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Ken Keller: The post-vacation slump

Posted: September 1, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 1, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Ken Keller Ken Keller
Ken Keller

One reason owners take a vacation is to recharge and refocus for when they return to the business.

While vacations can be a time of renewal, some of the time spent away can and should be a time of review.

Every business owner hits a slump from time to time. I have found it interesting that while some owners return from a vacation renewed and refreshed, others come back exhausted.

Arriving back to work after a vacation exhausted is no fun. But it wasn’t the nonstop activities, the exotic location visited or even flying the red eye across the Pacific Ocean in a cramped coach seat next to a screaming baby that caused the condition.

The owner walked into his business after his vacation tired because of one of two reasons.

The first is that the owner deals with nothing but problems all day long. Like the waves crashing on a rocky coast, the problems never go away; they are constant. Even on the best days, the waves, though small, are nonstop.

Even the strongest owners, of both mind and body, can grow weary of the weight of all problems ending up on their desk.

If the problems just stayed on the desk that would be one thing. But unfortunately, the challenges, opportunities, problems and situations of a company move into the owner’s brain via the eyes and ears and then impact the rest of the body, usually in a harmful manner called stress.

It’s pretty easy to recognize someone suffering from dealing with too many issues at one time. Look for a messy desk, a cluttered office, weight gain in the torso, an appearance of not being well rested — and ongoing discussions about the latest fire he’s put out.

An owner like this doesn’t smile very often and laughs sound forced. His voice gives away how weary he is.
The second reason is that the owner has simply become exhausted by the sameness of the job. The job is no longer exciting or interesting. The owner has checked out; become disengaged. It is simply no longer fun being the owner.

One owner I know said that within a week of returning from a vacation he was already planning his next trip. Without admitting it, he was telling me he was bored with his job.

With nothing new or exciting to challenge the owner, it won’t be long before the reduced energy, lack of focus and less caring about what is happening in the business starts to be reflected in how the employees act.

How do you deal with a slump? The first step is to recognize that you are in one.

One question to ask is if that recent vacation was more of a drain on your life battery than a recharge.

A second question to ponder is what does the next chapter of my life look like?

The third is, am I really ready for something new or does something foundational need to change in my company to change me?

There is a sign up at my gym that reads “Real change starts inside.”

Many owners don’t want to look in the mirror and face the reality that things aren’t going as well as they once were or as well as they should be.

What owners really don’t want to admit is that they are the root cause of their own personal and professional underperformance and that they are setting a far less than stellar example for those that they lead.

Ken Keller is CEO of STAR Business Consulting Inc., a company that works with small and midsize business owners to grow top line revenue. He can be reached at Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.




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