As any small business owner will tell you, the onus of responsibility for the business’ success or failure falls squarely on his or her shoulders. Stress seems to come with the territory when you are trying to set up your own company, particularly when the general economic environment is uncertain.
How can you avoid burnout on the job? Here are a few tips that will help you to find a healthy balance between your business and the other vital factors in your life.
- Make a schedule and try to keep to it – Build a reasonable schedule according to the tasks you need to handle each day. Don’t stress yourself by over scheduling and be sure to leave a few minutes for transition and resting between tasks. If you are coming up short, allot more time for each item. Over time, you will be able to build up a schedule that works for you.
- Learn how to delegate – Although you would probably prefer to do everything on your own (most small business owners/entrepreneurs do), as your business grows this becomes physically impossible. Delegate less critical matters to others. Consider hiring a virtual assistant or freelancers. If you assign less attractive tasks to others, you’ll be able to concentrate on tasks you enjoy, thus keeping burnout at bay.
- Be methodical – To maintain control, you must manage your time effectively. Here technology comes to the rescue: There are many online tools to help you manage your time. Making use of them will leave you important quality time to spend with your family.
- Avoid becoming a workaholic – Burnout is guaranteed if you are determined to work 24/7. Make sure to set aside time for your friends and family. Determine a time that you will leave the office every day and stick to it (unless an emergency arises). If you want the “uptime” you are going to need some vital “down time.”
- Exercise – Laboring your brain 24/7 doesn’t count as a workout. Physical activity can help you to handle stress more effectively. Choose the kind of activity you enjoy and go for it. Whether you prefer tennis, swimming or even brisk walking, just a few minutes several times a week can make all the difference and restore your sense of equilibrium.
The reasons why a business would fail to post a profit are many. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), the majority small businesses take at least a year to show a profit due to the fact that it takes some time to generate enough revenue to cover the company’s start-up expenses. There are other factors though, such as challenging economic conditions, poor resource management, and changes in industry trends.
Identifying the cause behind of a business’ lack of profitability and taking appropiate corrective action can dramatically (and often quickly) turn a business around. Here are some areas of consideration:
- Are you utilizing metrics, forecasts, and other reports? There are countless financial and performance reports that a business owner can use to both measure and predict business performance and thus spot a potential problem. Budgets, income statements, cash flow statements, and salesforcasts all fit into this category. Prepare a budget on an Excel spreadsheet and refer back to it often. Make sure to link work activities to your income. If you are in sales, make individual sales projections. If you deal in flat-rate services, track contracts closed and the dollar value of each contract. If your services are sold by the hour, track contracts closed and billable hours.
- Are you being fiscally responsible? In order to make money, you have to keep a close eye on your spending. Are you about to spend money on something for your business? Ask yourself if you really need it and whether it is within your budget.
- How is your inventory management? At times a business may not be profitable because too much capital is being tied up in unused or slow moving inventory. Look for ways to free up over stocked inventory supplies, and make those bulk purchases wisely.
- Are you paying too much for your overhead costs? Overhead (or operational) costs generally consist of some of the biggest expenses facing a small business. These are expenses such as payroll, rent/mortgage payments, and utilities. Look for ways to reduce your overhead by, for example, sharing office space or opening your office at home. The latter will provide you with double savings, both on rent and commuting expenses.
- Are you pricing your products/ services properly? The profitability of a business also depends on the rates you charge for your product or service. In order to lure in customers, many new business owners tend to undercharge for their service or products. You need to ensure that your rates are enabling you to turn a profit.
- Is your location working for you? Evaluate your current location. Is it too far from your potential customer base? Is it too far from delivery routes. What about the commute for you and your workers? What image or message does your location give to your potential clients?
- How are your employees performing? Your employees play a vital role when it comes to profitability. Whether you deal in sales or any other area, every team member contributes to delivering value to customers. Examine each employee’s success factors: For example, does your marketing assistant increase business through his/her efforts? Has your sales team met its quota? If you define critical activities you will effectively motivate your employees. Take heart – if you treat your staff as partners to your success and establish reasonable goals for the future, your small business is likely to flourish.
As children, most of us learn how to resolve, defuse and avoid conflict with our peers, parents and siblings. We may even learn how to “always win”. However, as professional adults, we often only remember how to defuse and avoid conflict; resolution escapes us. You might wonder: “What’s the difference?” or “Of course I want to avoid conflict at work!” But, the fact of the matter is, that when working with other people, conflict resolution can be a much more effective solution to potential conflict. This is true because:
- When conflict is resolved, the situation changes; this allows the employees to move forward without cycling continually around the base issues. When we don’t face the conflict and work through it, we avoid and/or try to defuse it instead. If this is the case, the issues underlying the conflict do not change, they will just be compounded. So there will always be the SAME conflicts to avoid and to diffuse.
- New information and ideas are discovered through conflict resolution. When a team is committed to resolving a conflict, they will be more certain to hear everyone’s view point. Many conflicts may be based on misunderstandings, or mis-aligned goals. When everyone involved names the issues as they see them, it is likely that new possibilities will surface. New possibilities not only can render the conflict obsolete, but can lead to innovation.
- Team building. The experience of experiencing conflict, facing it and successfully resolving it will strengthen a team and build trust. A team who knows they can resolve conflict with each other will work much effectively, and they won’t be afraid to bring up important issues. This, in turn, means that important issues will get dealt with instead of being tabled indefinitely for fear of conflict.
So, if you decide you want to take the risk and try facing and resolving conflict – how do you go about it successfully?
- No playing dirty. Keep it role/behavior focused – don’t attack a person’s character. On top of this, make it clear that you are not attacking the person’s character.
- Don’t take it personally. On the flip side of not playing dirty is remembering that other’s are also focusing on your role/behavior. If it feels to you that there are people “playing dirty” – call them on it. And don’t forget to let them know how it makes you feel/react.
- Lay it all out. No conflict will be truly resolved if you do not share all the relevant issues as you see them. Don’t try to “tone down” your thoughts because you are unsure how they might be received.
- Don’t back pedal. If you meant something, don’t say “I didn’t mean it,” just because others responded negatively. If you tell someone that you don’t like how they did something, don’t say “It really wasn’t so bad” just because they seem upset by your feedback. When you back pedal, it sends conflicting messages, and it detracts from your message.
- Keep to what you know. If you suspect something, or are “making up a story” about something happening – verify it! If you act on assumptions regarding what others are thinking/feeling/doing, then not only will you be ineffective at resolving conflict, but you will look like an idiot. You can always ask – more often than not, you will get an honest answer.
- Empathize. When we are involved in a conflict, it is easy to forget that our “opponents” are people too. It is much easier to think of them as “the manager”, “the accountant”, etc. After that we start thinking of them as: “the thing which is blocking progress” or “the one standing in my way.” When we think this way, we lose influence with other people, because they see we are focussed only on ourselves, and that we don’t care about them. If instead, we remain aware that we are dealing with “real people” with real emotions, real goals and real desires, then we will be able to resolve conflict with them much more effectively.
The “rules” I have outlined here are true for all sorts of conflict, in all venues.