I have had four different entrepreneurs reach out to me over the past week sharing the same story. They started and grew a business for x years. They were successful. Some built multi six figure businesses and others had revenue in the millions. In all cases, the founders were beyond exhausted and ready to look for a job. 

Why were they reaching out to me? Because according to Google, I am an expert in the entrepreneur to employee transition, thanks to this interview that Carol did with me on entrepreneur.com

For several of these entrepreneurs, the business grew and took on a life of its own. It grew more complicated with more clients and more employees and more management responsibilities. These entrepreneurs thought that their only option was to continue to grow the business at this rate, or to exit the business. 

Yes, those are certainly two options. 

Another would be to reimagine the business and rightsize it for the entrepreneur. 

Adjusting the growth trajectory 

Rapid growth isn’t always desirable. If you are looking for outside investment, you will need to show how you will increase market share and boost revenue quickly. Investors want to see how they are going to get a return on their investment. 

However, if it’s just you and a small team, you have other options. You may decide to grow slowly and more organically to decrease stress and strain on processes, systems, and personnel. 

I suggested to one entrepreneur whose business was just sort of chugging along that they accept that and go find an additional revenue stream, like being a fractional executive for another startup. 

They thought that they could at some point sell the business, because they had a good product and loyal clients, but that it might take some time. Adding an additional revenue stream would buy them the time they needed to think through what the right investor or corporate partner might look like. 

Rightsizing and realigning 

One founder lost control of the business because there was so much client demand. This is a great problem to have, but the growing pains stretched the founder and their employees to the breaking point. The founder needed to step away from the business for intensive self-care and also to get clear on whether they wanted to stay in the business at all. 

I suggested that nobody makes a good decision when they are mentally and physically exhausted. I recommended that they rest and have some fun, and also try to remember what they loved about the business. 

We also decided that I would talk to their second in command and learn what that person’s perspective was. 

As it turned out, both of those individuals had very similar visions for what would be a sustainable business – a business that they would love to work in – and what would need to be adjusted or stopped. 

Now, we will look at the mix of products and services and figure out what staff will be needed to deliver that new mix. Yes, there will be some difficult conversations and necessary changes, but the people who will remain will be doing the work they want to do in the world with less collateral damage to their mental and physical health. 

Disengaging from hustle culture

Entrepreneurs and founders will likely need to work hard when they start their business. During a launch or at seasonal peaks, they may work long hours, and that is fine for a short period of time. 

What is not fine is when the business takes on a life of its own and runs over everything in its path. 

If you are an exhausted entrepreneur, I see you. I am sending you a virtual hug. You’ve got this. Your business is yours and it needs to work for you. If you can’t see your way forward, reach out and we can think through it together. 

PS – If this landed for you and you want more, pick up a copy of my new book, This Isn’t Working! Evolving the Way We Work to Decrease Stress, Anxiety, and Depression. I cover burnout and breakdown and entrepreneurial overworking extensively in the book.

Photo by Bruno Aguirre on Unsplash