May 22nd 2009
This article is part of a series about the 7 ages of a business, an entrepreneur perspective, initially published at eDragonu.ro . The remaining 6 articles are published as guest posts on 6 other fine personal development and business blogs. You will find links to them at the end of this article.
Time For A Change
Exhaustion is by far the most difficult stage to accept from an entrepreneur perspective. Exhaustion happens when your market is so crowded that you can barely keep your profit and clients, when your employees can switch instantly from you to your competition (and vice versa), and when the market share is calculated in fraction of percents.
Exhaustion is usually the natural consequence of leadership. Every process in the world is a cyclic one and business can’t be an exception. After a high rise, a lower altitude will follow, after a huge inspiration, expiration will follow. These are metaphors for a rather harsh reality: during this stage your efforts will seem huge and your reward almost inexistent. It’s extremely difficult to accept exhaustion especially after the leadership stage when everything seemed to happen effortless.
From an entrepreneur standpoint, the exhaustion stage is much a like an old, small shirt. It simply doesn’t look good on you. You grew up and your shirt isn’t fitting anymore. Takes time to understand and accept that because we humans have a tendency to attach to our past images. An entrepreneur is often identifying himself with his business and can’t accept its decline. I know I did this mistake.
What To Avoid
Although you reached the end of the journey, there are still some things you can do to make it worse than it need to be. Here’s what I found better to avoid.
The first reaction at this stage is trying to salvage your business. Although you came through all the stages, from enthusiasm to leadership, it seems that things aren’t running quite smoothly as before, so, you need to change something, you need to save your business. Well, you can’t. At least, you can’t go back to the leadership stage. Trying to salvage the business will often lead to risky solutions and will make it more unstable than before. Salvage will do more harm than good at this stage. The salvation process is mostly at the entrepreneur’s psychological level, the business is following a normal pattern.
That’s serious. Depression is one of the most common consequences for an entrepreneur reaching the exhaustion stage. You’re so overwhelmed with guilt and frustration, you’re trying so hard to come back on the game, you’re feeling so sad because the leadership days are over, that your psychological circuits can break. Depression is pretty common among entrepreneurs, although the images of entrepreneurs aren’t showing it. And it’s in the final stage of a business that is most likely for the depression to appear. Well, be prepared.
Jumping to conclusions is also one of the most common mistakes in the exhaustion stage of a business. Been there, done that, I don’t want to do it anymore. You’re analyzing your success level by the current business level. If the business is going so slow, you tend to think your success is not for real. That’s jumping to conclusion. You forgot how much you accomplished so far and tend to minimize your efforts. This is why is so important to assess your business experience during the leadership stage. Exhaustion is natural, but so is leadership, so stick with leadership and just accept exhaustion.
What To Do
Every crisis is in fact an opportunity. The business exhaustion phase is usually a powerful trigger for several really liberating activities. Here are some of them.
During the exhaustion stage and entrepreneur is almost forced to make an exit. I’m not talking about an investor or manager perspective here, which might be completely different, but about the entrepreneur’s desire to ignite things, to start something for scratch, to create. Exhaustion stage is like the click for a new adventure. I never met any serious entrepreneur who “survived” an exhaustion stage. Keep in mind that an “exit” can be done in million ways: you can sell all, just a part, remain investor, silent partner, etc.
Delegate It Big Time
If you’re not going to sell, which is highly improbable, the next best thing is to delegate it big time. Find somebody to run the business for you. It could be a person, another business (like in integrating your business with another one) it can be a group, it can be anything, as long as it gives you the freedom to start again. Delegating is not “exit”, if you’re delegating the business you’ll still have to exert some control over it, but at least you won’t be taking it as serious as before. Delegating wasn’t an option for me, after I hit the exhaustion stage I decided the best thing for me was to sell it completely. Your mileage may vary.
That’s the most difficult yet most rewarding step you can take during this stage. Accepting that your business, your initial idea, has hit a certain level and it won’t go further will open your eyes to new roads. You can’t really run again if you don’t accept that you finished something, there will always be some lose ends that will make your running slow. Just accepting that you’ve done everything was to be done and you’re ready to start something new will be a great gift for yourself. Acceptance is the door to your new adventures. Entrepreneurship is not about money, it never was, it’s all about adventure.
That’s the final stage of your business. It was a great journey. You started with enthusiasm, continued with a lot of trust and naivety, become attentive and then hit the maturity level. With courage and inspiration you expanded beyond your imagination and finally become a leader. It was an incredible journey.
There is only one thing that could level with that experience. And that is your next journey.
You can find the remaining 6 ages of your business on these fine personal development and business blogs:
- The Enthusiasm Business Age @ Attraction Mind Map
- The Naivety Business Age @ SmallBizBee
- The Attention Business Age @ Advanced Life Skills
- The Maturity Business Age @ Steven Aitchinson
- The Expansion Business Age @ Rat Race Trap
- The Leadership Business Age @ My Wife Quit Her Day Job
Guest Author:Dragos Roua is passionate about success, and he blogs at DragosRoua to share his insights about life’s many lessons and his travels and discoveries within it. You can subscribe to his blog with his RSS feed here or catch him on Twitter @dragosroua