Burnout: How it Affects Everyone and How to Re-Charge


Mike

Hello everybody, welcome to another edition of the One Step Better podcast, I’m your host, Mike Schaeffer, and today, we’re gonna talk about a topic that has been maybe beat up a little bit on some circles but it’s something that we haven’t really hit on in a while.

We’re gonna try to take a different approach to that is the idea burn out in the post COVID world. In the in the mid COVID world, everybody’s work in life happens on top of work in the same spot as work sometimes. And I think that can sometimes lead to a little bit more pressure, a change of workflows and patterns and all that type of stuff that for some people will be taxing.

And so the idea of burnout or something that I know that we’ve been talking about a little bit about clients and I wanna take a little bit of a different approach for our conversation today during our podcast and that’s this, I’m an employee, of Patrick Accounting and Whirks, and Matt you’re the owner of Patrick Accounting and Whirks.

Whenever I struggle with burn out, it is for very different reasons that don’t even register on your radar.

And whenever you struggle with burn out, it’s for very different reasons that don’t ever register with me on my radar. And so we have a lot of listeners that are business owners. But we also have a lot of listeners that are key leaders of their organization.

And so let’s have this conversation from two different perspectives and see if we can find some alignment and… and better understanding which in our world, we consider empathy towards where everybody’s coming from in the conversation and burn out.

So one of the things that we talked about in a previous podcast is work life balance. And one of the things that we discovered is that you and I are very different as it relates to work life balance. You are 100 percent on at work and at home. And those two things flow over and intermingle in every facet of your life. And for me those are… those are light switches that are either on or off and that’s how I function best.

And so the idea here the thesis that… that Reba came up in right now some of our content is she said that because your work life balance is so intermingled that it causes you to really avoid the issue of burn out in your role. Is that true?

Matt

No. Yes. Maybe. So my burn out is typically related to the business’ issues we maybe following. It could be based off clients, it could be hiring issues, you know, personal employee issue we’ve been dealing with.

It could be with frustration with our gross or the fear of losing a bunch of clients, you know, COVID related, kinda thinking through, okay, what happens if all of our clients don’t make it cash flow, the stress of the business is what burns me out.

Mike

Do you, ever, or have you ever had those days where you look at everything as a whole and say, man?

It would be really great to go work at Home Depot and punch o’clock?

Matt

Hell, no, that’s not that I do think, hey, if I saw this thing on April twelfth, some years I’m have decided that… that would be worth not a lot, they could have it for the keys.

Mike

This is the last year we’re doing tax returns.

Matt

Here you go I’m out. Yeah, I’ll figure something else out. Obviously tax season every year is a grind, well it was, it’s kind of a lot better for me. It’s still totally a grind for the other people in the business building.

But yeah, there’s some years or what you’re working around the clock tax season, you know, you haven’t seen your kids in a month or two. There’s gotta be something better than this. This is so stupid.

And those are the years we have to figure out why that was to make that not happen again.

Mike

When you’ve gotten to that point where it’s pretty clear and I kind of I would say, and I’m ready to… to put this joker on eBay.

Matt

Yeah, there’s some first in the door, whoever gets them first gets it.

Mike

What some of the things that you’re experiencing that’s led to that point? And how do you deal with it?

Matt

It started when we were understaffed or we grew too fast right before tax season or we’re still dealing with growth during tax season. And so you have not enough time the day and too much work to get done and you’re understaffed to do it. And you don’t have the ability to find the resources you need to do the work. I usually would grind through, get through it, tax season for instance, and then try to recharge, and then go away or at least try to be less at work.

In the early years, that was harder. So, you know, we would be after tax season doing the work that we didn’t get done during tax season, now is pushed off of those summer. You grew a little bit or you find your sales, you have some turnover after tax season. So, you know, you’re doing the same thing all over again. We went through a number of years where we were kind of turning over the same role repeatedly year after year and that was some burn out just okay I’m tired of hiring the same person, I don’t know what I’m doing wrong and this isn’t working the way I wanted to.

Mike

Does that come out of a place where you feel like, you know, what? I’ve done this 100 times. Now, I keep failing at it and it’s never gonna get any better. So let’s just pump this altogether.

Matt

I never got to the point where I thought it was never going to get better, I got to the point of this, what am I doing wrong? I kept just pulling my hair out but I always kinda still saw, so I’m an eternal optimist. So I feel like it’s going to get better and so I can figure it out that’s kinda grind. But that stress is always there. It’s still here. I mean, I know tomorrow with two or three of my key people were to walk out the door. This job sucks again.

Mike

So for sale, for sale. When you get to that point where it does, it just feels like man I don’t want to go into work today, ready to pivot to something different. How do you… you mentioned grinding through, but what are some practical ways in which you’ve found for yourself just help you get through that as painless as possible?

Matt

Well first of all, I get energized by certain things. So number one, it would be and maybe it’s time to tinker, you know, that’s kind of where I go to when I know I’m having on the most fun is the ability to tinker on the business a little bit. Like what are we not doing. Let me review a process, let me review, you know, maybe our sales approach or, you know, finding some kind of new technology, let me to explore there. Those are the things I enjoy.

So kind of getting into an area of something that I really enjoy more than others. I may put off something but, you know, if I can get back into the work I like to do best, that helps me kinda reenergize and then, you know, honestly just we have some cycles and seasons in this business to kind of make things kind of stop. And so knowing that, okay, it’s coming up tax season and sometimes tax season is a refresher because it takes us off some of the people problems we’d have to grind through the work. Or the reverse of that, hey look tax season is finally over I’ll take a deep breath and let’s go ahead and implement. Something new that we have on our list. Let’s fix that we just fixed but the tinkering part is what I really enjoy but just have to find that area.

Mike

That’s kind of the default when everything’s…

Matt

Yeah, if I get stressed I’ll start tinkering on something.

Mike

Yeah, that’s interesting. When you’re looking at hiring people, that brings a level of stress that comes with it and I wanna make sure I get this right. I don’t want to screw this up. I need to make sure they’re going to fill the right role. I need to make sure that I can actually, afford paying for them. Does the people piece of running a business, is that kind of your main, I’ll say, the thermometer of how you’re feeling is really based on people, is that kind of the main driver?

Matt

It is a major thermometer or barometer. It’s probably not on the hiring side, but once they’re in here and they’re not exceeding that’s where the stress comes in because like I said, I’m an optimist. So hire somebody with the idea they’re going to be the perfect, the best person for this role. And every time we all go to a bar, I get to hear about all the people that we hire that weren’t the best person that I thought we were going to bring in.

And so those things come up, you know, those are the pain, that’s the hardest part for me. And that is the part that, you know, I want everybody to come in here and be super successful. I want to give them every tool and resource imaginable so they can be successful. Unfortunately, not every person that comes through is successful. It’s sometimes it’s our fault. It’s their fault. Sometimes we just made a bad hire. Sometimes it’s, I’m trying to push this person and they just do not have the skills for this role, they’re better fit for something else. I want to or would it be happy in their job and if they’re not happy here, that’s great. I mean, it’s not happy here I want you to be happy somewhere else so I’m going to help them find something that’s ideal for them.

Mike

You’ve always seem to personalize the people that are working for you. Because I remember very clearly multiple occasions, well, we’ve gone out to do different things as a firm or… or even just hanging out and sometimes the conversation does come back to let’s relive the glory days of all the people that are no longer here and talk to that.

Matt

That’s almost every time we go out and there’s liquor involved. I wonder why.

Mike

It’s not that often, but it does come up.

Matt

If there’s certain people in the room, it happens.

Mike

So that’s why I always say the people piece is something that’s very personable to you.

Matt

That’s the biggest stress.

Mike

That I felt like I failed them or…

Matt

I fail here and I failed them. It’s twofold. I want people to be successful here, I really do. And so I feel like we’re a failure when we hire someone that’s not a fit and we have to let them go. That’s the worst thing ever. And so I’m slow to fire and it’s come back to bite us a number of times. I personally, and we’ve talked about this on previous podcasts, I don’t do a great job of telling them along the way when they’re not doing a super great job so we get to the point where now I’m deciding to let them go but I haven’t told them well enough in advance that they’re not doing a good enough job and now I feel like I’m causing them pain and I don’t want that to happen. So we’re trying to improve that process as we go. And we want to correct it along the way but man it’s hard.

So you said your perspective is way different than this.

Mike

I don’t get burned out, even in my role here where it’s you know, leadership role and I have responsibility over teams, the people piece of what we do doesn’t burn me out at all. That’s what you talked about where you need to go back and energize yourself. The people part is what I go back to you when I need it to be energized. Where I get most burnt out as the task level stuff.

Matt

You’re not doing a good enough job delegating, Mike.

Mike

Well it’s some of the things that are some of the, that’s absolutely true some of the things are things that I’m doing that I shouldn’t be doing and that can burn me out but it’s more of the mundane tasks that have to get done.

Matt

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Mike

I like learning, I like challenging myself, if something is there something I don’t know, I want to go tackle that headfirst and figure it out and break it apart, put it back together a couple hundred times to actually feel like I have a really good understanding of it but there are certain things that comes up that, you know, I just have to knock that out. And fortunately I’ve done enough to where I’m really really good at it, but, it doesn’t energize me at all.

Matt

You said you like being challenged with things that you want to figure out. So once you’ve figured it out…

Mike

I’m done, I’ve mastered it.

Matt

I get it, I’m the same way.

Mike

I like to create. I do not like to maintain. Once something has been built and there’s very clear organized strategic processes around making sure it doesn’t break going forward, I like to then find another project to work on.

Matt

You generally like working with new clients.

Mike

I do like working with our new clients because…

Matt

It’s a puzzle.

Mike

I can take nothing, make it into something, fix a lot of issues, systematize it, and then, as long as they follow what we need, we’re not gonna run into any issues.

Matt

When they break it, it frustrates you.

Mike

It can sometimes.

Matt

I get that. And so, it is important in your role to probably make sure you’re doing your job delegating. And that’s the same thing I struggled with early on, and that’s trusting your team. I always felt the guilt of, I know I could delegate this but man, I could probably do it and you already have so much going on I don’t want to bother them. Or, it’s, they can’t do it as good as I can.

Mike

I’ve been very fortunate, this past year has really been, I’ve made an intentional push towards pushing some of that work that can get more frustrating to me so now I don’t work on clients under certain sizes now, and it’s a training ground for my team to be able to step up and do that work.

Matt

Million and under?

Mike

Yeah. I don’t touch anything under 10 million dollars. I wish.

Matt

Yeah, me too.

Mike

It’s been good to delegate some of those things. But there comes a time like this week where I’m working on a project because we’re going into fourth quarter and that’s always a big conversion season for us, and so there’s some things that just because of the volume of what needs to get done that I’m working on things that I normally wouldn’t work on.

Matt

It’s rushed and it’s complicated.

Mike

I can knock something out. We’ve talked about this before, I can knock something out in 30 minutes that may take my team a couple hours to do. It still makes sense for them to do it because of revenue drivers and what not. But, it’s not best for me to jump into those things all the time.

Matt

So where do you find your stresses with work/life balance go on? Other than the task piece.

Mike

Sometimes I feel like I’m beating my head against the wall and nothing’s going to change. I can get to a point where I get in a downward spiral with some things. The reality is that I am a second-chair leader and so wherever differences of, not necessarily values because those don’t happen too often, but direction and the HOW piece. Maybe I want to go one direction and you want to go a different direction, but I know my direction doesn’t matter at that point.

Matt

You have to negotiate it.

Mike

To the point that we’ve already beat it up and you say we’re going this way. That doesn’t happen too often. But those are things that can get frustrating. Because I always feel, and we’ve talked about this before, I always feel like I’m the best. And to the degree that someone is disagreeing with me they are wrong. 100 percent wrong and they’re never going to be right until there’s a very clearly thought out discussion that’s happened, my mind doesn’t get changed easily.

Matt

So ‘because I said so’ isn’t a good reason?

Mike

‘Because I said so’ is not a good reason. I don’t even like doing that with my kids.

Matt

I don’t either.

Mike

Because I feel like that’s a cop-out.

Matt

I will say this, over the years we have had a couple of those issues come up, but luckily we’ve been pretty aligned and obviously you’re still here for a reason. But if it was always out of alignment you would have quit.

Mike

Oh absolutely.

Matt

The reality is that I feel like we’re headed in the same direction. As with most of our leaders today.

Mike

And we have healthy disagreements and you should in any organization.

Matt

And I know I’m not always right. I may make a decision that I’m not 1,000 percent sure of and I know that was dumb. I’ll go back and do it again and fix it.

Mike

So those are some of the things that can lead to being frustrated down to the point of burnout. But also sometimes for me, it’s seasonal.

Matt

It’s dark outside, it’s dark when you wake up, it’s dark when you go home. It’s gray and rainy in Memphis for like three months usually.

Mike

I’m very ready to see the sun. Honestly the weird one for me is seasonal allergies. Whenever I’m battling seasonal allergies for a period of time, I get frustrated because I’m tired of my nose running and coughing and whatever. And now in today’s world everyone thinks you have COVID and you’re infecting the entire population. You can’t be normal sick any more. That’s a silly one but that can lead me to burnout.

Matt

I go through more of a depression. I go through seasons where I get depressed almost when it’s the wintertime and gray and rainy for a long period of time and the grind, there’s seasons where the business is slower. I feel those things more. In your role, when I was an employee, I had to be challenged. I had to feel like I was being challenged on a regular basis. The routine part of our business here which is, do tax return, do tax return, do another tax return. Over time that would wear me out. I praise our staff all the time. We have a lot of high S’s in our staff, thank goodness, on our accounting team, it’s a repeat job. You’re doing 50 sets of books every month and you’re doing 50 sets of books next month and that can old pretty quickly unless you make a game of it.

Mike

You do have to make a game out of it.

Matt

But also we have people who enjoy the routine.

Mike

And that’s just not me. That’s not really you either.

Matt

No, it’s not. I spent enough time doing it and I can do it but that doesn’t mean I love it.

Mike

You made a good point. The gamification keeps me motivated. I make games out of everything.

Matt

Which is why we have boards on the wall and games to play. That’s partly for my own benefit so I don’t get bored. It’s a life competition. We have championship belts and gloves and awards and all kinds of stuff to make little games out of everything every month so people don’t get so in the routine of, well another month of crap I gotta get done.

Mike

Games keep me going. They fuel me in a lot of ways. I have to win, if I’m not winning that frustrates the fire out of me. Meredith and I at home, we started a game a couple weeks ago on our phones that is whoever has the least amount of screen time at the end of the week wins a prize. So I started to say what my screen time was but…

Matt

So he bought a second phone. He has his burner phone. Not for a side chick but for a screen time win.

Mike

So that first week, I got a $100 Visa gift card thing for it, and I said whoever has the least amount of screen time gets that $100 gift card. And she beat me by like four minutes. Because our screen time, I’m not going to say what it is, but it dropped. So it was a very big push. So that was three weeks ago she beat me. She has not beat me since.

Matt

We’re going to set up an automatic, call her every 30 seconds.

Mike

She turns her phone off, powers it completely down. And so she won the first week and I have not lost since.

Matt

And so if you turn cellular off, and Bluetooth off, and WiFi off, there used to be a game on your computer does it still rack up screen time?

Mike

To be fair, our work around here lately…

Matt

Use an iPad.

Mike

It’s not our phone screen, it’s that screen.

Matt

And we’re living on Netflix on our TV now so it’s okay.

Mike

She uses our computer a lot more often than she did before. But gamification is always a fun one that really energizes me. I had to spend a good bit of time in Excel and it was the same thing I know how to do I knew I could do it a 100 times in my sleep, and it was that thought of, I wonder if this other thing can work. So I spent about two hours not doing it the way that I knew I could do it just to learn a new way to do it in Excel and I got it to work and I’m good with that. That’s going to keep me motivated. So now I learned a skill and I’m going to take it back to the team and teach everybody else. That’s the part that I enjoy.

Matt

That’s the same with us. I look at sales as my gamification, how many new clients we have coming on board or what the dollars are, create quarterly games for them. But all those things are kind of fun to keep it energized for sure. It’s hard, work/life balance is a real thing. If you are struggling with cash flow, if you are struggling with your teammates or employees, as a business owner those are all things that are super stressful. How am I going to make payroll this time. Gosh I can’t ever keep a person for this job. I have all this opportunity to do work and I can’t even get it done. I’m always living behind my schedule, there’s a big pile of lists every day when I go home, I’m not making money. A lot of small business owners are working their butts off and not making any money. They don’t have a system to drive profit. As an owner, those stresses never stop. I would say, A, take a deep breath, think about where you’re going to head, and then if you need some advice, there’s ways to make money in every business you are. You may have to change how you’re doing business today, but just because those things are happening today, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth the grind. I had a client repeatedly ask me, I think I’d be better just putting a pool pole in the back of my truck than have all these people working for me. I was like, man, that’s all well and good but you’re 50 something years old and I’m pretty sure you don’t want to do that. And you’re going to make about what you’re making now probably, and you’re not working in the yard which is hard on your body, you still have flexibility so that you can sell later. If you’re the one doing the pool in the back of your truck then when you go to sell this thing you’re probably not going to make any money.

Mike

I find it interesting earlier when I asked you do you ever have those days when you want to just go work at Home Depot and punch a clock, it was a very quick and resolute NO.

Matt

First of all I can never imagine working for anyone else ever again.

Mike

Me either.

Matt

I like that answer, Mike. I want you to work here, you don’t want to work anywhere else you just said that. No I can’t imagine ever working for anyone else I can’t imagine it. I don’t want to. I like the flexibility of the business I’ve built here works somewhat without me. I wrote down, my biggest stress reliever was hiring really good people and letting them take control of things I couldn’t do myself. We have a great leadership team and we have a great team around me and that makes my life a lot less stressful. I’m very fortunate that we have a profitable business that’s growing and we have good teammates but that hasn’t always been the case. So it was the continual grind to get to where our vision was, which was, I want a business that runs without me, how do I get there, and I learned to take hats away. I’ve done every job in this building before, almost, I’ve never produced a podcast by the way, Becky and Reba, but other than that, I’ve done every other job in the building and I feel like if I had to I could, but thank God I’ve hired people to do those jobs for me. The vision was, I wanted to get myself out of production.

Mike

You make a good point because I think for most business owners, there’s always a conversation that happens in the back of their mind that happens sometimes, of why am I actually doing this. What’s my long-term goal of owning this business. You mentioned that your goal is for this place to run when you’re not here. Your goal isn’t to make this place to run, it’s for it to run without you. And I think that’s a goal that a lot of business owners should strive for.

Matt

I think so. It’s harder in some industries than others. If you’re the dentist or you’re the doctor, it’s hard to bet out of the mindset of I’m going to work on teeth or I’m going to be the person with the knife and doing surgery or whatever, but the reality is there’s some businesses out there that have a surgery team without the surgeon.

Mike

Some people just want to own their job and that’s perfectly fine.

Matt

For my role, I didn’t want to be an accountant. I wanted to own an accounting firm. And those are big differences for me. And having all the people in place to let it run without me. I want to hire doctors to manage our clients. Nurses support doctors. I didn’t want to be the only doctor with a bunch of nurses. I wanted to be the owner for a bunch of doctors.

Mike

I want to be able to run my business not work in my business.

Matt

Correct. And I still have client responsibilities from time to time and I still have things that only I can do.

Mike

And you’re never going to get out of that. It doesn’t matter what type of business you are or in what industry. If you own a business there’s going to be things that you never hand off.

Matt

Correct. I do know that if I wanted to, I would have to deal with the consequence of it but I could. I wrote down perspective. Just understanding that you are an owner that has a vision of a business you want to run. You may never have articulated it and you may have never thought through of how do I go there, but starting with the vision of where you want to go helps a lot with the work/life balance, reducing stress, reducing burnout. If you’re stuck in the grind, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But, with a vision of where you’re headed it makes it a lot easier, and then from there you can create a pursuit plan.

Mike

I think it’s interesting because when we started the HR On-Ramp a few months ago, one of the things that came out of that, honestly it shouldn’t have been as enlightening as it was, but it was very clear the difference between the perspective that owners have and key leaders. It’s a different brain, different outlook, different mindset, everything is different about it. As we got in to some of those HR spaces in the On-Ramp series, it was pretty clear that different perspective can be a point of tension. Where that key leader may be thinking, why in the world won’t my owner not give me a clear mission and vision of where we’re trying to go. I’m sitting over here handcuffed because my owner won’t do whatever, and that owner is thinking, why doesn’t my HR leader step up and put some of these things together. And everybody’s just kind of looking around like wondering who’s going to catch the ball. It’s like little league fly ball somebody call it and catch it. How you’re going to get burned out is from a different angle than how a lot of my daily stuff would drive burnout in my life and I think that’s a unique perspective.

Matt

I think that’s a lot of the things we’ve talked about on the podcast so far. Over time, it’s been perspective. Each client, each owner, each role has a different perspective of what they bring to the table in an organization and also how they function within it. I think part of the reason why is having vision, mission, and goals clearly defined so we’re all looking in the same direction. If you don’t have those thing defined, it’s hard.

Mike If you’re a business owner out there or key leader that struggles with the same thing, we’d love to have a conversation. Give us a call or stop by and tell us what you’re struggling with. We’ve worked with many small business leaders and had this conversation and we’re not experts but we are listening and we’d love to help.

Call us at 901-752-2422