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It’s Only Q1, And You’re Already Frazzled. Here Are Six Reasons Why.

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by Julie Bee, author of “Burned: How Business Owners Can Overcome Burnout and Fuel Success

If you’re like many business owners, Q1 has been way busier than expected. On the surface that’s a good thing. What entrepreneur doesn’t welcome new opportunities, increased business, and rising revenue? There’s just one problem: It’s only mid-February, and you’re starting to feel burned out (or at least a little crispy) already.

This theme has come up repeatedly in recent conversations.

Entrepreneurs are telling me that due to rapid and unexpected growth, they’re canceling vacations (or turning them into work trips), rescheduling doctors’ appointments, and hiring like mad — but without a real strategy. I’m worried about them because that level of effort isn’t sustainable — and it often leads to business decisions that backfire.

While many of us want to grow, it’s possible to grow too quickly. As your to-do list increases, so does your stress. You lack the bandwidth to give your company, your employees, and your clients the consideration they need.

When burning the candle at both ends, it’s very easy to go down a path that’s wrong for your company or spend time and resources on projects that really aren’t profitable, or just make a good old-fashioned mistake. Sustainable growth takes planning and management.

Periodic stress, struggle, and even burnout are givens when you own a business. Here are six reasons why business owners may have bitten off more than they can comfortably chew during the past few months of plenty:

1. The past four years have conditioned you to expect bad news…

From the pandemic to the Great Resignation to recent inflation (not to mention rapid change in many industries), the past four years haven’t been easy for business owners to navigate.

When you’re expecting bad news and barriers, and instead you get good news and a chance for growth, saying yes to everything is a knee-jerk reaction. Entrepreneurs feel compelled to latch onto any opportunity that comes their way, often without considering whether or not it moves their business in a direction they would like to go.

 2. … And uncertainty about the future prompts you to hedge your bets.

If there’s one thing entrepreneurs know well, it’s that nothing is ever guaranteed. Your top salesman might resign unexpectedly. A major client might be wooed by a competitor. Your facility might be damaged by a storm. And failing all that, the economy could always turn on a dime! 

No wonder many business owners are operating from a place of fear. Even if they know an opportunity is outside their ‘sweet spot’ of expertise or that they are already stretched thin, they can’t bear to say no because… what if it’s the last one to come along for a while?

3. You’re afflicted with imposter syndrome…

Whether they’re just starting or have run a successful business for decades, a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with feeling unworthy or undeserving. They’re driven by a constant need to prove themselves.

This describes many of my clients — and at times, me! When you’re plagued by an inner voice that says you only got to where you are today through luck, not hard work, and that pretty soon everyone will see what a fraud you are, of course you’re going to work even harder to silence that voice. Again, fear is causing you to make decisions that — ironically — are pushing you closer to burnout and maybe even the failure you’re so keen to avoid.

4. … Or you’re constricted by your own successful image.

Maybe imposter syndrome isn’t your issue. You know you’ve earned your success and regard — and therein lies the problem. Why would a successful and respected business owner — who is perhaps a trusted mentor to others — say no to new opportunities?

Some established entrepreneurs I coach have told me recently that they feel like they aren’t ‘allowed’ to let a growth opportunity pass them by. Others in their extensive networks are watching. These owners are wary of setting a ‘bad’ example — or sending the message that they’re struggling when they really aren’t — if they pass on a new prospect.

5. You believe that if you’re not growing, you’re dying.

I talk to many entrepreneurs who say that dialing it back — even a little bit — feels like failure. Whether by hustle culture or their own struggle to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, they’ve been conditioned to believe that they must always be striving for more, more, more.

It can be hard to see, but sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself, and your business is to press pause. David Packard once said, ‘More companies die from overeating than starvation’ — and he’s not wrong. The more overextended, overbooked, and overstressed you become, the more likely you are to drop all the balls.

6. You’re working to reach a place that doesn’t exist.

Starting your own business is full of uncertainty. No doubt you’ve comforted yourself by saying something like, Once I make this much money (or open this many locations or have this many clients), I’ll feel like I’ve made it… and can finally relax. In the meantime, you push yourself relentlessly.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but unless you’re Jeff Bezos you might never reach that mythical ‘made it’ point. What happens far more often is that entrepreneurs grow too fast, fly too close to the sun, and then crash and burn. If you’re already starting to feel a bit crispy, give yourself some space to level out.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not knocking growth. I’m just cautioning you not to become so overcommitted that it costs you. If you feel like you’ve been drinking from a firehose this quarter, the next time an opportunity comes along, triangulate your gut instincts with research and the advice of your support group.

I’ll leave you with a final observation. In my experience, opportunities are rarely once-in-a-lifetime. (If you believe yours is, by all means, seize it!) Far more often, the opportunity will be there tomorrow, next month, or next year.


Julie Bee is the author of the upcoming book “Burned: How Business Owners Can Overcome Burnout and Fuel Success“. A business owner burnout strategist, Bee has been dubbed the “small business fixer” by her clients and peers. With over fifteen years in the entrepreneurial field, she has solidified her reputation as a dynamic consultant, a riveting speaker, and a leader who sheds light on the darker side of business ownership.

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