Feeling Trapped by Your Business? Three Steps to Freedom

Do you ever feel trapped by your business and want to escape from it?  Every day it feels like everything is on the line: your money, your reputation, your future. You’ve worked hard to get to this point in your life – the point where you have “made it.”  You’re proud of your financial success, but now your relationships are falling apart, you’re always stressed, and when you look in the mirror, you look tired and feel drained.  You’re not in your 30’s anymore, and you feel like your life is passing you by.

Yes, the business is financially successful right now, but you still worry that a downturn is coming. The constant pressure affects how you feel, and you find yourself wanting to escape. Not escape by going for a run or to the gym like you used to do, but flee by finishing the bottle of wine or eating pizza and ice cream, binging on Netflix. You know ahead of time that these attempts to feel better will make you feel worse in the end, but you can’t think of a better alternative.

If you’re like me, you may even try some geographical “cures,” darting off to far-flung locations thinking the change will “do you good.” But the business is always there waiting for us when we get back, and most of the time, it even demands our attention while we’re away. I remember working on a proposal on the flight to Costa Rica for my honeymoon.

Usually, after escapes like overeating, overdrinking, overspending, over-doing our favorite diversion, we beat ourselves up for it.  We think that something is wrong with us because we can’t seem to balance our work and our family and our health and our happiness. Why can’t we make money, have amazing relationships, look great, and have time for ourselves?

We resent the price we pay and sometimes wonder if owning our own business is even worth it. But we can’t just walk away from it. We need the money, and we have clients and staff that we care about. We feel trapped and blame our business for making us feel this way.

If I Sell My Business, Then I’ll be Free

You might decide the only way to escape is to sell it. However, I know from personal experience that this is not as straightforward as you might think. There are good reasons and bad reasons for wanting to sell. Before you start preparing to sell your business, you first need to ask yourself why? Why do you want to sell your business?

You can probably think of lots of reasons to sell your business. You feel trapped. You want to do something else with your life. You’re exhausted and frustrated by your employees, clients, cash flow, the market, or some other externality. But these aren’t reasons. These are feelings! And your feelings are always caused by your thoughts.

Good reasons for selling your business can be a lifestyle transition such as marriage or planned retirement, capitalizing on a seller’s market, or taking advantage of consolidation in your industry. Or even wanting to start a totally different kind of business – one that reflects what’s meaningful to you at this stage of your life.  Bad reasons include burnout, declining sales and financial problems, exhaustion, and frustration. You won’t get the most money when you try to sell for those reasons, and besides, wherever you go, you take yourself with you.

The reason to sell should never be because you want to escape negative feelings like frustration, overwhelm, and anxiety. Those feelings come from the thoughts that you are thinking, not from the business itself.

When you believe circumstances cause your feelings, you can’t make sound decisions. As a business owner, you know that a new competitor always surfaces, employees frequently quit, clients rarely pay on time, and the bank balance is often low. This is the entrepreneurial world. But you may not realize that these situations are not causing your feelings. It’s your thoughts about these circumstances that make you feel bad.

By becoming aware of how your mind is operating and changing the way you think about your business, you can permanently break the cycle of thoughts which are creating stress and regain the sense of freedom you had when you started the company.

You must do this no matter what because this is the exact way to grow – or sell – your business.

The High Price of Resentment

You may have subconscious negative beliefs about your business which are holding you back from happiness. Beliefs are just thoughts you think are true because you have thought them for so long. For example, you may believe owning a business is hard, there is never enough time, and you have to sacrifice everything to succeed. Beliefs like these lead to resentment.

Whether you want to keep your business or sell it, you can’t resent your business. If you don’t feel good about your business, no one else will either.  Not your clients, not your staff, and certainly not a prospective buyer.  You have to retrain your brain to manage your mind in a way that does not provoke overwhelm or anxiety. It is crucial to stop blaming external circumstances for the way you feel, otherwise how you feel will always be at the whim of external situations.

Three Steps to Freedom

If you feel trapped by your business and believe the reason you don’t have time for your family or yourself because of it, there are three things you need to do to:

  1. Manage your mind. Realize your belief that the business is robbing you of time is not a fact. It’s just a thought you have repeated so many times that you think it is true. Start taking responsibility for how you feel and recognizing that your relationship with your business is like any other relationship. It includes the way you think, feel, and talk about it. Do you complain about your business? Do you criticize it and blame it for how you feel? Begin, right now, to manage your mind and deliberately choose the thoughts you think about your business. Choose to focus your mind and thoughts purposefully on what you want from your business, instead of what you don’t want. For example, “I created this company and I can change my relationship with it.”
  2. Set your business up so that it works for you. Instead of you working for it.  If your company is still billing hourly and trading time for money, this is contributing to your feeling of being trapped because it’s not scalable. Turn your services into solutions and products that you charge for in advance, which are focused on a specific niche and deliver them via a standard process. This is the only way to grow without working more hours.  You want the primary assets in your business to be your systems, solutions and products, not your people. Yes, you need people, but the people should run the systems and solutions, and the people should sell the products.
  3. Replace yourself. Start planning now to create a team that can run the business for you so that you have more time. Yes, it will take time to hire and train people, but to regain your freedom in the long run, you must make this investment first. You do not want to be the bottleneck and responsible for all the decisions.  Instead, create measurable goals and financial metrics that you use to monitor performance and assign people to be accountable for meeting them. If you ever want to sell your business, you must have other people who can run it for you or else any buyer will insist that you stay on after the sale, and that is not a situation most entrepreneurs enjoy. After all, having someone else tell you what to do in the company you started is not an appealing outcome.  

Love your business, but run it like you plan to sell it. Increase the value of your business and have the confidence of knowing you own an asset you can sell in the future: 6 Steps to Turn Your Business Into an Asset

 

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