BUSINESS BUILDER: Are you “over” your small business? Try this before moving on.

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Small business fixer Julie Bee explains why work may not be working for you, and what you can do to turn things around. PHOTO by Pexels.

Lately you’re just not “feeling it” as you lead your small business. You’re disengaged, apathetic, and operating on autopilot. The enjoyment and motivation that used to fire you up are long gone; instead, you’re coasting on a wave of “meh” (and even that’s losing momentum).

If you had the energy to feel irritated, you’d probably be annoyed because you aren’t even sure why work isn’t working anymore. It’s not necessarily that your employees are unhappy or that your business isn’t growing. (Things may be going great in those areas.) What gives?

Small business fixer Julie Bee says it’s common for entrepreneurs to hit a wall and feel that they’re “over” the small business they once launched and nurtured. And no, you’re not crazy—it’s likely that something about your small business really isn’t working for you.

“I see this frequently, and it usually happens to entrepreneurs who have been in business for five years or more,” says Bee, author of Burned: How Business Owners Can Overcome Burnout and Fuel Success (Matt Holt, June 2024, ISBN: 978-1-6377449-0-1, $28.00).

When you’re first starting out as an entrepreneur, you might do things a certain way because you lack time, manpower, resources, knowledge, and so on—not because you’ve done extensive research and believe these systems and processes are the absolute best options. As time goes by, the ways of working you adopted early on become entrenched. But what if one of those things is draining your energy, causing you unnecessary stress, or keeping you from doing what fulfills you? Of course you’ll eventually start to feel frustrated and “stuck.”

“Many of my clients assume that feeling this way is part of the normal stress of owning a business, and that it’s something they can just power through,” Bee says. “But feeling disengaged and burdened is often a sign that you’re headed toward burnout—which can cause major damage to your business, finances, relationships, and health. It’s important to identify what’s making work not ‘work’ for you—ideally before you flame out.”

Bee, who coaches other business owners to get “unstuck,” work through burnout, and take their companies to the highest level, speaks from fifteen years of experience as an entrepreneur. In Burned, she acknowledges that periodic stress, struggle, and even burnout are givens when you own a business. Her book provides tactical advice on how to make space for addressing burnout, fix any problems it has caused, and leverage its lessons while running a company.

Here, Bee shares four things to do if the “work isn’t working” conundrum seems all too familiar:

First, understand what it feels like when work isn’t working. “Every entrepreneur has red flags that signal when something isn’t working, and it probably won’t be difficult to identify some of yours,” says Bee. “Red flags are actions, habits, behaviors, or circumstances that indicate you’re off-balance, stressed, and dangerously drained.” For instance:

•             You’re having trouble sleeping (or you’re sleeping too much).

•             Your interactions with others have become more contentious.

•             You’ve started to socially withdraw from friends and family.

•             You miss an activity, hobby, or habit you used to do but just don’t have time for anymore.

•             You’re finding it difficult to focus and/or come up with new ideas.

•             When employees or clients ask you a question, you don’t know the answer. When they ask you to make a decision, you find yourself thinking, I don’t care.

•             You’re constantly putting out administrative fires at work, instead of working on the important tasks that will grow your business.

•             Your self-care (e.g., grooming, nutrition, exercise, etc.) has slipped.

•             You’re leaning harder into a coping mechanism (e.g., alcohol, medication, etc.).

•             When others ask you for something, your standard answer is, “I’m too busy.”

•             You’re clinging to the belief that if you can “just get through” a particular deadline or challenge, everything will magically get better.

•             There’s an issue or question that’s been haunting you for a long time—six months or more—and you don’t know what to do about it.

You can also take Bee’s Burnout Quiz here to quickly assess whether you’re taxiing toward burnout…or are already out of runway.

Next, figure out what’s causing the problem. Entrepreneurs are busy people. You might realize that you aren’t feeling as engaged and excited about the future, but you don’t have the time or energy to sit back and reflect on why that is. To help you zero in on why you’re feeling “over” your business, Bee has created a simple five-question assessment to help you discover what’s draining your energy. After completing the quiz, she also offers tips to help you refuel. Take Bee’s Work Isn’t Working Quiz here.

“Think of this assessment as a conversation-starter,” she says. “It’s meant to help you identify elements of your work that, when high or low, put you at risk for burnout. For instance, maybe rapid change makes you feel drained, or you thrive more when working independently than when leading a team.”

Carve out space to make changes. Bee’s top tips are to temporarily say no to new, and to press pause on projects that can wait. Just for a while, stop chasing new opportunities, developing new ideas, and working on “nice-to-have” initiatives. Put your time, energy, and thought into addressing whatever isn’t working.

“Don’t think of this as doing less—think of it as doing more for yourself,” advises Bee. “I frequently tell my clients, ‘It’s okay not to do these three or four things right now.’ Before you can make productive changes and grow your business, you need to make space to address your pain points as a business owner and prioritize your personal well-being.”

Ask for help if you need it. If your best efforts have created a work environment that isn’t working for you, you may need some outside assistance to get to a better place. Asking for help is hard for high performers, but there’s no shame in it, says Bee. Even though entrepreneurs tend to fall into the “rugged individualist” category, we’re still human. We don’t know what we don’t know—and we were never meant to operate in a vacuum.

“I often find that what my clients need most is someone to meet them where they are, point out a few (small and digestible!) action steps, and walk alongside them without judgment,” Bee shares. “Especially when you’re approaching—or actively in—a state of burnout, it’s hard to see things objectively. The support and advice of a coach, mentor, therapist, business partner, or loved one can make a big difference.”

“Business ownership isn’t one-size-fits-all,” concludes Bee. “While there may be ‘wrong’ ways to run a business, there isn’t a single ‘right’ way. For entrepreneurs, so much of being successful depends on knowing yourself: what fuels you, what drains you, what you can tolerate, what you can’t, what helps you do your best work—and when you’re pushing your limits. So before you assume that your work will never work for you again and throw in the towel, take some time to look inward. Chances are your relationship with your small business isn’t irreparably broken; it just needs some targeted tweaks.”

Julie Bee is the author of the upcoming book Burned: How Business Owners Can Overcome Burnout and Fuel Success. A business owner burnout strategist, Bee has been dubbed the “small business fixer” by her clients and peers. With over 15 years in the entrepreneurial field, she has solidified her reputation as a dynamic consultant, a riveting speaker, and a leader who sheds light on the darker side of business ownership. Having been celebrated by Fast Company and Forbes, her insights are in high demand across the industry. For more information, visit

About the Book: Burned: How Business Owners Can Overcome Burnout and Fuel Success (Matt Holt, June 2024, ISBN: 978-1-6377449-0-1,) is available for pre-order from major online booksellers.

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