I've been running my business for 3 years now. It's grown substantially and doing quite well but I seem to be losing the passion of running the business. I'm interested in doing newer things but need to keep focused on this business to grow it further. As a consequence, it's been around 6 months now and I've not contributed much to my own business and not done anything else as well in the process. I have a staff of 30 right now and business has tremendous potential to grow but I don't know why, I'm not so interested any more. How do I get the passion back? I can easily earn more but just don't feel the need for it, since I seem to be content. I guess that's the problem, when you get the feeling of being content, you lose passion? Any advice?
First - I'd suggest you take a big vacation! Not a "blackberry vacation" but a real one. Three years is a LONG time to be buried in all the details of a business and a long time to do the same thing day after day.
When you come back, figure out a way to hire someone to do the things you don't enjoy and focus your time on the things you DO enjoy. If that's still not enough, sell the business and go on to your next start up. If you don't want to sell completely, then get someone to do the management - and - give them a big chunk of equity so they are fully motivated.
I'd say, you should talk to somebody in person about the problem -- not to some guys on the Internet.
You see, the first problem you need to figure out is to find out what you were truly passionate about. You say it's running the business. But that doesn't mean it was really your passion. Maybe it was just the challenge. Maybe it was building something. Maybe, the business was just a means to get something completely different and it was the prospect of getting it that was exciting.
A good starting point may be to ask yourself, whether and why you felt discontent before you started your company?
You need someone to talk to and the other one should be unattached to you personally. Otherwise, he or she would be emotionally engaged, and is unlikely to be helpful. You need someone objective.
Right now, there's just one thing you can say for sure: It wasn't something that you haven't reached so far. For example, you were probably not passionate about being really rich or famous, I guess. Otherwise you wouldn't feel content, would you?
The next thing to figure out: Did your personal circumstances change in the last years? Sometimes, it's not so much the loss but the gain of something that affects or bothers you.
For example, maybe you've crossed a certain age? I think, it's quite normal to loose some idealism and passion when one gets older. Or maybe, you became a father. This may have also affected your emotional state. Obviously, you've created an organization and you're now responsible for 30 people. This may affect your personal awareness of freedom and independence.
Depending on the true reasons, there are several means to deal with the situation. For example, if the problem is due to a lack of a new (business) goal, the means could be as simple as setting a new one and go for it. Otherwise, you may try some adjustments in your schedule and reserve time for doing something else -- to teach, for example, or to help people or to inform yourself about the state of things outside your business.
In extreme cases, you may need to make a hard decision. But you need to find the reasons first. Talking to someone in person is a good idea since he can study your emotional response to likely reasons and tests.
Hope this helps.
This is not uncommon. Some people have an interest in creating and developing new things - and then move on after the challenge is gone. Others have a penchant for details and running things as efficiently as they can.
Running and growing an existing business is a lot different than creating and building one.
If it has lost your interest then hire someone to run it for you and move on, or sell it.
Use the time, money and freedom to find something else.
As an example:
My wife started and grew a sports facility. She grew it from the ground up and created a profitable business that never had debt. After about two years she was looking to do more creative things with the business. After the third year she was ready to sell/hand off the business as it held no more interest for her. There were aspects about it that she was still passionate about (specific programs and public outreach) but the day to day operations were tedious and not interesting for her. Even the thought of expanding and growing was just a mechanical operation - it required work and skills she didn't really care for - she thrived on a different set of things.
Here is my answer, you probably don't have operations/execution person as your right hand man/woman.
I have been that operations guy for the last 12 years for several companies, so what you describe is not new to me. What you describe is what I encountered when I joined almost every company or when my consulting client hired me. Mundane nuts-and-bolts of the business tend to wear out certain types of founders. Accountants, lawyers, vendors, employee issues, banks, AP/AR, etc. tend to suck the energy out of innovators.
They much rather go get more clients, dream up and build new products, or work on that next hot thing. Operating the business burns them out. You can do that in a young startup, but once you become responsible (yes, some will fight me on that, but you are) for the livelihoods of people who come back to work every day to help you realize your vision, day to day management of the company becomes a much higher priority.
That is what operations guys/gals are for. There are plenty who claim to be ops people, but just like developers, many are fakes. You are either born an ops person or you are not (just like you are either engineer or not). I know one when I meet one just by how they talk about their team and the company.
That all said, Paul, think about it this way - there are 30 people + their families who are doing better and are not in unemployment lines, because of your company. When you wake up tomorrow, think about how YOU can make their lives even better and how YOU can bring in even more people into your company, who will do whatever it takes to make YOU win!
A couple possible thoughts.
So while I agree with the "take a vacation" advise I'd have to say I dissent with the "sell it and start over" advise. If you can't figure out what makes you happy and implement it in a company you're already running it's unlikely that you'll be able to in a new company.
I find that when my energy sags the right answer is to get out and talk to customers more. It can be so easy to focus on the company and stop talking to customers but most of us start companies to help customers, to solve their problems.
Getting out and talking to them directly you'll find that you are really helping people which is re-energizing and you can also learn about new problems which gives you great data to develop new solutions.
This is a common problem with people who create things. I have had it many times and it can be a bit depressing. For me, it stems from accomplishing a really tough goal, that no one ever thought could be done. You sweat, fret, beat your head against the wall and finally, with what feels like a whimper, your done. Mission Accomplished (pardon the pun). Now what.
What you have done is remarkable. You built a thriving business that can take of itself. As Tim puts it, running an on-going concern is a lot different than building it from scratch. It sounds like you want to build not run.
It looks like it might be a challenge to find someone to run your business, so maybe that's your next be challenge -- put Paul Smith out of a job.
Before you do anything, take Claus' advice, talk to someone one-on-one that your trust and have them help you formulate a plan.
You may need to redefine your mission and your challenge. Starting up a new enterprise is one kind of adventure, but taking that enterprise and making it world-class is another. If you need passion, excitement and stimulation in order to re-engage your mission as an organizational founder, perhaps you need to take a step back and reconceptualize what you are after and what your ultimate goals could be.
Someone who is really, really good on all issues related to taking organizations through many distinct stages of growth, with new challenges at every stage, is the management writer/consultant Ichak Adizes. He has a very good book on this subject called Managing Corporate Lifecycles (sorry, I can only post one link at present... the book is on his general site, above). There is a brief BusinessBalls article about his model, but it's not too informative. There's a wiki on wikidot with some info on it as well (paei.wikidot.com/adizes-methodology).
In a nutshell - there's a book by this title but I haven't read it yet and can't recommend it - there is a new horizon for you to aim for, and a new mountain to climb, without leaving your current business behind, but you have to re-orient your efforts because "What got you here won't get you there" (I think the book is more about personal development than organizational development, but the basic concept seems similar). If the idea of taking a new step and taking your business to the next level excites you, then you need to learn about what that transition means for you and your business.
I think it is exciting to take a business to the next level, but I also know other people who prefer to be "start-up specialists" or "sprouting founders", who take things from a "brainchild" phase to a kind of early childhood phase, and then hand the reins over to others to take it from there, while they search for another brianchild to bring into the world. Only you can decide what your preferences are on that score.