I recently had a conversation with an IT business owner who told me he felt burned out.
While his business experienced steady growth over the past 12 months—and he was pleased with the positive impact on his bottom line—he felt like he’d achieved this success at the expense of his health.
I knew how he felt. I’d been there too. Chances are, like a lot of people in our industry, you’ve been there too. The fact is if you don’t manage stress correctly, it can easily lead to burnout, which isn’t good for you or your business. When you’re stressed, it’s hard to be a good leader, and it’s even harder to help others reach their full potential.
Looking after yourself isn’t selfish, it’s necessary! So how can you grow your IT business and avoid burnout? These stress management tips can help.
Remove the stress of wearing multiple hats
When I ran an MSP, I quickly learned to wear a multitude of different hats every day. I was the senior technician. I was the head salesman. I was the accountant. I was the credit controller. I was the human resources manager. I wore all of these hats, and many more too.
As my business grew and I took on more staff, my role changed even further. I had to manage people and hire and fire them too. I was also a mentor, a counsellor, and sometimes an “agony uncle” for my employees. All of this work was challenging, and at times, incredibly stressful.
Since then, I’ve learned the value of hiring people who are not just good at what they do, but who are better at it than me. In the beginning, it can be a blow to your ego to know that your employees don’t need you. But quickly, you’ll feel empowered by the fact they don’t need babysitting and you’ll have more time to focus on the tasks that matter.
And while most MSPs will look to hire full-time employees, don’t underestimate the value of using virtual assistants (VAs) for this. VAs are often highly trained experts in their field, who you can hire part-time for an extra helping hand. In my own business, I have a personal assistant who manages my inbox and calendar, and this role alone alleviates a great deal of stress for me.
So ask yourself, “Who can I hire to make my life easier?”
And prioritize your work-life balance
In my book The IT Business Owner’s Survival Guide, I devote a whole chapter on how to quit working long hours and weekends. For many MSP owners, this feels like an impossible task, but for the progressive few, it’s a reality.
Your business should serve your needs, and if it isn’t, you need to change the rules of the game. One way to do that is to keep scheduled hours and to disconnect when you’re at home.
As the adage goes, “the work will expand to fill the time available.” Have you ever worked long days and weekends, and still found that there’s more work required of you? I know I have. And that’s because of the simple reality that your business will never be complete. There will always be more to do.
So define your work hours and stick to them. Spend time on the tasks that are going to move the needle. Don’t get drawn into the minutiae. When you finish at the office, resist the urge to do more work at home. Turn your phone off. Don’t be tempted to sneak a glance at your email.
If you don’t think you can turn off your tech, then use tools like AppBlock to prevent yourself from opening work-related apps out of hours. I use AppBlock myself, and it works!
When you’re at work, concentrate on being a good leader and business owner. When you’re at home, focus on being a good husband or wife, friend or father.
Discipline in the areas of work-life balance can lead to reduced stress and freedom to make healthier choices that benefit you and everyone around you.
Being an IT business owner can be rewarding but, if you don’t set rules, it can be very stressful. And don’t underestimate stress—you want your business to challenge you and be a source of growth in your life, but not at the expense of your health. As one of my mentors once put it, “Being dead is bad for business.”