From the February 1999 issue of Startups

What happened? You were fired up about your business during the early days. But now, after working ungodly long hours for weeks, months or even years, your passion is barely a flicker.

"You can only keep up the start-up pace for maybe a couple of years and then you're done," says Kevin Gross, 30, president and founder of Train Reinforce Inspire Inc. (TRI), a motivational training and consulting firm in Elmhurst, Illinois. "You emotionally either can't do it or you refuse to. You're just fried."

Gross knows the feeling. "When we started, we worked every day--I mean, every day--for almost two years," he says. "We would maybe take Sunday off. But, you know, when you're worrying about [the business], it's kind of like working. Then you get to a point where, it's like, you've had enough. You're almost sick of it."

But Gross and company didn't allow the fatigue factor to stand in the way of their objectives. Since Gross founded TRI in 1994, the firm has rapidly expanded beyond the original confines of his three-room apartment to a 13-employee operation with 1999 revenues projected at $10 million.

When you feel frustrated, irritable and sick of your business, what should you do? To re-ignite your initial enthusiasm and keep your company moving forward, try these five tips:

1. Adjust expectations. "We measure success around here not just in revenue and dollars sold, but in lives and organizations impacted," says Gross. "The great thing about [this standard] for our company is that even if you get bloodied one day, you can still go home and say `Well, at least I got the word out to help people communicate more effectively.' You come away with a sense of satisfaction. It feels good, plus it makes good business sense."

2. Commit to win. "When you play to win in the business game, you can win," Gross says. "At the point you change from playing to win to playing not to lose, it's the beginning of the end: the beginning of losing."

3. Take a break. Here's what usually happens during the start-up phase: The more stressed you feel, the less you rest. But the less you rest, the more stressed you feel. What can you do to break the cycle? Take a vacation, go to a sporting event, take a nap--whatever recharges your batteries. Only then will you feel more energized to take on the challenges of running your company.

4. Talk about your business. Get into a conversation or social situation where you tell someone new about your vision. Says Gross, "The point where I get most rekindled is when I'm at a party and people ask me `What do you do?' and I tell them. Immediately they say `Boy, if there's a company that needs you, it's my company.' This happens consistently."

5. Call happy customers. Ask them what they really like about doing business with you. "[Happy customers] will say something to make your life worthwhile," Gross comments. "Their reaction is the clearest validation of why you do what you do. It so fires you up. After talking with them, you're like `This is the best I've ever been at something, and I'm going to go back and kick some butt!' "


Sean M. Lyden (seanlyden@mindspring.com) writes frequently on motivational, sales and leadership issues. What psychological obstacles to success are you trying to overcome? Tell us at bsumag@entrepreneurmag.com.

Fanning The Flames

Fired up about your new venture? Here's what you can do to keep your passion burning strong:

1. Make rest a priority. Remember, you always accomplish more when you feel energized than when you're exhausted.

2. Keep the food-and-mood connection in mind. Too busy for breakfast or a lunch break? Skipping meals may seem honorable at first, but after a while, you start feeling weak and irritable--and you get significantly less done than if you took the time to eat right in the first place.

3. Fit in time for fitness. Regular exercise is an excellent way to let off steam and get you psyched to take on the day's challenges.

Contact Sources

Training Reinforce Inspire Inc., (630) 993-6399, http://www.tri-performance.com