7 Ways MSP Business Owners Can Prevent Burnout

There was a time when hearing his office phone ring nearly sent Angel Rojas, Jr., over the edge. He was a dozen years into running his managed IT services business, which was primed for growth and putting more demands on his time. He also had a toddler who needed surgery and a newborn who cried constantly.

“Because of the baby screaming, I developed a noise sensitivity,” recounts Rojas, CEO and president of DataCorps Technology Solutions, an MSP in Brandon, Florida. “Over time, that wore on me.”

Angel Rojas, Jr.

Rojas also mandated that his three employees at the time return to the office—and they quit. So, Rojas had to rebuild the team. “I lost years of operational knowledge and had to train new people and had a baby who wasn’t sleeping, so I wasn’t resting,” he says.

That was 2014 and Rojas was experiencing burnout. He describes it as “a sense or feeling of hopelessness combined with a feeling of failure and a feeling of being put in a corner and being afraid and angry . . . of whatever it is that puts you in that corner.”

This is not an uncommon scenario for small MSP business owners. They wear many hats, work long hours, worry about financial pressures, and often feel alone.

What Are Some Signs Of Burnout?

Nearly half (42%) of small business owners have experienced burnout, a syndrome resulting from chronic stress at work. It is characterized by overwhelming exhaustion, negative attitudes, or a lack of client commitment and dissatisfaction with job performance, according to a 2022 study by Capital One and the NextGen Chamber of Commerce.

“Burnout is just this absolute soup of head trash and garbage… It’s the fear of success and fear of failure at the same time.”

Angel Rojas, Jr., CEO/President, DataCorps Technology Solutions

“Losing your spark and excitement for work and dreading that next day coming” are also signs, says Adam Spencer, CEO of 911 IT, an MSP in Salt Lake City, Utah. A small MSP business owner should be looking forward to going to work and talking about their business to others, Spencer says. “With burnout, it feels like you’re stuck in problems, spinning your wheels, and not moving anywhere,” he recounts about his own feelings. “It takes the fun out of it.”

Cynicism toward work or individuals is another indicator, according to Gina Calvano, a career transformation consultant and author of From Burnout to Purpose: Simple Strategies for a Soul-Fulfilling Approach to Work.

Adam Spencer

“You just can’t look at anything with any type of enjoyment; there’s always some voice that says, ‘This won’t work, or this will be the way it’s always been in the past,’” Calvano says.

For Rojas, irritability and anxiety were signs. For instance, he experienced anxiety “over something insignificant, like a client asking you for a list of services you offer,” he says. “That sets you off in a panic . . . you think, ‘Oh my God, they are going to fire me.’ Burnout is just this absolute soup of head trash and garbage . . . It’s the fear of success and fear of failure at the same time. It’s ugly and dark.”

How Common Is Burnout For Small Business Owners?

Burnout, unfortunately, is common. A Gallup poll of business owners found the causes included the uncertainty that comes with owning your own business (52%), always being on the job (43%), and balancing work and family (39%).

Calvano says that often small business owners tend to approach work as something they do to feed and satisfy their ego, which drives them to go out on their own.

Often, she notes, there is a misperception that loving your work is enough, but that does not necessarily prevent burnout.

What Steps Can You Take To Prevent Burnout?

Here are some ways you can reduce or prevent burnout:

1. Rebalance your workload

A whopping 97% of respondents to a 2023 Work-Life Balance study by Walmart Business found that business owners are lightening their workload by allotting time every day for administrative and operational tasks.

2. Delegate more

Another 81% of respondents in the Work-Life study are delegating the task of ordering supplies to their staff.

3. Get a business coach

This can be helpful if the business coach targets the root cause of the burnout or business challenge, says Rojas. However, he adds, “If you’re not equipped to deal with your failures in business and act to resolve them . . . you’re not ready for a business coach.” Calvano agrees. “You can’t just say, ‘I’ve hired a business coach; therefore, I’ll be OK.’”

4. Take a vacation

You may already be laughing at the notion of leaving your business even for one week. However, author Mike Michalowicz in Clockwork advocates for putting documented systems in place so your business can run without you—for a four-week vacation. He maintains your business—and you—will be healthier for it.

5. Adopt healthier habits

Rojas started therapy at 38. At the time, he weighed 305 pounds and had Stage 2 hypertension. He began a personal training program and got down to 195 pounds, which he has maintained. He says exercise has made him “mentally and physically stronger.” One of the best things people can do is pay attention to their health, Calvano says. “Exercise and fitness can be very powerful, especially when you feel powerless.”

6. Join a peer group

Spencer joined sales and marketing specialist TMT. His peer group provides huge benefits, he notes. “Now I’m in a group with 10 other MSPs across the country, and they’re all like my business coach and act as my sounding board. The group offers suggestions based on what they have found useful. It has benefitted us a thousandfold.”

7. Leverage technology/automation

While automating tasks is not going to “safeguard you from burnout,” Calvano says, anything you can do to make your job easier is great.

Don’t Wait To Address Burnout!

Burnout does not have to be a chronic condition for MSP business owners. Recognize that you are not alone—others are also experiencing the business, financial, and personal stresses of running a company. Find an approach that works for you and take that first step to prevent burnout and achieve a better frame of mind.

Concludes Calvano, “If we’re not taking care of ourselves, we aren’t guaranteeing our ability to continue to offer people what it is we have to offer.’’ 

Esther Shein is a longtime freelance tech and business writer. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including ChannelPro, TechRepublic, and Network Computing Magazine.



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