Most entrepreneurs would say they are passionate about their businesses: there are the rewards that come with being successful, and the exhilaration that results from effectively steering an organization through tough times. At some point, however, even the most enthusiastic entrepreneurs can get tired of the daily grind, which can lead to uninspired or even careless decision-making that can put the business and its employees in peril. If your organization is successful, but there's a growing concern that you’re suffering from entrepreneurial ennui, what should you do?
“Running a business is really hard, and if you don’t have the passion for it, you’re not really going to do your best work, no matter how much money you’re making,” said Barry Moltz, a business coach based in Chicago, IL, and author of How to Get Unstuck: 25 Ways to Get Your Business Growing Again. “When people ask, ‘Should I quit? Should I sell? What should I really do?’ I say, ‘Do you still have passion for what you’re doing? Or can you pivot the business so you can find a passionate place?’”
Addressing entrepreneurial boredom requires an honest self-inventory, according to Melissa Dawn, a life and business coach based in Montreal, QC, and author of I Attract What I Am: Transform Failure into an Orgasmically Joyful Life & Business. “Look at every aspect of your life: your business, your personal life, your relationships, your health, your significant other, your well-being,” she suggested. Is everything, in every one of these categories, optimum? “What does 100 percent in all aspects of your life look like? If your business is going so well, maybe there are other aspects of your life that you want to work on.” After all, it’s extremely rare for everything to be working perfectly at any given time, and if business is good, perhaps this is a prime opportunity to work on aspects like relationships, personal growth, or making the time to travel more.
Dawn urges entrepreneurs to avoid getting too comfortable—a sure way for many to become bored with their business—by identifying things they have never done before and projects that excite them. “How can you make your business more exciting? What would you like to add to it, in a perfect world?” she asked. “It’s just a matter of taking that time, going into that quiet space, and asking the questions, What’s next? What’s important to me? Those questions have to be continuously asked, otherwise we’re just staying in our comfort zone. And I don’t think entrepreneurs become entrepreneurs to stay in their comfort zone.”
It’s the most drastic solution to entrepreneurial boredom, but sometimes it’s the best one: if you’ve reached a point where your personal evolution and that of your business are no longer aligned, it may be wisest to move on.
“I always say that an entrepreneur should be doing something that they would love to do even if they weren’t getting paid,” said Melissa Dawn. “If you’re not feeling that feeling, then maybe it’s time to consider doing something else. As an entrepreneur, your job doesn’t end at 5 p.m. You’re continuously thinking. If you can’t be excited about what you need to think about 24/7, then maybe you should ask yourself if you’re in the right place, and what the next move is after this business.”
Business coach and Inc. author Marla Tabaka observes that successful entrepreneurs sometimes get to a point where they outgrow their own companies. “What that typically means is they have a larger purpose for being, and they have a passion for something that the company is no longer fulfilling, and they just need to think bigger and be bigger,” she said. To help entrepreneurs discover what their larger purpose is, she asks them, “What gets you riled up and you just want to step in and do something to fix it, or solve it, or change it?”
Tabaka cited the example of a client who was running a successful PR and marketing agency but still felt like she was in a rut. When Tabaka asked her what she wanted to change about the world, this client, who is Hispanic, replied that she was angry that a lot of young Latinas don’t have the chance to see what opportunities are out there for them, and what they could become. “We started talking about it, and what came forth was the idea of creating a foundation to expose young Latinas to different things in the world that they never see or do,” Tabaka relayed.
The client herself didn’t have the financial resources to fund the foundation alone, but one of her clients happened to own a flight school, another a fleet of limousines. With their help and willingness to contribute, she built a board of directors, and “she started taking these girls up in airplanes, and limousine drives to downtown Chicago to shop for one special little thing. She started her foundation that way and it’s really begun to thrive.” While she still remains CEO of the PR and marketing firm, she has taken a step back to work on the foundation as a side project. “I call these people multi-passionate entrepreneurs. They have more than one thing that drives them.”
Moltz suggested that one way for entrepreneurs to combat boredom is to delegate the parts of the business they no longer enjoy in favor of expanding on what really inspires them. “Maybe you’re interested in developing people, [or] maybe you’re interested in creating a training program,” he described. “There are all sorts of facets that can be fascinating about a business. You just have to find where you think you have passion, [and where] you can make a difference.” For example, he said that many entrepreneurs aren’t interested in managing large teams, so they find someone who is better suited for people management, freeing them up to handle other aspects of the business or to launch a special project.
Regardless of the reason why an entrepreneur may fall victim to boredom, Tabaka underlined that sometimes it’s necessary to look outside of the business for inspiration. “Sometimes the business is simply a platform to give you resources,” she said. “Sometimes we have to consider what would get them re-engaged. And if it’s not something that you can do with the company, then it’s something you can do related to another passion outside of the company. Entrepreneurs are passionate people, and when they’re not feeding that passion, then they aren’t ticking in the right way.”