As a small-business owner, you’re expected to do it all: get and retain clients, hire and manage employees, keep up with the latest trends, and more. It’s no wonder that you can feel burned out, which in turn can affect the health of your company. That’s why you must make time to rejuvenate yourself and your organization.
Here are five tips that’ll help breathe new life into the daily grind.
1) Get out and meet people
Mort Harris, a retired entrepreneur with more than 40 years of experience in the field of industrial distribution and manufacturing, is a volunteer mentor at SCORE, the nation’s largest network of free business mentors.
Harris — who was actively involved in the Industrial Distributors Association for many years — recommends joining associations related to your line of work as a way to spark new ideas for your company. “You learn more from other people than what you’d ever learn on your own.”
Also, meeting one-on-one with a trusted advisor on a regular basis for coffee, lunch or drinks may be just the pick-me-up you need. “Everyone should have a mentor throughout life,” Harris says. “Think what you can learn just by talking to somebody else.”
And that somebody else doesn’t necessarily have to be in the same industry as you. Nancy Libersky, a district director for the U.S. Small Business Administration, says she’s a strong proponent of networking. “A lot of times when small-businesses owners feel like they’re in a rut, they might just need to get out and chat with other entrepreneurs, even if they’re not in the same industry,” she says. “Everybody experiences those ruts. When small-business owners are communicating with each other they can adapt a best practice to suit their organization.”
2) Change the scenery
Harris received this sage advice from his mentor more than 30 years ago: “You cannot dream about the future while you’re working.” Harris’s mentor encouraged him to make use of his condo in Florida on a more regular basis for the sake of his well-being, and for the sake of his business. “Your employees are dependent on you as the owner to dream and have vision,” he says.
However, you don’t need a warm, sunny climate to get away. Take a weekend road trip to a nearby locale to decompress, or stroll to a neighborhood coffee shop for your favorite brew and to relax your mind. “I’d take my coffee outside and close my eyes and I’d sit there with a pad of paper and literally almost start dreaming,” Harris says. “And I’d write. I would never have done that if I’d have been at work.”
3) Educate yourself
Read books that will help you with your profession. Harris has countless books in his home library that have inspired him to succeed. “I used to tell my salespeople, ‘If I walk into your home, I expect to find five books on your profession; if I can’t, then you don’t have a profession, you have a job.'" Harris suggests finding the top five business books related to your occupation.
Don’t have time to sit down and read a book? Then listen to it while driving to and from work. It sure beats being stressed out by mind-numbing traffic. Another smart — and efficient — way to use your time is to read articles and blogs about trends and new advances in your industry. Learning new things about the world in which you work can be inspiring.
Ready to commit a little more time? Take a class. Go to a round table. Attend a workshop. Sign up for a learning event. SCORE offers dozens of free webinars that cover everything from juggling the stresses of a busy life to becoming a social media expert.
4) Train your employees
Training your employees can help rejuvenate your business. Harris mentors a small-business owner who was having personnel issues with one of his employees, who was a supervisor at the company. “He told me that this supervisor didn’t know how to work with his employees.’” Harris then listened to the supervisor’s side of things and suggested he enroll in online educational modules to help him with his job. This supervisor understood the benefits of the training: Eventually he could have left the company for another job but he would have had the same problem elsewhere.
“When you find that you have employees who need additional training, then you need to help them,” Harris says. “You are making them more valuable to you — and to themselves. And then you have a happier employee.”
Libersky recommends that small-business owners meet weekly with their team to stay on top of what’s going on. Engaging with them will also benefit the company — as a group, they can all share ideas about a new initiative, for example. “It’s important to get everyone involved in your business and get their perspective,” she says. “That rejuvenates me.”
5) Review your business plan
You created your business plan when you started your business. Ask yourself: When was the last time you looked at it, reviewed it, and changed it? Harris suggests that you do this annually. The plan’s narrative, or story, might not need updating. But the numbers, or projections, do.
“If I were to get in a car and drive to New York without a map or GPS system, do you think that’s wise? Or do you think I’d get there faster, easier, better if I had one? The answer is obvious,” Harris says. “A business plan is the GPS system. There will be detours. But it helps guide a business where you want it to go.”
Great resources to stay engaged
As a small-business owner, be curious and stay engaged. “Broaden your horizons and absorb what’s going on outside the perimeters of your organization,” Libersky says. The U.S. Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov) provides resources and tools to manage a business, and SCORE (www.score.org) pairs entrepreneurs with volunteers who’ve succeeded in the corporate world.
Harris recommends attending the CEO forum through SCORE. Small-business owners meet on a monthly basis to discuss a topic of their choice and bring in an expert from that field. “There’s no end to the learning cycle.”