The Balancing Act

The Balancing Act
Words by:  Bryon Gragg
Published November/December 2011

With most closely held businesses such as sole proprietorships, partnerships or small corporations, it is difficult to tell where the business ends and the individual begins; they are not like large publicly held corporations whose CEOs can move from company to company.

Most people believe that CPAs deal strictly with the financial part of a business but with closely held businesses, the financials are just a small part of the picture. While balancing work and life issues are important for everyone, it is critical for a business owner. If the owner suffers from an imbalance, it can have a negative impact on the business. The same drive that leads a person to operate his or her own business can cause stress and burnout without proper balance in the business owner’s life.

Do these situations sound familiar?

  • I seem to be in a hurry and racing against the clock.
  • I stay busy and keep many irons in the fire.
  • I feel guilty if I am not working on something.
  • Things just never move fast enough or get done fast enough for me.
  • I get upset when I am in situations where I can’t be in control.
  • I tend to put myself under pressure with self-imposed deadlines.
  • I get upset with myself for making even the smallest mistake.
  • I spend more time working than socializing with friends or enjoying hobbies or other leisure acitivities.

These questions come from a work addiction risk test that I recently found. Personally, I blew the chart out of the water and that caused me to start thinking about friends, clients and business partners that are the same way. These types of behaviors, if left unchecked, can result in burnout. In his book, “The High Cost of High Achievement,” Herbert Freudenberger defined burnout as “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.” Feeling tired or run down all the time, being frustrated or moody with a negative attitude, and having little patience are all classic symptoms of burnout.

There are many causes of burnout and it is often brought on by a combination of work and lifestyle related factors. Lifestyle factors such as too little down time, sleep deprivation or less than adequate sleep, limited time for hobbies or relaxation and little interaction with friends are issues that can put you at risk for burnout. From a work standpoint, having little control over your environment or workload, constant crunch times, or high-stress responsibilities with a high cost of failure are causes of burnout. Personality characteristics also play a role in burnout. It is no surprise that “Type A” personalities — people with perfectionist tendencies and those with a pessimistic outlook — are more at risk for burnout.

As a business owner, where would your family, clients or customers and employees be if something unexpected happened to you? Are you burning brightly for a short period of time until you can’t go anymore, or are you in it for the long haul? As employees, what would happen if the business owner were to completely burn out? Could the business continue? Another question to consider is why are you doing this? Is it your personality? Is it the dedication to your customers, clients or patients? Or is it the money? I once heard an elderly minister state that he had performed many funerals but never once saw a U-Haul trailer attached to a hearse.

So what is the answer? Fortunately, burnout is something that is not permanent and can be changed by a reduction in stress and a change of pace in your life. However, there is no one answer that is right for everyone. It is not a matter of getting off the treadmill but just slowing it to a reasonable pace.

Keep in mind that no “super people” live here and that you don’t have to be one. It is OK to love your work, but like any relationship, if it turns into an unhealthy obsession, trouble is likely to follow.. Recognize the problem, stop the denial and take the first step today.