Technology owners and professionals all over the world enter their vocations with a glimmer in their eyes and a hope that the actions they take can positively impact those around them.
They often have starry-eyed expectations and a hope rooted in freedom of being self-employed, able to work with a flexibility that others cannot achieve.
But…for many, the reality they face is one of despair, depression, and burnout. They wrestle with things like:
- You work a bajillion hours a week, only to end up in the same place like a scene from the movie Groundhog Day.
- They wonder what is burnout, how do I know if I have it, and what can I do about it?’
- You’re losing steam and struggling with a lack of vision.
- Affording your existing lifestyle can be tricky, if you merge or sell.
- There’s transaction risk around selling or buying because you usually get a fire reignited through the M&A process.
In terms of making your decision to buy, sell, or merge, it can feel like taking a double shot of scotch, closing your eyes, and jumping off a cliff or burying your head in the sand until something drastic happens.
You start to ask questions like ‘What if I can’t make up my mind?’
Your problem, my brilliant friend, may be that you’re burned out and unable to make a decision until you recover and develop sustainable productivity strategies.
What does burnout look like?
Burnout doesn’t always appear as painful desperation. Some signs of burnout include feeling cynical about the way your life is going, the conviction that nothing you do matters, and a pervasive sense of helplessness. You might say:
- “No matter how hard I work, I can’t keep up.”
- “I’m wasting my time here.”
- “I’m exhausted, and I never get enough sleep.”
- “Am I in the right company?”
- “I dread Mondays, and I feel apathetic about living.”
Burnout often causes you to feel as if the entire world is against you, thinking your situation is “rigged,” and that you’re being crushed under the massive weight of that horrible thing we call “life.”
Burnout isn’t something you can recover from in three easy-peasy steps. It can take weeks, months, or even years.
Your story is probably a lot like that of Mr. Incredible – once the hero, your rosy world suddenly got swapped for a colorless office space. You’ve woken up from a simple dream, and found yourself working for corporate machines who care about nothing except the best ways to maximize profits. Instead of helping others, your time is spent helping them squeeze as much cash as possible out of the little guys.
Burning out isn’t the same as having a horrible day at work. Rather, it’s more like having an unending sequence of horrible days at work. New York magazine eloquently describes it as “a problem that’s both physical and existential, an untidy agglomeration of external symptoms and private frustrations.” (Basically, you can feel burnout in your body as physical exhaustion, and suffer from the brain fog it causes as well).
Often burnout comes from the sad reality that as an owner we are often forced to do things that we don’t enjoy doing and aren’t necessarily good at. You may be an industry recognized solutions architect, but as an owner you may have to deal with HR and payroll, or deal in sales with clients who don’t understand or appreciate the ingenuity of what you have put together for them.
‘So, how do I overcome this?’
Start with simple things like taking a break. Stop checking your emails, turn off your phone, and do something that you haven’t allowed yourself to enjoy for years. Easier said than done, of course–believe it or not, taking a break is also something that needs to be practiced. If you find yourself checking work emails during off hours, a time tracker like Toggl might help you keep yourself accountable, simply by helping you visualize how much non-work time you actually spend working.
Redefine your own values and goals. What do you value in life? How much are you willing to give up in order to nab that salary, post acquisition? Can you work with your “new” team, once the ink is dry on the transaction paperwork? Could you essentially work FOR someone, or would you rather have a situation where you stay on board for a period then sail off into the sunset? Whatever your goal is, be sure and define it up front so you’re not missing expectations once the merger or acquisition is complete.
Focus on the basics. There’s a quote that gets bandied around often on the Internet. It goes something along the lines of, “It’s okay if all you did today was survive.” When you’re burnt out or depressed, even tiny tasks can seem like in insurmountable problems. But, remember, it’s okay if all you did today was survive.
Consider selling your technology business. One of the main reasons for burnout as an owner is that you are now operating outside what you enjoy doing. You may be forced to manage payroll and HR issues rather than selling or building the next greatest network. Buyers are looking for good leadership and talent. For many owners selling their business enables them back to what they love doing best in their own business and allows someone else (the buyer) to take on what you don’t like doing.
The other side of the basics is financial business basics. For example, do you know where your company gaps are? What’s your growth trajectory and profitability? Should you focus on top line growth or maximize profit, so you can eventually buy or sell your firm? What’s the value of my firm and why is it important? The basics include demystifying the buying and selling process. Remember, every company is different, and so is the valuation, and the selling and buying process.
I want you to succeed and part of that process in overcoming burnout is understanding really important financial aspects of your business like earnings before interest, taxes, depreciations, and amortizations (EBITDA).
As I’ve said before, EBITDA (when misused) does for a company’s finances what social media does for life: paints a very rosy (albeit unreliable) picture. EBITDA needs to be closely examined to determine a company’s actual cash flow.
That’s where I come in. At iT Valuations, we help firms like yours determine value when it matters most, so you can stop being burnt out, and instead get to a point where you’re invigorated by a merger or acquisition. Click here to contact us on our contact us page.