When the business you own loses its personal meaning

What do you do when the business you own no longer provides the personal meaning and fulfillment it once did? The answer is rarely clear cut, especially if your business is otherwise successful and employees and customers are counting on you. 

When I found myself in this position, I sold my half of a business to my co-founder and started down a very different career path – which today includes executive coaching and organizational consulting. But selling is only one choice you have as a business owner who wants to rekindle a sense of purpose in your work. 

Purpose isn't only for your employees 

Most of what is written about business purpose and mission is approached from the perspective of an employee. When employees feel their work is contributing to a better world, they are more engaged and are more apt to stick around. 

What about when you’re the employer, when it’s your business, and you’re the restless and unfulfilled one in the organization? You can’t just dust off your resume and start looking for new work. Obligations to customers, employees, partners, investors and lenders make your choices far more complicated and restrictive than the average employee. 

And yet, there’s that voice, reminding you of the obligation you’re forgetting – the one to yourself. Once you take on business partners or employees, your business becomes bigger than you. It’s easy to place the needs of others ahead of your own. 

But as the years move along, you and circumstances in your life change and so can your desires and priorities. The question is whether you fully acknowledge the changes and think through how they affect your decisions going forward. 

What are your choices?

In my experience, you have three basic choices when your business doesn’t satisfy your deeper personal needs: 

  • Maintain the status quo and find ways outside your business to create the impact or find the fulfillment you seek
  • Change your business so it better aligns with your values, where you are in life or the difference you want to make
  • Sell or close your business and head in a new direction

More than one of these options may be viable, depending on your situation. And each raises its own sizable questions and challenges:

  • If I choose to keep my business as it is, where or how else might I contribute to the greater good?
  • If I choose to shake up my business, how do I decide which changes to make and how do I bring along others in the organization to support and implement them?
  • If I choose to leave my business, how will I go about selling or closing it – and, as importantly, what will I do next?

Benefits of a coach

I know how preoccupied we can become responding to the pace of external change buffeting the businesses we run and the customers we serve. On occasion, however, it is our own personal change and desires that warrant our full attention. At these times you can benefit from an executive coach who champions you, while you’re busy looking after the needs of employees, customers and others. 

A coach can help you choose a direction, set goals and create a personal plan for your business that brings the outcomes you want. 

Your experience as a business owner?

If you found yourself losing connection with your business, what did you do? I'd love to hear about the choices you made and what you learned.