Navigating Burnout and the Path to Recovery When Your Business Hits Rock Bottom

When you embark on your business journey, nobody warns you about the potential lows you may face amidst the highs. Every journey is unique, and as entrepreneur Leanne Woff beautifully illustrates in her podcast episode titled “The Day It All Turned to Poo”, every pitfall and hurdle in your path can become an opportunity for growth. It’s a brave tale of resilience, burnout, and ultimate redemption. 

“Even if the worst things happen, you can always turn it around. I know I did.

This episode shares:

  • Recognising the dangers of being a people pleaser
  • The perils of perfectionism and high drive
  • Coping mechanisms and setting boundaries
  • Responding to personal crises while running a business
  • Constructing a recovery plan for business burnout

Recognising the Dangers of Being a People Pleaser

Being a people pleaser can feel like a double-edged sword. It’s a trait that propelled my business forward as I took immense pride in satisfying my clients’ needs. Yet, it came at the expense of my own well-being. I found myself chronically over-committing, barely able to catch my breath between tasks, unable to utter a simple “No”. This inability to set boundaries began to take a toll on both my personal and professional life.

Tip: 💡Practice saying “No” to tasks and commitments that overload your schedule or impinge on your work-life balance. It might be uncomfortable initially, as it was for me, but over time you’ll realise it’s a vital tool for safeguarding your mental health and improving productivity. Don’t let people-pleasing drive you to burnout. Put your well-being first.


The Perils of Perfectionism and High Drive

Embrace failure as an opportunity for learning. Don’t let perfectionism stifle your creativity or hinder your progress. Instead, view each mistake as a stepping stone towards success.

As a passionate and committed entrepreneur, my drive and perfectionism initially seemed like assets. However, the relentless pursuit of flawlessness started to create an internal struggle. I constantly sought excellence in every task, unable to accept anything less than perfection. If something wasn’t exactly right, I perceived it as a personal failure.

This mindset took a heavy toll on my mental and emotional wellbeing. Every unmet expectation, every less-than-perfect outcome turned into a stressor, holding me back from embracing new opportunities. Fear of failure overshadowed the thrill of exploration and innovation. Instead of experimenting with novel approaches to grow my business, I was caught up in the mire of tiny imperfections.

The day came when I realised that my fear of failure and obsession with perfectionism were acting as significant roadblocks to my business growth. They were not just impacting me but also stifling the potential of my business. What was meant to ensure quality and excellence was turning into a barrier for creativity, innovation, and risk-taking.

Action: 🎯 It is essential to embrace the concept that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. Mistakes are not signs of weakness or incompetence; they are opportunities for learning and growth. Growth and innovation often come from stepping out of our comfort zones, taking risks, and learning from our failures. So, don’t let the fear of failure or the quest for perfection hold you back. Embrace the beauty of imperfection, use mistakes as stepping stones, and always strive to keep moving forward.

Coping Mechanisms and Setting Boundaries

In my life, I’ve always been one to wear many hats – entrepreneur, mother, wife, friend. But there was a time when these roles began to blur and overwhelm me, leading to a personal crisis that greatly affected my business operations.

It started with a series of unfortunate personal events that hit me like a whirlwind. The sudden illness of a loved one, a global pandemic, and some financial instability sent my life into a tailspin. My stress levels skyrocketed, and my ability to focus on my business took a backseat. I was trying to navigate through this personal crisis while simultaneously maintaining the same level of commitment and productivity at work. It felt like I was walking a tightrope, and the slightest slip would lead to a hard fall.

During this period, I learned some valuable lessons about resilience, setting boundaries, and the importance of mental health. I recognised that my current coping mechanisms were inadequate, and if I wanted to keep my business running while managing personal life, I needed to establish firm boundaries between my personal and professional life.

Tip: 💡It is crucial to implement firm boundaries between your personal life and business. This could mean setting specific working hours and sticking to them, not checking work emails during family time, or ensuring you take regular breaks throughout the day for relaxation and self-care. Prioritise your mental health by incorporating self-care practices into your routine, such as meditation, exercise, or engaging in a hobby. Also, don’t underestimate the power of mental health days. Sometimes, taking a day off to recharge can make a world of difference. Remember, it’s not just about surviving; it’s about thriving, and that requires balance.

Responding to Personal Crises While Running a Business

Let me tell you, juggling personal crises while running a business is no small task. In my case, I was hit with a series of personal losses, one after the other. My heart felt heavy with grief and the normal daily routine I had once enjoyed began to feel like an insurmountable mountain.

This series of events shifted my perception of life drastically. It felt as though I was living under a cloud of constant gloom. My optimism, a characteristic I’d always been proud of, seemed to be slipping away. The enthusiasm with which I had once run my business was replaced with a constant sense of exhaustion and overwhelm. It didn’t take long before I hit business burnout.

In that moment of despair, I had to be brutally honest with myself. I had to face the fact that I was not alright and that it was okay to admit it. This honesty, coupled with vulnerability, gave me the courage to step back from my business temporarily and reevaluate my approach. It wasn’t an easy decision, and it definitely didn’t come without guilt, but it was a necessary one.

Action: 🎯If you find yourself in the midst of a personal crisis, remember, it’s alright to take a pause. Reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or mentor, someone who can offer perspective and guidance during your tough times. This person can provide a fresh viewpoint and emotional support, which can be incredibly helpful. Don’t shy away from taking a temporary step back from your business if necessary. It may feel like a setback, but remember, it’s a move towards your overall well-being. Your business will only thrive when you do, and it will surely benefit from your renewed focus and energy in the long run.

Constructing a Recovery Plan for Business Burnout

“And then I created a plan so that this would never happen again. I did not want this to tank my reputation, to tank my clients businesses, I did not want this to be an ongoing reality.”

Dealing with business burnout requires more than just a few days off work. In my case, I realised that I needed a comprehensive recovery plan to truly get back on my feet. This wasn’t a simple band-aid solution, but a complete overhaul of my business operations.

Firstly, I took a critical look at my pricing structure. I realised that I was underpricing my services, which was causing me to overwork and still not achieve the financial results I desired. So, I made the necessary adjustments to reflect the true value of my services.

Next, I redefined my client base. I had been trying to be everything to everyone, which was not only draining but also ineffective. By refining my target audience, I was able to focus on what I do best and serve my clients better.

One of the most important parts of my recovery plan was setting personal boundaries. I made it a rule to not let work spill over into my personal life, no matter how demanding the situation. I started to prioritise my well-being and made sure to carve out time for myself every day.

Lastly, I sought external support. I got myself a business coach, someone who could provide objective insights and keep me accountable. This helped me stick to my recovery plan and avoid falling back into old habits.

Tip: 💡 If you’re feeling burnt out, I strongly encourage you to create a personalised recovery plan that directly addresses your unique business challenges. This might involve restructuring your business operations, seeking external support, or setting new business goals. It’s all about finding what works for you and creating a sustainable business model that respects your limits and prioritises your well-being.

Wrapping it up

Hitting rock bottom in business isn’t a life sentence, but rather a turning point towards a healthier, more sustainable business practice. My story is an honest portrayal of resilience, acceptance, and transformation, offering valuable insights for anyone facing challenges in their entrepreneurial journey. Remember, it’s not just about the fall but more importantly about the rise after the fall. Embrace your journey, every high and low, for it molds you into the entrepreneur you are destined to be.


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Follow along with the transcript

E14 The day it all turned to poo

 [00:00:00] Hey, hey, everybody, welcome to today’s episode of The Audacious OBM. I’m Leanne Woff, and today [00:01:00] I want to talk to you about a personal story. I have called this episode, The Day It All Turned to Poo. I know, charming, right? But it’s true. I want to talk to you about a time where I was probably the lowest point in my business, and I want to talk to you about what led me there and then what I did to turn it around.

I’m a big believer in being honest and being open and that we’re people that run businesses and life is never just smooth for anybody. And as people, things come up and we have to deal with them and it does impact our businesses because we’re very intertwined, even if we try not to be. Now, for me to fully explain to you what happened, there’s a couple things [00:02:00] you need to know about me.

Biggest one is that I’m a people pleaser. I always have been. I remember when I was a teenager and I would go to youth group and I made all different connections there. And one of my… Favorite leaders there, we went through a phase where she said to me, Leanne, you need to use the N word and like, what, what is she talking about?

Leanne, you need to learn to say no. You don’t always have to say yes. You can say no, and that’s okay, and so I want you to practice saying no, and so as a teenager, but over the next, couple of years, I’d be talking to her about different things that are happening in life, and she would say to me, Leanne, you need to use the [00:03:00] n word, and I would have to remember, oh.

Yeah. Okay. I can do that. I can do that. And then when I did and I started putting boundaries in place and I started saying no to different things for me, it was a big deal. And so I would go back to her and say, Sally, Sally, I said no. And then tell her what had happened was this big celebration, right? So it’s always something that I found really hard is to disappoint people or for what I believe or perceive is disappointing people.

The other thing that you need to know about me is I’m a perfectionist. At least I used to be, and I’m incredibly driven. I like to achieve things. And, you know, to the point where when I was older, so let’s move on from teenage years, I was going to the psychologist. [00:04:00] And she gave me homework. And the homework was to fail on purpose, which I just thought was ludicrous.

Why on earth would I do that? Oof. Where is the benefit here? And she wanted me to sit with how uncomfortable I felt doing that. And see that on the other side of it, nothing really changed. Even if I failed, even if I disappointed someone, if I was late to an appointment, nothing happened. And that’s okay.

So it was a big… Process of shifting my perspective as I’ve gone along in life.

So, I then continued. I went on my merry way. I built my business and it was all going, good. [00:05:00] And then life happened, like a tornado, and I had a series of events that occurred very close together that threw everything out of whack. So I, my six week old nephew died. My uncle died. These are people that were so entwined in my life that it had a massive impact.

My six week old nephew dying triggered my niece coming to live with me, it was one, it, there were all these things that had these offshoots and it was like such extreme circumstances . A few years before that, my mom had been hit by a bus, a truck, sorry, a truck, she got hit by a truck and I’m just like, this does not happen in real life, but it does.

So these things compounded and the reality of them was [00:06:00] unbearable and intense. And that became my new baseline. My baseline for existing was to expect that life was going to be that intense, which is a very skewed view. And at the time I had no idea. I had no idea that that’s what I had done or that’s how I was trying to cope with everything.

I was just, I just continued to work, continue to do what I thought needed to be done and tried to process my emotions outside of all of that. To be honest, it was a very bad choice. But I didn’t know at the time. And then I remember having a conversation with one of my clients, who is incredible. She is amazing.

And [00:07:00] she said to me, I need you to realize this. I’m taking things off you. You are so far beyond burnout that you can’t even see it anymore. And it was like I had been smacked in the face. I was devastated. Absolutely gutted. Not because someone has said these mean things about me that’s not what I’m meaning, but it was the reality she was right, and the entire premise of my business and of what I do is to be supportive, to relieve pressure, to help people expand and grow, and I’ve just been told I was doing the opposite, [00:08:00] and that my standard wasn’t my normal standard, I was missing things.

My perception was different. What is going on here? And I couldn’t keep going that way. That was the truth of it. And so I stopped. I lost the majority of my clients. And by lost I mean I said, Okay, we have to slow down. Or when we were coming up to renewal time, I didn’t renew people, like I just scaled way down because I did not want to be the reason my clients didn’t get the support that they needed.

And then I took a pay cut because I’d done that. Fair enough. I cried a lot about everything. There was [00:09:00] a lot of things that I went through and it was a big deal. And then I created a plan so that this would never happen again. I did not want this to tank my reputation, to tank my clients businesses, I did not want this to be an ongoing reality.

And so, I looked at everything. I did a massive overhaul of the way I ran my business. I changed the way I do pricing. I changed the type of people that I now choose to work with. I put personal boundaries in place. So now, even if I’m very driven to just work a little bit later, to just do a little bit more, I have to choose not [00:10:00] to, because then I end up being really tired.

And even though I’m happy to do it at the time, it compounds and then you end up exhausted and then you can’t think as clearly as you would have. So I had to learn some more things about myself and then put boundaries in place to help prevent that snowballing. I got realistic about the time I had available.

What does it actually look like? How much work time do I really have? And how much money do I need to make in that time? Because if my business couldn’t support that, it wasn’t doing what it needed. And I needed to be able to have a business that would pay me what I needed, operating at a high level and a great service.

Then [00:11:00] I changed the way that I work with my team and the things that I hand over and the discussions that I have. I changed the way I communicate with my clients and what I communicate with my clients. And the last thing that I did was got a coach that I very, very much trust. So every time I work with this coach, my business grows.

That’s just the reality of it. And it’s, Because of who they are and how I feel when they’re in my corner and I feel like I can do what I need to do and I feel like I’m being held accountable, but not in a scary way, but it is let’s set some things that are actually achievable that we can do or let’s try this and see what happens.

And, hey people pleaser, it’s okay if it doesn’t work, because it’s all play. [00:12:00] And this point in my life, where it all turned to poo, I really do believe it will be the lowest point that my business has experienced. Like, there was a tornado. It was a living nightmare. And there were a lot of things I needed to change to right the ship.

And I’m so glad that I did them. I’m so glad that I didn’t just give up. I’m so thankful that I have clients that are open and honest with me, and that I was a brave enough person to actually hear what they were saying at that point, even though it was the last thing I wanted to hear. And I’m sharing this with you, because I want you to know that if you’re finding it hard in life, or if you’re building an OBM business and you’re finding that hard, [00:13:00] it’s okay.

And even if the worst things happen, you can always turn it around. I know I did. And I really believe that we need to talk about these things more because I’m fairly certain that some of the things that I changed, some of the things I experienced, just sharing them will help you in your journey. And when somebody else shares theirs with me, it will help me in my journey.

So I wanted to have and take the opportunity to allow you to get to know me a little bit better. A real, true, honest version of me. And that’s all for today’s episode. I hope that it gives you… excitement and confidence or makes you feel nice on the inside because I know that some of those things aren’t very fun to talk about [00:14:00] but I really do hope it’s equipped you with a new way to think about things.

Have a great day everybody. I shall see you next week.