Posted on Jun 12, 2017

How to Run a Successful Small Business (Without Totally Burning Out)

Building a successful business is an exhilarating experience, but it can also lead to crippling burnout. Business owners and employees alike often miss the warning signs of burnout, including depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue and a loss in productivity. And the associated costs are steep. According to the Harvard Business Review, the associated psychological and physical problems cost an estimated $125 billion to $190 billion a year.

Burnout can also curb creativity and the innovation you need to keep your small business growing. Before long, you might start to wonder why you ever launched your business in the first place. It goes without saying that that could lead to shuttering your doors and moving on to the next business without ever addressing how to avoid burnout in the first place.

The good news is that it’s possible to create a rewarding and successful small business without totally burning out along the way. Here’s how to get started.

Get the Right Support Staff

You could be sabotaging your own business success by trying to do everything from data entry to bookkeeping on your own. You might feel worried about relinquishing control or the financial constraints involved: bootstrapping small business owners don’t usually have the extra capital to hire full-time employees to help run their company. But unfortunately, that also means you’re spending too much time on tedious tasks instead of in your zone of expertise, like consulting with clients.

Turn to the gig economy to find the support relief you need while still hiring highly reputable workers. Find experienced marketing experts on Growth Geeks, outsource bookkeeping with, and hire a short-term virtual assistant on Fancy Hands. Choose workers with plenty of positive reviews or experience, and assign small projects to validate their work quality and reliability. Once you know how and when to hire your first employee, start scaling up the workflow and use tools like Slack to communicate and manage projects.

Growth Geeks

Image: GrowthGeeks

Reduce Your Overhead

Keeping up with the management and costs associated with overhead can tank your small business before it really takes off. Salesforce identifies some of the big overhead costs small businesses can eliminate or dramatically minimize. Start by cutting the hard copy files and storage cabinets, and move to a service like Dropbox. Try switching to a website hosting provider that simplifies the design and marketing process. Salesforce also recommends negotiating with your landlord to reduce your monthly rent, or finding a partner in a related business to share office space and expenses.

Your small business could eliminate permanent office space altogether. Instead, look into co-working spaces or rent a conference room for occasional meetings. ShareDesk offers temporary space at your fingertips, or allows you to rent out extra office space of your own. Meanwhile, WeWork gives flexibility to business owners and teams looking for monthly or short-term work spaces.

We Work

Image: WeWork

Scale Slowly

Scaling too fast may sound like a nice problem to have and a way to reach success quickly, but it’s actually a key reason that startups fail. Scaling should happen as a result of your startup’s growth. Hiring too soon, getting a bigger office space than you need, or launching a new arm of your business before the revenue has started coming in can all lead to business failure.

Instead, think of scaling as something that happens when you have enough profit and revenue to take that next step. And that may just take a new mindset on what your business growth should look like. Embrace slow scaling as a solid path to success instead of a reason for frustration and impatience.  

Focus on Networking

Networking could be a simple, scalable and free way to ensure your small business’s success. Jimmy Fallon attributes part of his incredible success as a comedian and late night TV host to networking. But it’s more than just rubbing shoulders with industry elites: Fallon takes a genuine interest in getting to know influencers and connecting with them on a personal level. Start reaching out on social media to warm up influencers, invite contacts out for coffee, and attend business events and conferences to get your network growing.

While networking and nurturing valuable contacts is just good business sense, it can also help curb business burnout. Developing a solid support system and mentors in your network gives you a place to turn when things get difficult. Networking can also help keep your mind inspired and invested in the people around you, instead of strictly on the systems and processes of your business.

Create More Fun in Your Work

Billionaire business mogul Richard Branson is a leader in having fun while building wildly-successful businesses. Take a cue from him and focus on planning stress relievers, team building exercises and outings to cultivate a culture of fun with your team. Fun at work is also crucial for solopreneurs who get locked down in the minutia of everyday details and paperwork without a support staff around.

You may not be able to go skydiving and scale summits like Richard Branson, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make fun a part of your regular work agenda. Schedule coffee meetings with old friends, take your team on a trip to an amusement park during work hours, or make trivia night at a local pub a regular night out with your co-workers. Even a short walk through a local park and saying hello to the locals can help renew your spirit and refresh your mind for work.

Develop Multiple Streams of Income

Relying on just one source of income in your business can lead to stress and income uncertainty. Multiple income streams are especially important for businesses that generate sporadic bursts of sales – like artists and consultants.

Create quick wins in your income streams to combat the burnout associated with unstable income. Teach a course at a local community college, develop a digital product that complements your business, or find an organic income stream from your growing business. For example, your Facebook ad campaign service can also add Facebook chatbot building, Facebook Page optimization or social media maintenance to clients looking for ways to grow their online presence.

And if you truly don’t have the time or inspiration to create another business income stream, rent out an extra room in your home on Airbnb or your car on Turo to get some extra cash flowing into your bank account.

Take a Break

Small business owners passionate about their businesses are ready to dive right in and dedicate all their waking hours to working. In reality, working 50, 60 or even 80 hours a week doesn’t necessarily mean added productivity. Research shows that working more than 50 hours a week makes us less productive. Our brains just stop responding to the same stimulus over time, and require focusing on something different for brief periods to reignite productivity.

Working hard doesn’t mean working into the midnight hours. Make downtime part of your overall productivity strategy and protect that time from both work and personal distractions. Take a much-needed break in your day-to-day by taking a walk, meditating or just putting work aside and leaving it at the office. You’re likely to refresh your mind and make more mental space for new creative ideas and innovations that will keep your productivity high.

Focus on Building a Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance isn’t something that evenly teeters on a scale and adjusts as needed. It’s more likely that the scale is out of whack on any given day and requires adjustments on an ongoing basis. Work-life balance is really all about making sure you’re able to focus without burning out on work – and still making time for your personal life.

Carefully schedule out your time to allocate needed hours for your business, whether that means taking meetings or doing paperwork. Reevaluate your daily calendar to make sure downtime and personal time is included. Get ready to make adjustments if there’s no room for error in your week, or any time for self-care, like scheduling a doctor’s appointment or indulging in a massage. Cut out the busywork like status meetings that could be done with a daily email digest instead, and eliminate time-wasting clients who are more interested in talking in circles than actually getting any work done.


There’s no secret formula to running a successful small business without totally burning out. Instead, the answer may be more simple than you think. Focus on the things in your business that push you forward, and scale back on the rest. And above all else, remember that your personal life and relationships are what really matters at the end of the day. Your business should enhance your life, not run it.


Do you have any tips for running a successful small business without totally burning out? Let us know by leaving a comment below:


Image: Pexels