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8 things to do when you’re falling out of love with your business

by Holly

Lurching stomach? Recurring thoughts of ‘Christ, what have I done’? Wondering if you’ll ever feel the way you used to when you looked at them and couldn’t wait to spend every waking minute of the day together rather than running away faster than Dame Kelly Holmes? If you’re going through this with your business, first things first, don’t worry. 

So many founders reading this will have gone through exactly what you’re experiencing (or will likely do at some point). I like to call this ‘the hairy legs stage’ of the relationship or the classic ‘honeymoon’s over’ part.

A recent report said that as many as a third of entrepreneurs fall out of love with their businesses and 24% of those say this happens several times a year¹. I was surprised to read this but I was also comforted.

It’s entirely natural when you think about it. It would be weird if they didn’t. Like the couple who say they never argue and have the same taste in magazines. How can they??

Yet probably the single most important thing that no-one ever tells you is that running a business is exactly the same as having a relationship. And as such, you’ll have all the ups and downs that go with it.

One minute you will love it and the next, you will want to cut up its favourite slipper. It’s no utopia. Much like a marriage, long-term relationship or even close friendship, you have to work at it. You’d never go into any of those expecting it to be easy, because it isn’t. It’s about travelling through the shade to get to the light.

A third of entrepreneurs fall out of love with their businesses and 24% of those say this happens several times a year¹.

It’s also wise to remember that when you’re in the troughs rather than the peaks, you won’t see the other side of it, and woe betide anyone who tries to convince you otherwise! You just need to remain calm and ride it out. 

That’s all well and good, I hear you say. But how? Here are eight pieces of advice that might help.

1. Get a little distance

As founders, we’re sometimes not great at taking time out. Yet that’s often exactly what we need to get some perspective on the situation. Make the time, do something fun, try something completely different or creative and you’ll likely find answers in the most unexpected places. It will allow you to come back to the issue with fresh eyes and more positivity towards it.

2. Keep hold of your vision

When you think about it, when times get tough, one of the main things that helps many parents stick together is the children. It’s the end goal of what’s needed for the family that you are both united on. You have a clear end result in mind — to love and raise the minis to be healthy and happy — and it needs to be the same way with your business. Especially if you’re working with a co-founder. You can’t hope to build a business you love successfully without uniting together and remaining aligned for the common cause. If you’re struggling, keep that vision in mind and always return to it as your North Star.

3. Get back to doing what you love

Many ‘downs’ for founders I’ve mentored have come at times when they’ve wandered from their path. Perhaps it’s because they’re now making or selling products that they wouldn’t buy themselves so don’t have a real passion for. In my experience, making money alone is never the right reason to run a business if you want to be happy. The result is often a feeling of having lost your creative edge or of drudgery as you’re going through the motions, and this is often a slippery slope. Yet the remedy is simple. You need to reset. Get rid of the parts that feel alien to you and you’ll soon find your heart eyes again. In order to do this, you need to…

4. Find out what’s troubling you

In my book Do what you love, love what you dothere’s a Holly’s Hack at the end of each chapter and one of them relating to this, is an exercise on treating your business as if it were your body. By imagining the different parts, you can work out what’s wrong, or in this case, unattractive to you. For example…

  • Your persona, your reputation, your personality = brand
  • Your appearance = brand identity
  • Your head = company strategy
  • You tone of voice = what the company says and how it says it
  • Your heart = core values, purpose and the brand’s mission
  • Your nervous system and muscles = the logistics and power
  • Your backbone = business foundations
  • Your gut = business intuition
  • Your feet = tactics
  • Your arms and legs = marketing, communication and outreach
  • The food you eat = sales
  • Your skeleton = structure of the organisation
  • Your lungs = cash and financial control

Yet probably the single most important thing that no-one ever tells you is that running a business is exactly the same as having a relationship. And as such, you’ll have all the ups and downs that go with it.

You can see why this helps. Viewed in these terms, you know that if you don’t have cash, you’ll stop breathing. That your purpose and values are emotional things, as they come from your heart and so on. With that in mind, take a moment to ask questions of your company, as if it was your own body. Does it feel unwell or hurt? Which bits do you like or which need work? By figuring this out, it can help you identify the problem areas of your business and work on those until they’re more favourable and you start to love them again. The key is to listen to it and to take action. You will never be wrong.

5. Have those difficult conversations

When I chatted to Jake Humphry on my Conversations of Inspiration podcast, one of the most insightful things he said was that we need to feel uncomfortable every day. We need to sit in the uncomfortable chair, and not always our usual go-to. This is the best way to challenge ourselves. Similarly, don’t give up on the things that are tricky just because they don’t give you energy. Learning to love them will be how you win. However, do get rid of any bad apples you might have in your team. The wrong apple in your cart will not only rot the others but the cart itself. Don’t let that kill the love you have for your business. You’ve worked too hard. You need to be around people who help you be the fullest version of yourself so have those difficult conversations and nip it in the bud quickly.

6. Celebrate the ups when you’re up

Like a relationship, when you’re in a funk, it’s hard to ever remember the good bits and vice versa. But try. It’s human nature for us to only focus on the bad bits. Make sure you take a moment when the sun’s out to really appreciate it. It reinforces the love you have for your business in your brain and helps remind you that it’s a journey.

7. Don’t make feeling a lack of love become a self-fulfilling prophecy

Stay away from sadness porn. If you believe the business will fail, it will fail. Fear is like petrol and will explode once lit, so find your light instead. Hold onto the positives. One thing many successful founders have in common is enthusiasm. Find the parts you’re enthusiastic about and tap into those. David Hieatt, founder of Howies, the Do lectures and Hiut Denim, said, “How do you get other people to love your brand? You have to love it the most first.” And there was never a truer word said. You should be the world’s greatest cheerleader for your business.

8. Finally, remember that nobody said it was easy

When I chatted to Sandra Byrne, manager of the biggest Lush in Liverpool, she said, “If it’s easy, maybe it wasn’t worth it in the first place, maybe you haven’t dreamed big enough.”And she’s right. It’s not about giving up but about accepting that this is part of it and pushing yourself through it, spurring yourself on. Only when your business is truly irredeemable should you stop. It’s about finding solutions to fix it and working hard to get the love back. One of my favourite pieces of advice is from the incredible Dr Willard Wigan MBE when he was on my podcast. He said, “Don’t get bitter, get better.” Five short words that can change your whole outlook, and help you find the love you’re longing for again, which by the way, you absolutely can. I’m wishing you all the luck.

“How do you get other people to love your brand? You have to love it the most first.” And there was never a truer word said. You should be the world’s greatest cheerleader for your business.

Sources:

  1. Business Leader article featuring Vista Print report
  2. Broken Heart pills by the Poetry Pharmacy
  3. North Star compass by Vinegar & Brown Paper
  4. Do what you love patch by Denim and Bone exclusive to Holly & Co

How to stay creative and resourceful under pressure

If your mind is full of ‘what ifs’ that are blocking your creativity, this article with our resident coach Kate should help.

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