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How to fall in love with your business again

Kelly Kowalski, Cliff Noreen, and Bronwyn Shinnick

Posted on December 07, 2022

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Detail an exercise for renewing the passion and joy that led an owner to start a business in the first place.

Help business owners to look back and identify their most successful decisions and if they have the same opportunities to add value today.

Note why there is nothing wrong with falling out of love with your business and feeling a strong desire to move on.

Remember that passion you had for your business in the early years? It motivated you to work hard and dream big. But the honeymoon didn’t last forever (they never do) and running the business may not be enjoyable anymore.

When the thrill is gone, you have a choice – attempt to reignite your passion or admit you’ve had enough and move on. Lise Stewart, principal-in-charge of EisnerAmper’s Center for Individual and Organizational Performance and an expert in organizational psychology and leadership development, has seen many clients at this crossroads. To help them, she guides them through an exercise in which they identify what made the business exhilarating and fun in the past and explores what actions or experience might help them recapture those feelings.

“Past behaviors and feelings are predictive,” she said. “Owners who take the time to look back often identify a way forward that can reignite their passion.”

In one such exercise, Stewart asked a client to talk about the last time they truly enjoyed the business. After giving it some thought, one client realized it was when he had hired a number of savvy young technical employees who brought a sense of humor and a great deal of energy to the organization. Acknowledging this led to a discussion about how he might recapture that feeling in future human resource decisions and surround himself with enthusiastic, positive, and productive employees.

Looking back on success

Stewart also urges business owners to look back and identify their most successful decisions, best product or services, and smartest hires, and ask themselves if they have the same opportunities to add value today. If those opportunities no longer exist and they ask themselves why, they may realize just how much their role has changed as the business grew. There may be a mismatch at this point between what they’re doing on a daily basis and the type of work they excel at and enjoy. Fixing that can lead to creative solutions that don’t involve selling the business.

To get the best clarity, there’s no need for any of this to be an individual exercise. It’s a smart idea to ask others – a spouse who was involved in starting the business, a partner, the management team—about the past business-related events and experiences they felt were the most exciting to them personally.

These findings can inspire current and future business goals and objectives. Stewart favors meeting with your management team, hiring a well-vetted facilitator, and doing an exercise which addresses the three P’s – what’s our business potential if we can remove the constraints, what’s possible for us to achieve in the next 12–24 months, and what’s practical to accomplish in 90 days.

The answers from this exercise form the basis for a strategic plan that helps owners stay on track and remain enthusiastic and motivated. Stewart stated,” When you understand that the business still has potential, then even the simplest strategic plan can be invigorating and help harness the passion.”

The plan serves as a foundation for developing goals, objectives, and tactics, and assigning responsibilities and dates. “It’s important to write everything down,” Stewart advised, “otherwise you have nothing to measure performance against.

The thrill is gone

Owners who feel that they can continue to add value to the company are the most likely to be able to reignite their passion, said Stewart. Even in cases where their business has outgrown them, the love affair can often continue by hiring a new CEO, mentoring a potential successor, or making a strategic acquisition.

On the flip side, it’s important to note that there’s nothing wrong with falling out of love with your business and feeling a strong desire to move on. But before you make a decision to sell, you may want to complete an exploratory exercise of the type Stewart recommends. If you ultimately decide to move on, you shouldn’t feel guilty.

There’s no right or wrong answer. Staying or leaving are normal and acceptable…as long as it’s the right choice for you.

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EisnerAmper’s Center for Individual and Organizational Performance is not a subsidiary or affiliate of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) or its affiliated companies.

The information provided is not written or intended as specific tax or legal advice. MassMutual, its employees and representatives are not authorized to give tax or legal advice. You are encouraged to seek advice from your own tax or legal counsel. Opinions expressed by those interviewed are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company.

This article was sponsored by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001. All opinions are those of the author. MassMutual offers this as educational information only.