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Stress Management: It's OK to Look Out for 'Number One'

Your Own Work-Life Balance is Critical to Your Dealership's Success

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This MTD exclusive was written by Bill Ford, president of SESCO Management Consultants, a full-service human resources and consulting firm that advises tire dealers.

Since the beginning of time, business owners have carried the weight of their organizations on their backs. In addition to meeting business goals and ensuring customers are satisfied, they also have the added pressures of attracting and retaining employees. 

In addition, over the past two years, mental health issues of not only business owners - but also employees - have increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

One recent study stated that eight out of 10 executives have occasionally experienced poor mental and physical health during the COVID-19 crisis. 

In my 32 years of consulting with entrepreneurs, I have never seen a more challenging work environment. 

The “great resignation,” tightening profit margins, challenges with supply chains, increased federal and state regulations, constantly changing mask and vaccine mandates, increasing wages, increased liability - the list goes on and on. 

In the past six months, calls from our clients concerning mental health have significantly increased. 

Another indication of how difficult and stressful it has been to own and operate a business in today’s environment is the number of SESCO clients in various industries who have decided to give up and simply sell their companies. 

In addition to the personal toll, the stress and pressure of running a business impacts an organization’s culture. 

And as we all know, a positive employer-employee-customer culture is critical to the long-term success of any organization. 

What many business owners don’t understand is that their herculean efforts to run their companies around the clock are not only unhealthy for them. These efforts are unhealthy for their organizations, too. 

More time, focus and commitment to a business is not always what’s best for a business. When the leader is stressed, employees and customers see it and feel it. 

You may not think so, but as you are juggling balls and feel like you are being effective in ensuring your organization’s success, you are creating a rollercoaster ride for everyone else. Our surveys reveal that employees suffer directly and indirectly when owners are not mentally or physically healthy. 

Poor workplace culture creates low morale, which leads to poor productivity, lots of turnover and poor customer satisfaction. Working harder does not ensure a more successful organization. In fact, many times, it ensures the opposite! 

Many reasons

Why do business owners not take care of themselves by achieving an effective balance between their work and their personal lives? Many of the common excuses we hear are: 

1. “Without me, the business is nothing.” 

2. “Without the business, I am nothing.” 

3. “I don’t have any hobbies anyway.” 

4. “Nobody can run the business as well as I can.” 

5. “I love what I do.” 

6. “If I’m not there, the business will fail.” 

Many of these excuses are just that - excuses. The reason why most business owners cannot achieve a work-life balance is they simply cannot let go and transfer some of their power. 

The process is harder for some than others due to their innate personality. However, all owners must let go so they can achieve a healthy work-life balance and a healthy balance sheet. Owners must ask themselves: 

“How can I get my business to work without me?” 

“How can I get my employees to perform the way that I do, but without my constant interference?” 

“How can I systematize my business so that it can be consistent in the delivery of services?” 

To answer these questions, you must ensure the following systems and processes are in place: 

• Vision/strategic plan 

• Position descriptions 

• Operations manual 

• Employee handbook 

• Compensation plans for all levels of staff 

• Effective managers 

This brief, simple checklist is “a must” to prepare businesses to attain even greater heights. At the same time, it will provide peace of mind and help owners obtain a work-life balance. To begin achieving a reasonable work-life balance, it is critical to first understand your personality profile. 

What is your core personality make-up? This can be easily obtained by completing the DiSC Personality Profile. It will identify strengths, as well as areas of improvement. Individual personalities vary greatly, but here is a brief checklist to help you get started: 

1. Get comfortable outsourcing tasks and responsibilities. This is made easier if the necessary systems and processes are in place. Also increase your comfort level with delegating. It may mean even lowering your standards - reasonably - for you, as well as your staff. 

2. Learn to take care of yourself. Plan a wellness visit with your physician. With your doctor’s assistance, establish a mental and physical improvement plan. Eating right, exercising and other simple activities are a must. We’ve all heard when traveling in an airplane, “If the oxygen mask drops in front of you, put it on yourself before you help others.” You need to take care of yourself first or you won’t be successful taking care of your business, customers or employees.

3. Give yourself permission. Burn-out is common, especially given the challenges of the last two years. To avoid burn-out, you must give yourself permission to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Avoid comments like, “This is what my family and employees expect of me” or “This is how we’ve always done it.” 

4. Evaluate and reevaluate your task list - preferably daily. Burn-out occurs when numerous tasks are not being fulfilled or when you have spent all day putting out fires. Delegating or outsourcing tasks that can be completed by someone else - many times, at a cost savings - will allow you to focus more time and energy on projects that are rewarding and meaningful to you and the success of your business. 

5. Reset your priorities. Some business owners find a coach who will assist them. Others will rely on spouses, mentors and clergy. Regardless, evaluate the priorities in your life and refocus those. Burn-out can happen when we allow our lives to get out of control, blaming others for our frustrations instead of examining our own choices. 

6. Reexamine your life’s intentions. Reserve time to reflect on your personal purpose and values, your bigger-picture vision and your day-to-day playbook. 

7. Take a vacation. Even if you don’t think you can afford to take time off or need to take a vacation, it is always important to get away. Remember that recreation is really just “re-creation.” Taking time off is vital to not only yourself, but also your company and team. 

8. Take meaningful breaks. Schedule a time for meaningful breaks, whether that is exercise, meditation, time with family, getting away from technology or simply going to lunch with a spouse, friend or co-worker. Stepping away can sometimes provide the necessary mental break to allow creativity to flow.

9. Commit. When you are committed to your goals, understand your team’s strengths, know that customers are counting on you and you have true passion for what you are doing, burn-out and stress will not be an issue. This is not to say that you will not get tired. We all do. When that happens, exercise the discipline to get more rest, eat healthy and learn how to say no. 

10. Remember your personality and what motivates you. It is important when you feel stressed to take the time to reflect on what motivates you and inspires you to get up and do what you do daily. When we get lost in the day-to-day activities of our jobs, we can forget the feeling of why we chose the path we are on. 

11. Find activities you enjoy. Find sources of energy. These can be family, friends, sleep, quiet time, reading, golfing, fishing or any activity or thing that brings you refreshment and renewal. 

In summary, don’t be the person who says, “In my role, I’m the guy who catches it all. I don’t know how much longer I can last!” 

Stress and burn-out can be a slow fizzle. Before you know it, your personal well being - as well as the health of your organization - is suffering. Prevention is always the best cure. 

You must decide whether you own simply a job and tasks that you do not enjoy or you own a prosperous business that you can enjoy - and one that promotes good physical and mental health. 

Bill Ford is the president and CEO of SESCO Management Consultants, the oldest human resource and employee relations consulting firm in America today with many tire dealership clients. Ford can be contacted at (423) 764-4127 or

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