If you love something, let it go.
We’ve all had this little gem of wisdom uttered into our ear as we’ve cried on a friend’s shoulder about a relationship that just wasn’t working anymore. Well, the adage is a aptly applicable when talking about a business you have invested blood, sweat and tears in that just isn’t loving you back anymore.
As a sole entrepreneur, I was becoming bored of my business. We’d spent every moment together for three years solid and the strain was starting to take its toll. Like most relationships, the start was fueled with all things exciting. I was putting in eighteen hour days, and equally lengthy nights, without grudge and loved every minute of it. The thrill of a growing business coupled with sizable financial gains meant I was working hard and reaping the rewards. However three years on, a lot has changed.
The rising revenue no longer provided the stimulation it once did. Growth had plateaued and if I wanted to expand I was going to have to restructure and take on more staff, something I did not want to do. Boredom and monotony plagued the daily tasks and the day to day running of the business became a dreaded prospect. With four employees handling logistics and a fraction of the operation, I was responsible for everything else. Whoever said it was lonely at the top wasn’t fibbing.
Daily interaction with peers, office banter and stimulating exchange were just a few of the things I sorely missed. With a painful longing for challenging conversation, knowledge sharing and teamwork, one sentiment was undeniable. I had begun to resent my entrepreneurial cloak and could not wait to shed it. It was a hard decision, but I knew if I ever wanted things to work again, for either of us, we were going to have to part ways.
The business was now akin to an ex I no longer wanted to be with, but wasn’t quite ready to completely cut out of my life just yet. We were at the “unfollow” stage but hadn’t quite yet reached the “delete/block” finality phase of our relationship.
I was preparing to throw in the towel, but knew our separation was going to have to be a gradual one. And so it began, I began to quit my business and in doing so, revived it and got it back on track.
My business was not something I had intentionally embarked on. It was a purely accidental success. With no clear role definition and having never needed external contribution to the initial growth, I had become accustomed to spreading myself too thin by trying to perform every job within the organization. I soon realized that hiring the right people to perform the tasks that aren’t my strengths would help me to focus on the aspects the enterprise that had made my story a success in the first place.
I had to come to the realization that no matter how many short courses I did and how many articles I read, I would never garner the wealth and breadth of experience to rival that of a marketing or creative professional who had been producing content for years.
Don’t think that owning a business means you have to play every role. Once I had relinquished the insatiable urge to complete every task myself and began trusting the capabilities of others, my business began to regain it’s share of the market.
Strike a Work/Life Balance
Working all hours of the day is nothing to be proud of. At the start, my husband was supportive. He understood what was involved when it came to propelling a startup into the market. My friends were proud of my achievements but knew I was always busy and so ceased to include me in their social activities. Three years on their sympathies have wained and no amount of expensive holidays or luxury items could compensate for the lack of quality time I was missing out on.
Surely the purpose of wanting to run my own business was to have more control and flexibility when it came to spending time with my family and friends. It had served only to alienate me and left me tired and lethargic. Admitting defeat and hiring freelancers to take on the overflow helped me enjoy the fruits of my labour without sacrificing my leisure time.
Having my head buried in operational activities to help the business stay afloat meant I was now archaic. Having fallen behind in skills and technology I had little time to invest in honing my skills and broadening my horizons. I was so busy “doing” I had inadvertently stopped “learning”.
Handing over much of the day to day running of the venture meant I now had time to get up to speed with all things industry. I was able to read, research and revisit my sector with a fresh outlook and dedicated eye. No longer occupied with tedious tasks, I was now able to focus and absorb new skills and insight to help me better lead my team.
It took my business’ cashflow coming to an imminent halt for me to take the time to review my finances. By hiring a part time accountant, downsizing surplus office space and renegotiating with a few suppliers, I was able to cut my monthly fixed costs by 60%, something I would have never been prompted to do had my business not been in trouble.
I was not yet ready to let go of my company but I was no longer enthusiastic about doing the work that had made it a successful venture. I hired the right people to do their respective roles and went back to doing what I am good at, for the right compensation.
It takes a lot to admit you are no longer the person to do everything. It is even harder to abandon your seat at the top of the hierarchy, stop micromanaging and start trusting other people to do their job.
My business is thriving. And now so am I. You see it took hitting rock bottom as both a business and an individual to address what was lacking in both my business acumen and personal development.
I have now learnt to put both first, separately.