Tackling Entrepreneurial Burnout: The Richard Branson Formula
Entrepreneurship is fun, exciting, often uplifting but the problem is also about sustaining the momentum. Often as the initial euphoria wears out, the products launched and business begins to roll; it is the intense bout of complacency that entrepreneurs need to fight and overcome. To continue their successful stint, it is almost imperative to maintain the drive and passion that they began the firm or their business initiative with. Sadly the fact is as the founders lose momentum, the business too begins to suffer, and pace of growth falters to an extent where startups need to fold up sooner than it took for them to start the business.
Entrepreneurship is no doubt extremely satisfying and brings in immense professional satisfaction, but it also needs continuous, untiring drive, motivation and sometimes a lot of compromise on the personal front and an unquestionable sense of commitment. The question, therefore, in this context is what exactly is the right formula to achieve this balance?
How exactly do people overcome this phase of entrepreneurial burnout that is often responsible for businesses burning out in an unimaginable fashion after years of effort and work towards making it successful?
One fundamental problem or malady that overwhelms most is to keep the momentum going after a certain period when the start-up gets established. Many times, you see entrepreneurs losing the momentum in their approach and productivity beyond a certain point.
For example, if you see the Yahoo story, what started off as the biggest success story at the beginning of the internet revolution completely got decimated by the relatively new entrant Google. I am sure you have read column after column about the fact that they failed to sync with the challenges of changing realities and changing requirements of the time and lacked the commitment to keep pace with the needs and demand of the customers or users.
One cardinal question in this context is how you can exactly gauge the future. After all, you do not have the magic ball that let us gaze into the times that are yet to come? How do we know what’s there for a business going forward, after all, not all of us are future readers or tarot card experts to make a prediction?
Some might offer you a very simple solution, and that is not to lose your drive. But the question is how exactly you can do that? What is the sure formula to maintain and momentum and keep the pace of growth intact? Well, though, there can be innumerable paragraphs devoted to ways that you can work towards keeping the momentum, we decided to a bring in a real life ambassador of unending momentum, undying commitment to excel the best and breach all previous boundaries, Richard Branson.
The Brand Of Richard Branson Magic
The disarming smile, the maverick mannerism and almost an envious zest for excellence make Richard Branson stand tall amongst his many peers. The question is how exactly does Richard Branson manage to keep the work-life balance on, deal with the stress of launching the business and keep the momentum intact?
In fact, his antics often has a child-like sense of excitement about them. Be it the concepts that go in his product ads or the way he makes an appearance on his airline for a real life check or even the manner he presents himself in the regular blogs, he writes on the Virgin Atlantic site in a way that he can connect with his customers.
The Virgin brand has the rare advantage of having one of the highest levels of brand recall and setting the absolute benchmark in terms of maintaining standards of service pretty much at par or progressively better from the times it started 50 years ago.
A lot of it I believe is because Richard Branson has a clear set of guidelines or norms in his mind in terms of ways to keep the momentum growing and not let the business drive sag in any perceptible manner.
So I am sure your question now would be what Richard Branson’s formula is? What exactly is the magic mantra that works for this rather middle-aged genius, and what even youngsters half his age fail to understand or appreciate?
In Richard Branson’s words,
“Stress and business go hand-in-hand, and that’s not a bad thing – high-pressure situations can certainly be motivating – but too much pressure can be emotionally and physically damaging. I’ve found that the best way to manage stress is to find a good work-life balance.”
Yes, you read it right. Richard Branson in article after article and innumerable chats have highlighted stress as a key factor that is responsible for the sagging pace in the drive and passion of many upcoming entrepreneurs after the initial euphoria passes away. He continuously stresses on the need to maintain the momentum through a proper balance.
What generally happens that as an entrepreneur, you become so involved in getting the business started, you often completely lose focus of your entity as a social individual with a commitment to family. Unfortunately, when the stress starts taking its toll on your familial commitments, it is almost needless to mention that it has a telling impact on your professional commitments too. The constant sense of unwellness and stress at the home front almost always clouds the professional brilliance beyond a point and could even drive an individual to the point where they want to call it quits.
Richard Branson often mentions that rather than going for any fixed routine, it is intensely important for individuals who are entrepreneurs to opt for flexibility. Yes, flexibility in important, not just in thought and execution of the product or service they launch but a sense of ‘Go as you like’ in your working style as well is equally relevant. A fixed routine of set hours each day for each function doesn’t really work for an entrepreneur as they keep shuttling between multiple roles and perpetually on tenterhook trying to balance all sides without even allowing the smallest of lapse on any front.
The Multitasking Mantra
Richard Branson says that the challenges of an entrepreneur are multifaceted. It is never easy to anticipate the challenges that will come across your way and work towards addressing it. Perhaps it is for this reason that one should learn to adapt and prioritize as per the demands of the time. That, no doubt, goes on to highlight how important it is to multi-task as an entrepreneur. You can never really be sure about what to expect the next moment, and neither can it be effective if you continued to keep shifting you from one job to another.
Prioritizing and multi-tasking almost go hand in hand in establishing an effective and productive working schedule. As an individual, one must give oneself space and motivation to focus and function as per the requirement of the time and create a workflow schedule that is not just in sync with an individual’s thought process but also does justice to their entrepreneurial responsibilities.
It is, therefore, important that entrepreneurs set timelines for themselves and then function as per the schedule instead of scampering around like a headless chicken. They must set focus and set deadlines in terms of trying to build a sustainable schedule that does not interfere with their flexible approach and well-defined passion. However, to maintain the momentum of that schedule, unwinding becomes as much an important element of your daily schedule as it is to work.
One key aspect that can allow effective multi-tasking is the fact that you are able to rejuvenate and revive your spirit and mind alike This is only possible when you can truly get away from the grind a little while every day but stop feeling guilty about it whenever you do. To get away and have a little fun ensures that your perspective is never clouded and you are able to approach every problem afresh without the hangover of a previous problem. This fresh perspective is undoubtedly one of the biggest advantages for an entrepreneur and this in itself is one of the unique manners in which one can develop the ability to multi-task without a perceptible sense of pressure building on your overall approach.
Therefore, one simple way to mitigate potential burnout possibilities is to create a long-term sustenance plan based on your ability to relook and rediscover your potential every day and never really delving too deep into the realms of any failed opportunity that might come their way at any point. The ability to let go and not losing sight of your perspective despite the pressure is what you develop as you continuously gain expertise in creating opportunities for multi-tasking and handling myriad of challenges in one go without flinching under the pressure of anyone at all.
You can almost equate this to a child’s perseverance in arranging a stack of rings. They go about doing it, again and again, every time perhaps in a different manner with a different color scheme and arrangement technique but never getting tired trying to achieve it and begin recreating it the moment they might achieve a satisfactory result.
Don’t Ever Compromise On the Fun Factor
That surely brings us to the next aspect that we set out to discuss. Often if you see the whole nature of burnout in entrepreneurs, one key reason is that they start losing the fun element that they had thus far associated with the project.
As an entrepreneur, it is always important to remember the fun factor that one associates with the work they are doing and in no way should that be compromised in any manner. In one of the blogs, Richard Branson mentions that:
“I’ve found that it’s not a good idea to dive straight into work when you wake up, so I dedicate my mornings to exercise and family time. It helps me clear my mind and energizes me for the day ahead.”
This is exactly what we are trying to drive at. While your work is absolutely important and there is no way to compromise on the ultimate deliverable, it is important, to at times, to detach from it to ensure that the fun and thrill associated with it is never diminished. Time and again the entrepreneur needs to revisit to this core aspect in a way that it never becomes a chore to go to work and establish your trademark passion on the output.
A key factor in this regard is that while it can be important that as an entrepreneur, you are pretty hands on, you never let the daily nitty-gritty of running the business get on to you. As an efficient team manager and individual performer, it is absolutely important that you keep your perspective energized through indulging sports and fun activity and let the creative juices flow more as an outcome of the free flowing perspective that forms your signature style rather than a forced set up.
As Richard Branson repeatedly mentions that you are more likely to succeed in your mission when you are motivated by the fun factor and when you do not compromise your personal satisfaction in your achievements in any manner. The crux of the matter is often the fact that drives an entrepreneur in the initial days of their role in starting up a business is forgotten as they get busy with the chores of running the business on a daily basis. Quite needless to mention that this often creates a sense of dissatisfaction and boredom which can in no way spell good news for either the individual or the business in general.
Nokia, in this context, is a wonderful example of how pressure and absolute inability to stay in sync with demands can spell doom to a brand as iconic as Nokia. Of course, you can argue that Microsoft has taken it over and in many ways, it is rebranding that can recreate the magic of a brand at times but I am sure you will agree that if burnout amongst entrepreneurs are nipped right in the bud, you can keep recreating fresh avatars of the brand just the way you see Richard Branson doing with the Virgin brands.
Tackling Burnout the Richard Branson Way
Again Nokia keeps coming back to me both as a problem as well as a solution to the problem called entrepreneurial burnout. Richard Branson once said that if an opportunity doesn’t excite him, he would much rather let it pass. Yes, indeed it is no good flogging a dead horse. If for whatever reason, an entrepreneur at certain point realize that they have reached a point where they are unable to rejuvenate or convince themselves about recreating the magic in their entrepreneurial initiative, it is much better to let go.
Repeatedly going about the same thing that brings an entrepreneur no joy is almost a sure way to seal the fate of an enterprise. The more bored once continues to be with the job at hand, the lower would be the rate of productivity and success associated with it. The great initiative or approach at this point would be to give up and look for a brand new inspiration that not only does justice to an entrepreneur’s talent but also works as a great business idea.
In a nutshell, therefore, it would not be wrong to say that while burnout is inevitability in the life of an entrepreneur; the trick is how one deals with it. The fact that we use the Richard Branson example is because it is one of the most positive and constructive steps forward in furthering a brainchild that is driven by passion and creativity.
Baulking under the pressure of performance is normal, but then it is up to an individual about how they go about working on the matter to avoid that inevitability. It is important to build one’s guard right from the beginning and work on the warning signs right from the word go.
When the going gets tough, Richard Branson considers it to be a great idea to go back to the core idea that got you into the business in the first place. That child-like passion and zest which drove you at the first place is always a great way to recreate the magic of it at a later date when you might feel that the daily chore of running the business is literally overshadowing the sheen off the initiative.
A healthy work life balance in this regard is a great way to ensure that burnout impact is either completely prevented or rather limited through the course of your entrepreneurial journey. The more flexible you are towards accepting change, adapting to challenges and keep your focus fixed on future, the easier it would be to overcome the daily challenge of reinventing and reviving the zest that essentially drove you to create the enterprise and fuel your imagination towards realizing your ideas in actual form. It is often this zest that helps tackle burnout which also helps you in thinking out of the box and keep reinventing the way you can excel in every given circumstance.