Most business owners I work with feel trapped. They start a business because they want more time, money, and freedom. But as they grow, they slowly give up their time and freedom. And they always worry about money.

They feel frustrated because the business can’t run without them and it seems the only way to scale is to work even harder. The energy and enthusiasm they used to feel have been replaced with exhaustion and overwhelm.

Worried this could be you someday? Be on the lookout for these 4 warning signs:

1. Your clarity is fading

Business owners usually start out doing what we know how to do. We’re confident, and it shows. We do our own selling – winning contracts and growing the business. As demand grows, we hire more people, but maybe we don’t make the best decisions or train them so well because we are so BUSY! Eventually, we have so many people that we have to amp up our selling to make sure we have enough work to keep everyone busy.

We start making all sorts of promises to our customers about what we can do for them – and they are all things we know are possible. But our team wasn’t there when we made the sale, and we don’t have time to explain everything in detail.

Confusion ensues, and quality suffers. Then we feel BAD because we let our client down. The staff feels BAD because they didn’t do a good job. And the client feels BAD because they didn’t get what they asked for.

2. You sell too many things

This goes hand-in-hand with losing clarity. You think that you’re safe if you’re diversified, so you sell lots of different types of things. Or you think that if you tailor your service to each customer’s individual needs, you’ll be more competitive. The problem is because there’s so much variety, your team doesn’t have the chance to become experts and they struggle to execute on what you sold. 

Because you do the selling, clients expect to speak with you personally. When you’re away, sales slow down (or stop). You can’t scale because you don’t have a solution that everyone understands and that everyone can explain, and the business relies too much on you.

3.  You think the success of the business is a reflection of your worth

You’ve poured yourself into your business. It’s part of your identity. You’ve started to associate your business’s success with your own self-worth, and when things go wrong, you make it mean something about you personally. When clients are unhappy, you think, “I want them to like me.” This line of thinking causes us to be critical of our team (and ourselves), which drives us to overwork and overmanage.

4. You’re desperate to escape

You drink, eat, and Netflix too much – anything to avoid thinking about your business. You abdicate responsibility, try to hand problems off to consultants to fix, or think about selling the business – but you know no one in their right mind would buy your business right now.

Do you see yourself in one or more of these? If so, know that it doesn’t have to be this way! I was there once myself but found my way out of the trap. The solution is to change how you think about your business and how you run it. That means working on both mindset and strategy. Love and logic. Grow yourself and grow your business. There are 3 key areas to work on.

Mindset: Learn how to manage your mind and decide to love your business and yourself.

Clarity: Narrow your focus, clarify your strategy, rethink how you generate revenue, and change the numbers you track (it’s not just about profit and loss!).

Freedom: Reduce your dependencies on staff, clients, and suppliers, and set up your business to run without you.