The other day I was chatting with a dear friend of mine. There was a little lull in the conversation and after a moment of silence, she says to me, “Can I ask you a question about business?” I love my friend, I love all things related to business, and I love it when people ask me questions. So of course I said “Yes!”
My friend goes on. “This is hard for me to say — but I don’t think I can do this ‘being in business’ thing anymore. I’m running on empty. I’m always working, I’m always tired, my kids and husband miss me, and I’m not even making much money. Sometimes I think I need to just give this business thing up!”
Immediately I felt myself transported back in time. Man, have I been there, in that place she’d just described. At one time I knew that place all too well. I used to live there!
As we continued to talk, I asked her a few questions. I wanted to know why she’d gone into business in the first place. I also wanted to know what sort of things she’d been trying when attempting to solve her business challenges.
As we talked, I shared with her the details of what it was like for me when I was in that same spot, the spot she’s currently in. We bonded over the 70 hour work weeks that included weekends, the lost time with loved ones, and the stress of not having ample income. We laughed together about the impossibility of taking a vacation and the horror we felt at just the idea of not checking our e-mail for even just one day.
At some point my friend stopped and said, “Uh, Jess? You’re talking in the past tense! So what changed?”
Somewhere along the way, I had realized that if I was going to stay in business (which is what I really, really wanted to do), I was going to have to remedy the challenges I was facing. It simply wasn’t humanly possible to keep working the hours I was working. I had started my own business so I would have more time with my family and so I could make a living while also making a difference in my clients’ businesses and lives. I had business savvy, but I was still struggling.
Here are the steps I shared with my friend:
1. Stop beating yourself up.
2. Reconnect with why you went into business.
3. Try something different.
First, you need to give yourself a break. And you need to give yourself credit for the things you are good at, the things that make you feel successful, happy, and proud. You are a talented individual and you are in business because of your skills and talents. Recognize your abilities and genuinely pat yourself on the back. You deserve it! Being in business isn’t easy and everyone struggles at some point in business (whether they’ll share that fact with you is another story!). So the first thing you need to do is stop beating yourself up.
Then, once you’re feeling less down on yourself, you need to reconnect with why you went into business in the first place. It might take a little time, if you’ve been disconnected from the heart of your business for a while, to get back to that place where you love your business again. But take a few hours, a few days, a week – as long as it takes – to really get back in touch with that place inside you that lights up when you think about your business and what you have to offer to the world.
Finally, what you need to do is try something different. Ask for help if you are stuck. Learn something new about running your business. Try a radically different approach and see if you like the results. It’s easy to stay in that place where you do the same thing over and over, but if you aren’t happy with the outcome, try something new instead. It might feel scary, but it just might work! Being willing to try something new, instead of the same old, same old, is the best way to break out of a cycle of depletion and stagnancy.
For me, incredible transformation occurred when I stepped outside of my normal mode of operation. For most of my life I’ve been a really independent person. I’m a self-starter, I get things done, and I work hard. I’m dedicated and driven. It wasn’t often that I stopped to ask for help. But once I did? Wow – that’s when real change started to happen for me in my business and in my life.
So if you’re stuck in that place where you’re running on empty and need to refuel, try these three steps for transforming your business today!
By Jessica Reagan Salzman