Setting up your own business is hard work. Everyone knows that and they’ll additionally say you need to work all hours to keep things ticking along. But they couldn’t be more wrong.
It is clearly important to do all you can to make a business succeed, but it might be crucial to not burn out before you reap the rewards of your labour. Burnout can lead to a lack of clarity and bad decisions. A business owner needs to be in control and physical and mental well-being are a big part of this.
Daniel Foster, owner of tech company 34SP.com. says: “As soon as 34SP.com was generating an income for me, before buying a car or a house, I took the chance to fulfil a childhood dream and signed up for private flying lessons.”
Foster says that acting as a pilot is one of the very few occasions when he’s not thinking about some aspect of work. “It can be hard to banish thoughts of your business completely on a week’s break,” he says, “but a hobby that consumes you can do that.”
“I didn’t realise straight away but part of the enjoyment, both during my training and since, was the complete focus required. The result is that everything else is put completely out of mind.” Foster credits this ability to switch off entirely with being able to give his business his full attention when he’s there.
It is important to learn to manage yourself. While being a business owner can mean the world appears to rest on your shoulders, one advantage of being the boss is that you can sit back and relax when you feel like it.
If all else fails, you could outsource (though that may strike fear into the soul of most entrepreneurs).
Barnaby Lashbrooke, founder of virtual assistant platform Time Etc, says: “I’ve learned the hard way that the only way to unwind is to free up hours by outsourcing the stuff that eats into your time.
“There was a time when I was ordering loo rolls and notepads for the office and chasing late payers. All those jobs can be easily and inexpensively delegated if you just learn to silence your inner control freak.”
Pat Lynes, founder of Sullivan & Stanley, goes one big step further and says founder CEOs should consider handing the reins over to someone else completely.
She says: “To me, being a founder means building something from scratch that didn’t exist before. You bring an idea to the market, resource it, sell it and energise it. That’s my sweet spot.
At Sullivan & Stanley, I got to embrace the excitement of being the founder, but also steer the ship day-to-day as CEO. But I knew from day one that eventually, I’d hand the CEO reins to someone else.”
Founder CEOs have to set aside their ego and admit there is possibly a time when they have reached their full potential in their leadership role.
Lynes brought in a new CEO, Jason Byrne, “to help us get into the premier league”.
“Founders are the visionaries and risk-takers. They’ve got the guts to get an idea up and running and get it into a great place. But at some point, they need to realise that there’s a better person to take that vision and take it to a grander scale.”
Lyne had realised what many CEOs fail to see, that the real sign of leadership is when you can recognise your strengths and weaknesses, and know when it’s time to walk away.
She says: “I’m leaving the team now to crack on and thrive, building on the success we’ve had. I hope that my decision inspires others to reflect and potentially do the same because as CEO you can often be the last one to realise when you’re becoming part of the problem, and by then, it might be too late.”
The best bosses might be the ones who sack themselves.