I used to spend a lot of time resenting my business and trying to escape from it. One time I took a three-week trip to New Zealand to ride horses on the spur of the moment because the stress was too much, and I decided I deserved it. What I was really doing was running away and abdicating responsibility.
This is common for entrepreneurs — we try different “flavors” of escape. We try to “buffer” with food, alcohol, shopping, Netflix, or whatever. But the real solution is to fix the relationship we have with our business.
Our business is not responsible for our feelings.
Like any relationship, our business reflects back to us what we put into it.
When I talk about having a relationship with our business I mean the way we think and feel about ourselves, our team, our customers, and our solutions. And it’s a two-way street, which means it includes how our customers and team think and feel about us.
Each of these connections is an aspect of our relationship with our business and strengthening them starts with our mindset.
I used to believe my company was a reflection of me.
When business was good, it meant I was good. But when things were bad, there was something wrong with me. This belief led me to try to control everything, to make sure everything was perfect so that I could feel good about myself.
Each new client, each new hire, each new project success in business as a way to validate my self-worth was exhausting.
Without consciously realizing it, I also chose to do very complex work. I thought it was a badge of honor that it was hard, and it made me feel important. But there was a huge unintended consequence.
Because the work was complicated and the people we hired were expensive, we had a lot of overhead. So I would take on lots of different types of projects for lots of different types of clients.
It’s tough to scale that kind of business because each engagement is different and there are so many moving parts — estimating, project management, team dynamics, cash flow, testing, and support.
I created a trap. I had a very complex technical services business that was hard to scale AND I thought I had to control everything in order to succeed.
It was a recipe for burnout.
At the time, my business coach was Dr. Barbara Braham from Georgetown’s Institute for Transformational Leadership, and when I told her sometimes I wished I could quit, she said. “Decide on purpose to love your business again.”
At first, this sounded ridiculous to me. Love was the last thing I felt for my business. Resentment and frustration were more like it.
She said I needed to change my perspective. If I resented my business so much that I wanted to escape from it, why would anyone want to work there? Why would people want to hire us? And if I ever wanted to exit, who would ever buy it?
What I discovered is that if you don’t love your business, no one else will either.
Not your team, not your customers, and not the market.
What I learned is that loving my business is a choice, not a result.
I thought the business had to take care of me before I could love it, but it’s the other way around. Loving it on purpose means looking for and amplifying what I appreciate about it and strengthening the feeling of connection between me and myself, my team, my clients, and my solutions.
What are your thoughts and feelings about your business? Write them down and decide if you want to keep them. You get to decide every day how you think and feel about your business and it will reflect back to you what you put into it.