supervisors, an administrative assistant — and got back their energy and momentum.
Learn to say no: Candace Barr burned out after taking on too much work in her résumé business, Strategic Résumé Specialists. She realised that not only was she exhausted, but she couldn’t deliver the high quality expected by clients paying $1,600 to $1,800 for an executive-level résumé. She began turning down some business. “It was hard for me to say no, and it’s still hard for me to say no,” Barr says, but she recognised she had to do it.
Make R&R a priority: Owners need to schedule periodic breaks and vacations — and not spend their time off staring at a laptop and emailing on their phones. Annemarie Fowler schedules break times every day, including 15 minutes for coffee every morning and half an hour of reading for pleasure at the end of the day. Fowler, owner of the online learning website Speak Confident English, burned out after trying to keep up with her clients around the world, even in Australia, half a world away from Fowler’s home in Omaha, Nebraska.
Watch for the warning signs: Dentist Ben Dancygier has had periodic burnout and recognised it when he developed some typical symptoms: “My body ached. I was exhausted, moody, eating poorly. I was putting everything, everyone, the business first and foremost and hadn’t taken any days off.” Dancygier, owner of Valley Pediatric Dentistry in Hopewell Junction and Jefferson Valley, New York, has felt burned out several times in the 18 years since he started his practice, usually when he plunges into a new project.