Over the past few years, I have picked up on a trend among entrepreneurs and business owners where they compete on who has worked the longest hours and use that as a measure of success. Having co-founded my own business, Digilante, close to five years ago, I understand the pressures of being a start-up. I have burnt the midnight oil more times than I care to remember and have experienced times when work was all-consuming.
This kind of self-sacrifice is necessary at times. However, I think we need to break down the culture that glorifies working ourselves into the ground. Burnout needs be avoided if success is to be long-term.
Business owners should be using their efforts to build up clients and profit quickly so they can invest in the right people such as a CEO or division leader to help run their business. In doing so, they should be aiming to free up their time outside the business for personal growth and some R&R.
Here are my tips for avoiding burnout and building a successful business.
Prioritise your time and delegate the rest
Often, a business founder is not necessarily the best person to run the business, and the priority should be building profit so you can bring someone who is.
In more established businesses it is common practice for the founder to hand over the reins to a CEO. They do so as they have realised that someone else might be better able to execute their continued vision. A switched-on CEO can grow the business, often rapidly, and increase profits.
Appointing a CEO also allows space for the founder to focus on what he or she does best. This may be spending more time with clients, building business relationships or becoming a serial entrepreneur and focusing on new ventures and opportunities.
The importance of appointing a CEO cannot be overstated. Trying to do it all yourself is the biggest contributing factor to burnout and should be avoided if you want your business to be more than a flash in the pan.
Embrace ongoing professional development
When the needs of a business are demanding, the first thing to go is our personal development when that is crucial to our growth and success. To avoid burnout and position yourself and your business for success, you must find interests outside the business that can help you develop as a business owner.
I am an advocate for education and personal development, so for me this is critical. I don’t believe our business would have been as successful as it is today, without our focus on continuous learning.
A few years ago, I became a member of one of Australia’s most influential business networks, the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation (EO). I have served on the board of its Sydney chapter for a few years and have been appointed the incoming Sydney EO President for 2018.
This allows me to surround myself with other business founders who provide me with a wealth of learning opportunities and inspiration, and contributes immensely to my self-development. Find an interest that works for you and commit to it.
Culture is king
Focus on building the right culture within your business. By investing in your people and giving them an environment where they can flourish, you are increasing the chances of being able to promote from within, which, ultimately, frees up a massive amount of time in training and recruitment fees.
Achieving a high level of staff retention is one of the ways to build a culture that encourages great work with a sense of urgency but without the expectation that staff must always be ‘on’.
Be sure to choose your staff carefully and hire good people, people you want to spend lots of time with and who can perform well in their roles. A well-trained and highly motivated staff will take some weight off your shoulders and help you to avoid burning out.
Find hobbies away from work
Take time out from your business and set clear boundaries around when you are available and when you are not. Many founders often answer calls and emails on weekends or after 9pm at night, and this is one of the contributing factors to their burnout.
There will be times when you have to deal with an emergency or last-minute request, but if it is not an emergency, then I urge you to let it wait until the next day and switch off. Find ways to disconnect. This isn’t always easy for me but I am always giving it a go and notice the difference when I do.
For me, it usually involves tuning in to a binge-worthy series on Netflix, or reading a book that ends with me falling asleep. I am also a drummer in a band and music provides a creative outlet that allows me to recharge and be good at something else other than work.
Whatever your passion, you need to remember that the most important asset in your business is you, so it is critical that you take time out and find ways to create some distance between you and the sometimes relentless workload you face.
Avoiding burnout is one of the best things you can do to give your business a chance to grow and become a long-term success.