Our guest, Anna Tyrrell of Anna Tyrrell & Associates, ltd., and Common Ground: Conflict Resolution Services, ltd., is here to talk to answer these questions and help us rekindle our passion for our businesses:
- Is there a “honeymoon phase” for a business owner?
- Some areas of business ownership become dreadful at times, causing the owner to question their decision. What’s a SB owner to do?
- Should a small business owner hire someone to do or manage the tasks that cause them angst, or will adding wage expense give them even more anxiety?
- How can one determine if they’re truly burned out, and what can they do about it?
- How do you handle a partnership that’s developed friction from disagreements?
Anna Tyrrell: www.annatyrrell.com
Transcript of Biz Chat Ohio’s podcast 1.10: Anna Tyrrell
Welcome to Biz Chat Ohio, the podcast bringing you big ideas for small business. Throughout this series, we hope to bring the best of small business news and industry trends from Ohio’s thought leaders and just maybe something to help you run your business a little bit better. I’m your host Cathy Walsh, director of the Small Business Development Center at Lakeland Community College. And I’m joined once again by my co-host and sole sister Gretchen Scope DeSanto, director of Lakeland Community College’s Entrepreneurship Center and also a business advisor for the Ohio Small Business Development Center. Hello, hello, Gretchen.
Hi, Cathy, how are you?
I’m very well today. How are you?
I’m doing really good, thanks. OK. So let’s admit it everybody who’s was listening, most of us have an idea for a dream business we’d love to own or an idea for a new product that we just know could make us a million dollars. And we know for sure that if we own that business or any business for that matter we would certainly run it better than the people currently in charge.
And most people start their business with starry eyes and dreams of making those millions, but in real stuff and real life there’s a lot of stuff that gets in the way. So things like taxes and supplier glitches and credit card machines that aren’t working. And the employee who calls in sick during your biggest sale of the year. And suddenly you as that entrepreneur are spending your days putting out fires and not doing the thing that motivated you to start your business in the first place. It becomes really exhausting and frustrating and yes, it keeps you up at night. Probably far too many nights. And you wonder why you ever wanted to do this thing called entrepreneurship.
So we want to talk today about how to get back to the thing you love. OK. That original passion and why you started doing this before you got to that point. How do you rekindle the passion for your business? And how do you make sure that you can own it and sustain it and run it in a positive manner without stressing yourself out too much for the long term?
Well, gosh Gretchen, it almost sounds like we’re talking about a relationship. But no, this is about the passion for our career and finding our way back to why we started this business in the first place. So today we are joined once again by Anna Tyrrell, principal of Anna Tyrrell and Associates. Anna has lived and worked in Northeast Ohio for over 30 years helping people improve their lives. As a counselor, mediator, and consultant in Northeast Ohio, Anna has applied a problem solving approach towards managing life’s adversities and the challenges of relationships for her clients for over 20 years. She has served the community and courts of Lake Ashtabula, Geauga, and Cuyahoga counties. And she also provides training, in service education, and mediation services that might be useful for businesses in the human resource department.
Currently in addition to her practice at Anna Tyrrell and Associates, Anna is an adjunct professor of psychology at Lake Erie College. Her knowledge of neuro and psychological psychology has advanced her ability to help her clients understand and manage events in their lives. So Anna, welcome back to Biz Chat Ohio. Gretchen and I are really happy to have you back with us today.
Thank you. I’m glad to be back. It’s good to see you both.
Good to see you.
So Anna, in episode six, we discuss stress associated with owning a business, especially during the pandemic with so many unknowns. But today we’d like to talk about owning and operating a business even in the best of times. So is there a similar honeymoon phase as a business owner much like when we first meet our significant other or getting a new puppy for example?
Yeah. Hit it on that. There’s a lot of similarities between all of those. You mention I do like to talk about the brain and how it operates and one of the things that we can think about is how efficient the brain likes to be. So one of the ways that it’s efficient is it uses the same hormones for different experiences that we have. And it’s always seeking new experiences. And in order to motivate us for novelty we get excited. And the same hormones are involved. We get that dopamine surge and all these other additional norepinephrine and some other hormones that kind of help keep us alert and energized to stay focused on something that’s brand new.
But that takes a lot of energy and some adrenaline and after a while it starts to peter out. Certainly with your hit particularly with running a small business with a lot of frustrations, hassles, barriers, hoops to jump through it can really take some of that light out of the fire and make it difficult. Or it can just run its course where things start to feel a little more mundane and then the added frustrations really take the excitement out of the work.
So follow up question there. Many owners may realize once they’re up and running a while that their responsibilities they just don’t like doing. But it’s part of the business. So it could be dealing with personnel, could be IT, marketing, or payroll. And they set out with a passion for the industry, but then some areas of the business ownership become dreadful. It’s demotivating and it causes them to question their decision. So what we’ve seen sometimes in the SBDC is that love turns into many opposite emotions and we might sense this dread or lack of confidence, maybe some fear and some sadness. What can you suggest when a small business owner starts feeling any of those?
Yeah. Obviously it is pretty common. And even for people in the workforce when they get promoted to a new position and they’re no longer doing the work that they enjoy doing but now they’ve taken on administrative responsibilities and so that often happens with the business owner because you are taking in all these other directions away from the actual work that you like to do. And it can be very frustrating for folks. And I think first of all acknowledging what are the things that you were able to do and that you do well? And what are the things that are really making life difficult and seeing if there are ways to delegate those responsibilities. That might be one way to manage it.
Another is to really segment the workday or the work week so that you can really delegate or designate specific times to work on those tasks that you don’t like to do. That might make it a little easier or build in little rewards. I spent two hours on this, here’s how I’m going to reward myself when I’m done. Or for other people they’re better are off just doing it in small chunks if head to the office a half hour early, get through this stuff I need to without interruption, and then get into the work I enjoy doing. For some people that’s a better pace. But I think getting to know oneself and what works better to get through that work that you don’t like to do or struggle with, but certainly networking, and finding other people who can provide support to learn how to do that better helps.
Again, we do seek novelty. So sometimes it is just a matter of learning new skills and finding resources, whether it’s on YouTube or Google search to find tips and tricks to make that work a little bit easier can help. Really is getting into that problem solving. What is the problem? The problem is I’ve got these tasks I really don’t like to do. They’re getting in the way of my enjoyment of work. And so how can I fix this? What can I do? What are some ideas to make it a little more palatable to manage? And then of course delegating I think is another way. Is it time to hire out or contract with folks to do some of those tasks to get back to spending more of your workday and the things that you enjoy doing?
Yeah. I like that idea of scheduling time specifically to do maybe the things you don’t enjoy doing. I mean, I think everybody’s job probably has some piece that they don’t get excited about. I know I do have a lot of paperwork and things that need to be done. And I would try to schedule those on a Friday afternoon just because it’s kind of quiet on Friday afternoon with clients. And so I never really thought about doing that with the business owner. So I really like that tip that maybe scheduling something for a certain day or morning or whatever just to block that off, get it done, and then you know you don’t have to deal with it the rest of the week. So I like that.
Just a follow up, Cathy. I’ve done the same thing. There are times that I will literally take a day off at least that’s what I tell everyone. I’m taking the day off. My outgoing messages say that I’m not going to be available. And I take that time so I can get through some of the work I need to do without interruption. And I’ve done it where I’ve taken a few days at a time just to give myself a slower pace so I can do it and build in little rewards in the day whether it’s working from home or just being at my office and knowing that I can go out for a walk to get lunch and get some fresh air. I have a lot of little things in my office that kind of give me perks during the day if I need to go to them so that I can refuel myself when I’m feeling overwhelmed. So I really encourage folks to think about that.
You touched on this a little bit, but should a business owner hire someone to do or manage the tasks causing them this kind of angst? Or do you think that adding that expense whether a wage or an invoice that they have to pay now give them more anxiety than doing the task itself? Any [INAUDIBLE] on that?
Yeah. I think it’s a tough dilemma. I’ve been there too. And then sometimes you hire someone and then it doesn’t quite work out and you spent more time training them. And I know a lot of people feel that way about interns. But I do encourage folks to consider interns. Sometimes they’re a lot of work, but other times it pays off because once they understand what to do they’re able to do the work. And they’re getting some good experience to add to their portfolio or add to the resume or do it for school credit. And if you can get someone who’s really on the ball and motivated they can really help quite a bit.
And especially with some of the younger students that are a little more savvy. I know some of my students have given me some really good ideas on how to be more efficient because they understand how to use the technology a little bit better. But it is a tough dilemma. And trying to see what you can afford and then deciding is it worth it to get a virtual assistant, or do you hire someone, or do you just contract for a very short term engagement to get something better or at least get yourself caught up or get a more efficient system so that it’s easier to do that kind of work.
With regard to the interns, a plug for folks that are listening that are here in Northeast Ohio, we’ve got some great resources over at Lake Erie College in Painesville. Wonderful career services department that helps connect businesses with interns. And the same at Lakeland Community College. We have a career services department that’s looking to make the connections between students looking for internships and businesses looking to hire. So just thought I’d throw that out there if any listeners are thinking about that and they’re there in this area.
So now another question. We’ve all been here and muttered these words and particularly after last year and a half. The words being, I’m so burned out. OK. I know I just finished my dissertation over the summer and I must have said that 5,000 times to my husband. And he’s so sick of hearing it. But how can one determine if it’s truly burnout? I mean, we know that is a true thing, but you may not actually be there. OK. But a little bit of emotion in you. How do people figure that out? And then is there a to do list that can go through? And if it is burnout, what are the available resources to help fix it?
Yeah, well, burnout is that sense of exhaustion, feeling unmotivated, dreading, reengaging with the work. So it involves a lot of things. A lot of people get pretty depressed about their work and then that feels like burnout. Or as you said, when you’re in the midst of something you feel like you can’t carry on. That tends to happen when we’re close to the finish line or anything is that we reach a point where we hit a wall and it’s hard to plow through and get through it. And so we feel burnt out.
One of the best expressions that I had learned years and years ago and it came at a good time because I was feeling burnt out is in order to feel burned out, you had to have been on fire at some point. And another one that someone said is if there’s a really bright spark, it’s going to go out. And oftentimes when people have started a small business or new venture, they’re on fire or they’re a bright spark. And that energy is going to dissipate. It’s going to die down and it doesn’t feel the same. And so it can be really hard.
And I think getting reconnected to what lit that fire and what got you going in the first place can be helpful. Also just recognizing and feeling good about the fire that was started in you and that flame is good. I think there’s a lot to be proud of in starting a new business and getting things going. But recognizing that there’s likely going to be a period of time where things are going to fade and feel overwhelming. And then again, that’s where we’ve got to take a little break and do a little mental inventory to see what is making this so challenging.
Oftentimes, we have in our own minds some myths and ideas about how things should be or how we want them to be. And then when life doesn’t measure up to that, it’s pretty discouraging. And so sometimes we have to reassess our expectations and move our expectations a little closer to reality. And I can’t remember if we mentioned this last time, but it’s been said that the distance between reality and our expectations is a measure of stress you’re going to have. So if your expectations are really high and reality is pretty low, you’re going to have a lot of stress. So you want to get them pretty close. You always want your expectations a little higher so you have something to strive for, but you want to really do a fair assessment of that.
So you want to do the mental checklists. Are there some myths, ideas that you have, or misconceptions about, again, how do you think things ought to be? And what are the reality checks on that? What are the facts around it? And then I think the other is doing a physical inventory. We talked about this last time with stress. Where are you feeling your stress and how are you feeling it? And a lot of times we think when we’re exhausted, there’s really two options. Take a nap or get some coffee.
And what we want to remember is that there are other options to refuel ourselves. Sometimes exercise, going for a walk is a good thing. Sometimes taking a break. And if you’re into pickleball, go play a little, or if you swim or a walk on the beach. Something that really gives you some joy and pleasure can help you. But physical movement will refuel you as well. And making sure that you’re eating healthy because a lot of times if we’re not getting what we need nutritionally we’re going to get worn out if our blood sugar is getting a little low because we haven’t eaten and skipped a meal or haven’t had good sustaining foods like complex carbs and solid protein. So we want to think about taking care of our body so that our body can take care of us.
And then the third realm I think we want to think about is our vision. And it’s a little more ethereal, but getting reconnected to what is the mission and the vision of your work so that you can make sure that you haven’t gotten too far off course and you’re aligned with it. And then also what is your mission and your vision for your life. How does this fit into your life? And what you want out of your life.
I tell people think about sitting in your recliner or a rocking chair when you’re 80 or so looking out the window on a sunny day where you’re like too old to go out and you’re reminiscing. And you’re reminiscing about that time that you felt so overwhelmed at work you didn’t know what to do. And what do you want to say about how you handled it? And give some real thought to that and then come up with a plan so that you can realize that vision of yourself and that legacy that you want to leave as part of who you are and how you are. So that’s what I would say. So you want to look at what’s going on mentally, physically, and then, again, it’s sort of that vision which is really kind of a little more spiritual. Not religious spiritually, but kind of fueling our soul that makes us feel like we’re purposeful in our work.
So I have a follow up question. You talked about a mission statement. And it’s something I would encourage anybody who’s starting a business to have even if it’s just one you keep to yourself. Put it on your wall to look at. And it kind of sounds like having that even for your life or for your business is sort of important because when you start to get lost in the minutia of the day to day tasks that have to be completed sometimes looking up at that and seeing that can be a guide stone for you. Or I mean, do you agree with that?
I agree, Cathy.
Yeah. And people talk about having their vision boards, kind of ground yourself in that. But I do think that if you– of course, any business should have a mission statement that’s posted. And some people have a quote that guides them. But posting it so that you can be reminded. And I also encourage folks to really think about, what is the one that you state that might be on your letterhead, or might be on your website or something, or in your business plan? But then what’s your hidden agenda? What’s the mission and vision that you really don’t tell people that you know is going on for you? What matters to you? And I think we all have one.
Something that one of the things I had heard when I was young and it really stuck and resonated. With someone being interviewed and said he and his wife had decided that their purpose was to enhance their lives and the lives of others. And that was their personal mission and vision for themselves individually and as a couple the work that they did. And I thought, boy, that’s really kind of neat to be grounded in a sense of purpose in that way. And I think that’s what we want to do. What is that for us? How do we want to be remembered? And how are we contributing to that on a day to day basis?
Which it really speaks to our level of integrity. And I think for a lot of folks in work when they feel like the work that they’re doing starts to get misaligned with their sense of integrity and we have to make so many compromising decisions in work sometimes, it’s helpful to get one realigned with it. And how do you get some of that more aligned? The things that you don’t like to do or the compromises that need to be made.
OK, let’s talk about something a little more complex then. So if somebody is involved with a partnership, there are other people involved with it, or maybe you own a franchise and so you have an umbrella company over you and there’s some friction coming from that relationship. People are on different pages. They don’t like what they’re being told to do. They have different ideas for how to move the business forward. That alone can become really stressful whether the business is successful or not.
And we know people don’t really necessarily want to walk away from that, but what can you do to maintain a good relationship or even if it’s just with yourself in relationship to your franchise, the franchiser, or to partners that you have to deal with? Do you have tips on how to make sure that things are remaining positive and always moving forward and that everybody’s getting some joy out of this relationship?
Right. It’s a big one. There’s a lot of research on that. And most research tends to point to the folks who are higher up the hierarchical ladder experience less stress than those who are on the lower rungs. And one of the consistent themes in that is that when you’re higher up the hierarchy, you tend to have more control in your job. And when you have less control over the decision making, over the duties, that can be pretty stressful.
And certainly middle management gets very squeezed between being responsive to the folks who are above them, but also being responsive to the folks below. And it can be pretty stressful and difficult. And generally, the recommendation is certainly to find strategies and skills to be able to manage and navigate that. That’s where I think some good negotiation skills, communication skills, mediation can be really helpful.
But then when you have areas of your life at work where you don’t have control, the important is to find areas in your life where you can have control outside of the work place. And so this is where coaching a little league, volunteering a Girl Scout or Boy Scout troop, having a leadership role in the church. Those kinds of things that you might do in the community or being on a school board or other groups where you feel like you have a little more control and can feel good about who you are and not feel like you’re being nod at every day, all day long.
Certainly we don’t want to go home and take control over the family because we want those to be nurturing, supportive relationships so we don’t want a pecking order to be going on. But we want to find other things in our life that fuel us and make us feel like we are being the kind of people we want to be. And then for those work situations, trying to find the skills that you need to navigate.
And I think one of the things for me that happened through COVID and I noticed is with all of the video conferencing, people started to be a little bit more of themselves. You see where some of the celebrities being introduced weren’t all dressed up. Right? Some of the interviewers weren’t necessarily dressed up. We see parts of people’s homes. Those barriers were starting to fade a little bit. And I think in the workplace we see a little of that too where folks are not necessarily breaking down all of the barriers between professionalism and their casual self, but I think learning how to be a little more genuinely oneself to be able to learn the assertive skills to say, hey, here’s where I’m struggling and this is what I’d like to see happen.
But when you’re in that kind of position, Cathy, I think sometimes we still end up working for folks that are just not receptive, not responsible, and difficult to deal with. And that’s where you have those difficult bosses or those bully bosses and so then it’s really learning skills and strategies to navigate.
I’d like to jump to a totally different subject and talk about mentors. So here in Ohio we’ve got the Small Business Development Center. I wouldn’t necessarily call us mentors, but we certainly work one on one with businesses to help them think out solutions to challenges. And then there’s also SCRE, the Service Corps Retired Executives. They’re more of like the traditional mentor relationship with a small business. And then, of course, there are other business mentors out there. What do you think about mentors? Do you think that they can help business owners get that perspective and stay on course? Do you see a lot of value in them?
Of course. Yeah. I’m not sure it’s such a different topic. You say we’re going a little off topic, I think it’s right on topic. I think that’s one of the strong remedies for a lot of this. Mentors are so important. And it goes two ways. It’s helpful for someone to be a mentor because that feels good. That’s a leadership position. And we all get to a place in our lives as we age that we do want to give back and share our knowledge and share the wisdom that we’ve gained all these years. So it’s a good place for mentors. They get a lot out of it.
And then for the mentees people seeking mentors is very beneficial because, again, these folks have the shortcuts to get through life. They’ve got the good wisdom. And we know that one of the best antidotes to stress are relationships with other people and being connected in relationship. And having a mentor is certainly one of those perfect antidotes for dealing with stress. A lot of people who are undergoing very stressful situations whether it’s divorce, grief, terminal illness, we know support groups are very helpful and beneficial. And we can see it even physiologically and it’s beneficial not just psychologically for folks.
And so when you’re struggling at any time in your life being connected to other people is important. And being a business owner can be very lonely. Right. It can be lonely at the top. And having a mentor who’s been through it and who has done it is perfect to be able to have someone you can share how you’re feeling, what’s going on, and to get some tips on how to manage better.
Anna, thanks so much for being with us today. Your knowledge of how our brain works and how to put things in perspective is so important and we appreciate you passing that knowledge along to our listeners. We’ve got your website here, which is annatyrrell.com. I’m going to spell that out. That’s A-N-N-A T-Y-R-R-E-L-L .com. And we’re going to include that address in our show notes. But are there any online resources that you would suggest to our listeners that you think are a go to resource for those who think they need some help in this area?
Yes. I’m glad you mentioned that because I just pulled some of this stuff together for my students so I’ll pass that on to you. I would encourage folks to really look at some of the great stress management apps that are available. There are some really good ones. And there are a couple of good lists. The ones I favor are developed by the Veterans Administration. They have some really good ones that are well researched and well vetted. Learning how to do deep regulated breathing because that’s really important. So learning how to breathe and relax.
A lot of the apps will have education and information about how to manage stress which is really helpful. And recognize that a lot of anxiety is stress amped up certainly and a lot of depression is exhaustion from anxiety. And so a lot of these apps can be very helpful and beneficial. And some of them will have little points and goals for you to achieve and others are just good checking in, journaling kind of apps. And others have skills to develop and learning how to change your thoughts and manage your feelings. And then again, moderate that exercise and breathing is really important too.
Thanks, Anna. You get me those links or names of those apps, we’ll make sure we include those in our show notes. And we really appreciate that. And might check one or two out myself. Sound very interesting.
Yeah. The apps are a great way because you’ve got your phone on you all the time. And so all you have to do is when you got a few minutes here, check in on one and just start to develop some skills. So it’s very accessible. So I’ve been encouraging a lot of my clients and folks to consider that.
And again, thank you for joining us Anna. It was a pleasure speaking with you again today. And enjoy the rest of your day.
Oh, thanks so much.
Good to talk to both of you and thanks for having me again.
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