A Side of Wit to Go with a Helping of Entrepreneurial Wisdom

Empower and motivate small business owners/entrepreneurs to transform their burnout into success, engagement, involvement, and efficacy by updating and refreshing their entrepreneurial vision. (Of course with sides of wit and dogs.) The Witty Entrepreneur will offer marketing, time management, and organization solutions through thought-provoking webinars, an engaging blog, research and dogs. Sometimes being in charge sucks, but it doesn’t have to all of the time.

The Day My “Give A Damn” Busted

In case no one told you, burn out is a real thing. And a real struggle. It happens to the best of us, even those of us with the best of intentions about hard work.

Sometimes, you don’t even know that you’re burned out. You think the more frequent bouts of frustration and fatigue are because you aren’t taking care of yourself. Or, maybe you think “things don’t get done right if I don’t do them myself.”

My personal favorite sign of burnout: your “Give A Damn” busts. Going to work and dealing with absolutely anything is sheer agony. You feel physical pain just thinking about what you need to get done. If one more freaking person asks you for one more freaking thing… you will explode.

Yep. You are burned out.

How Did You Get Here?

You knew that owning a small business would be challenging, but planned on it being more fun. It was going to solve more problems than it created. And, one day you would get to sit back and reap the rewards and benefits of being your own boss. You would phone it in from a beach somewhere with a fruity cocktail in your hand.

But here you are, sitting at your dining room table with a pizza and a pint of ice cream, a stack of bills to pay, so many emails to return, problems to solve, and that employee who you told not to do X, Y, or Z did X,Y, and Z. Again. (Add firing him to the list.)

You look up to the ceiling, raise your hands, and scream, “Who thought popcorn ceilings were a good idea?!?!” Then collapse face first into the pizza.

Yeah, That Really Happened To Me!

When I reached out to other business owners to find out if they ever felt overwhelmed or just wanted to throw in the towel, they looked at me as though I had lost my mind. Admitting any of the above ever happened was like breaking some kind of code of silence among us.

Never repeat what you just told me,” another small business owner said. “Never. Don’t let anyone ever smell weakness.”

“Sleep? Sleep is for losers and people who don’t have any goals,” a restaurant-owning friend said.

“I have amazing employees that do most of that stuff for me,” an entrepreneur boasted to our table at a luncheon about time management. At the time, getting my employees to show up was a victory in itself. The other people at the table nodded in self-assured agreement.

What I didn’t know then was that they were all liars and full of crap. It was clear to me I either needed to up my game or lock myself in a bathroom to cry. I thought they all knew something that I didn’t and that I was failing at small business’ing.

You Can’t Hide Burn-Out with Concealer or Spanx

When your Give A Damn busts and everyone can smell your burn out. It’s like trying to hide a watermelon under a tight shirt. Everyone can see it, will point to it, but not tell you that it’s peeking out the bottom of your shirt.

I’m here to tell you that burnout is real. AND you can become un-burned out. Can you recall considering the following:

  • Maybe I need to nap for 3 or 4 days.
  • Why did I think owning a business would be awesome?
  • How do I fall back in love with my business?
  • Will a good night’s sleep ever be an option again?
  • Can I hire someone just to burn the place down so I don’t have to go in tomorrow?

Don’t worry. You’re normal. If you haven’t considered any of the above, you should be running the world instead of checking out this website.

What Makes Me an Authority on the Subject?

When I burned out, I owned and managed a luxury dog resort and dog daycare that I had built from scratch. The business ran (and still does) 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. While the doors closed at 7 p.m., there were still animals in my care overnight, over the weekend, on holidays, when it was 100-degrees outside, pouring down rain, and/or I’m so sick I can barely function.

The dogs still needed to be fed, pottied, walked, and loved.

There were also 20-plus employees to manage, including overnight staff that sometimes didn’t show up, business partners who weren’t very helpful or supportive, and numerous other people sitting on the sidelines hoping I would fail.

My Business Didn’t Shut Off, So I Didn’t Shut Off

Nearly every night, at 3 a.m., I would wake up in a panic. My mind would start racing with all of the things I needed to do, worrying that enough clients were coming in the door, an employee wasn’t going to show up, or a dog was going to get hurt.

Everything was so serious and the stakes seemed so high all of the time. I felt so much pressure to do and say everything right. Mistakes were not allowed. Ever. If I ever admitted “I don’t know” or said the word “no,” I thought my credibility would be shot and clients would think I wasn’t capable of owning a business. Even though I ran a great, successful business, I felt like an imposter.

If someone had a problem, I was supposed to have the answer. Everyone’s crisis became my emergency.

Then, my burnout became full on anxiety and I had a panic attack – in public, in the middle of a store, with lots of people standing around staring at me. The only person who would know for years that this happened was my mother. The only reason she knew is because she was standing next to me when it happened.

For some time, I treated it with medication and denial. OK, fine. Also with the occasional cocktail and a large pizza. And ice cream.

The Bust

I was missing out on too many other things in life and I had allowed my business to run me.

After I declared my distaste for popcorn ceilings and cleaned the pizza off of my face, I realized I was exhausted from running what felt like a marathon every day. Either the business had to change or I had to get out of it.

I made some lists.

I made a list of everything I wanted to change about the business, the things I didn’t enjoy doing, and what I really wanted in my life. I created a new vision for myself and my business.

After making those lists, I slept through the night for the first time in years.

I want to help you do the same.

If only it were as simple as making lists, then the story would end here. Radically changing how I viewed my business, operated my business, and changed my behavior came with a lot of pitfalls and a couple more bouts with burnout. Those bouts, though, they became less dramatic and a little easier to recover from because I had plans and envisioned different outcomes.

My outcome: I no longer own or manage that luxury dog resort. I own and operate different businesses now. I am doing something I love, something that energizes and fulfills me, and allows me to encourage other small business owners to be happier.

So, grab your dog and let’s cool you off. Let’s talk about the things we’re not supposed to admit about owning and running a business. I want to empower and motivate you to transform your burnout into success and a happier life.

More About Jennifer

Jennifer has been a small business owner since 2003. She is the daughter and sister of serial entrepreneurs and small business owners. An Iowa native, now living in Texas, Jennifer has learned to integrate “y’all” and “fixin’ to” into her vernacular so she sounds like a Southerner. (Unfortunately, her vast wardrobe of Iowa Hawkeye t-shirts gives her true heritage away.) Jennifer is a known Dog-aholic who allows her four rescue dogs to run her life.

A Tribute To Claire Bear

The cute black and white dog seen in some of my pictures was my very best friend, Claire Bear. She passed away March 30, 2020 after 17+ years of managing me.

While I rescued her from a dark, rainy highway, she rescued me from my darkest hours.

Call me crazy, but I consider Claire to be the founder of this company. She was by my side as I successfully owned and operated three other businesses, and I want to be sure her memory stays alive through The Witty Entrepreneur. The lessons she imparted through her wise eyes and stubby legs benefit us all.

Claire was sweet and the best cuddler ever, but she didn’t take sh!t from anyone. When Claire entered the room, you knew who was boss… her. Our daily morning walks were actually strategy meetings where we talked about our day ahead, how to deal with her “brothers,” and our next steps for taking over the world.

I continue to miss her every moment of every day.