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Getting Excited Again

How to avoid professional burnout.

Have you found that the passion for your business is waning?  Or it ebbs and flows based on the day? Is it starting to feel like work and not love? The same thing happened to me, but I’ve rediscovered the passion, and I hope you can, too.

When I started The Source Home Theater 15 years ago, we were focused exclusively on AV (isn’t it obvious from the company name?). I was so excited about the industry, about my business, and about the work we did. How couldn’t I be? I was doing something I loved and was my own boss.  Jobs were fairly small and I was very hands-on with every job and every client — from mounting TVs to being on-site the entire time of every job. I had the deep passion every new business owner feels.

That passion continued as the business grew and as we expanded into home automation. We became a Crestron dealer and excitement grew as we added more subsystems and we got to learn about more products and technologies. Personal growth and learning is always exciting and makes employees and owners alike feel engaged and driven. However, as the categories we covered grew, so did the complexity of the installs, the size of the jobs, and the ultimate responsibility we were taking for subsystems in clients’ homes.

With the projects getting larger and larger, I got farther away from the client. Not only was the majority of our time on-site during construction so the client wasn’t around, but we were also frequently working closely with the designer or architect and spoke with the client less frequently. While we still developed strong relationships, they were not as personal and tightly knit as they had been when the client was there with us every step of the way as we installed and configured their surround system in the living room.

Also by Todd Anthony Puma: Great Partners Innovate

As we took on more and more subsystems, we found we were getting calls from clients for issues that we were not responsible for. I can’t tell you how many times clients have called us in a panic and yelling that our system was broken because a light wasn’t working.  We go through all of our troubleshooting steps, logging into the system remotely and confirming that the dimmer is working and is online. It usually turns out that the light bulb died. We now have them replace the light bulb immediately — even though most of them fight us and push back saying there is no way the it is the light bulb; they swear they just replaced it.  But it ends up being the light bulb.

Or the HVAC system isn’t working, and since it is a Crestron thermostat, we get the call. Ninety-nine times out of 100 it is an issue with the HVAC hardware. Since we were pretty much the only trade they dealt with that was structured for, and provided, after-sales support, we get all of the calls. And they are often angry or stressful calls.  Over time, these calls and negative feedback took a toll, and I had become jaded and less passionate.

Then a great client would come along who loved everything we did, loved their system, appreciated the care we took in protecting their home during the work, and expressed sincere gratitude for our efforts and results. These jobs would invariably lift my spirits and get me motivated again for a few weeks.

So I challenged myself to figure out how to keep the motivation and passion without having to rely on a client to do it for me. I have come up with three great strategies:

  1. Keep a file of the emails and messages from those excited, appreciative clients. Read through two-to-three messages every week or two.
  2. Maintain passion for the tech — become a beta tester and check out the amazing new gear from your vendors before it hits the market. It feels great to have input on product development and to be “in the know.” Getting that new box to test out always gets the excitement flowing.
  3. Keep on top of the more positive dealer and end user forums. Be positive in those forums yourself. Positivity breeds positivity.

Also by Todd Anthony Puma: Keep It Positive

And remember: your attitude is contagious. Don’t let your frustration or negativity show to your team.  They will feed off of your energy.  Keep it positive and help keep them positive!