Beating the Overload Problem as a Small Business Owner

No-one who starts their own business could be under any illusion that it’s going to be easy, stress-free, and plain-sailing from the word go. small business overloadIf it was, many more people would be doing it, and succeeding. In fact, being a business owner is hard work, full of potential for stress, and can be a steep learning curve when plans don’t work out as you anticipated. For a good few entrepreneurs, the challenge of overcoming these difficulties is part of the attraction, and they relish tackling whatever is thrown at them. But no matter how capable you are of dealing with everything that is required of you, you will still suffer a degree of overload if you don’t take steps to avoid it.

What is overload?

Overload occurs when you have taken on more than you can manage as an individual. You will have your own capacity for responsibility, workload, physical and mental effort, and time, and if any of these elements exceeds your capacity, you will start to struggle. However organized you might be, there comes a point where it is simply not possible to keep all your juggling balls in the air. That means that you find yourself working every hour of the day, yet not being able to keep on top of things, existing in a constant state of catch-up.

When this happens, you can lose sight of your strategic goals, and get so mired in the everyday tasks that rather than building your business, you are continually plugging gaps and firefighting. Not only does this impact your business, but it could affect your health and your home life, so overload is definitely something to be avoided. So, what are the answers to keeping overload problems out of your life?


One of the primary sins of business owners, especially when they first start up, is a failure to trust anyone else to do a job as well as they believe they could do it themselves. This means that instead of delegating tasks to other members of staff, or outsourcing areas of the business to an independent agent, you take everything on yourself and end up with far too much to do. It can be hard to relinquish control over any aspect of your business, because this is your baby, a huge investment that doesn’t mean as much to anyone else in your mind.

If you retain control, nothing will go wrong; if you ask someone else to do anything, they won’t have the personal and financial investment, let alone your knowledge and expertise, so the task will not be done to the same high standards. This belief is a fallacy, and if you stop and think about it, you’ll realize that if it were true no business would be able to operate. The key is to get the right person for the right job, and to train, guide and monitor them so you can be sure they are achieving the results you desire.


This is just another form of delegation, but instead of giving a task to a member of your own team, you use another company or freelancer who specializes in the relevant area. There is resistance to outsourcing for many of the same reasons as there are with delegating, but a notable exception to this is small business accounts. Plus, a key motivating factor for this is the consequences of getting your tax returns wrong. No-one wants to get on the wrong side of the IRS, and so you will employ an accountant or other tax professional to make sure you’re complying with the law and not missing out on any benefits or allowances to which you are entitled.

Now of course, when you choose someone to do your tax returns for you, you don’t just pick the first name that appears at the top of a search engine list. You look for personal recommendations from people you trust, reviews, relevant qualifications, the quality of the company’s website and how you feel about the person when you meet them. If they are uninspiring and you doubt whether they will do an outstanding job for you, you’re unlikely to hire them. If on the other hand they are enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and can show you how they use cutting-edge systems like UltimateTax Software to prepare your returns efficiently and accurately, you’ll feel far happier about letting them take the reins.

Exactly the same principles apply to all the other aspects of your business, including the outcomes of getting it wrong. If you build your own website, because it keeps it under your control and saves you paying to get a specialist company in, that may sound like sensible reasoning. However, there are two potential problems. The first is that you aren’t as skilled at website design as you need to be to ensure the effectiveness of your online presence. The second is that the time you spend fiddling with the website is time you can’t spend on your primary role, which is the development of the business. Therefore, you could be losing far more than you’re saving, and it could amount to far more than an underpaid tax bill from the IRS!

Saying no

Very often, in life as well as business, you can find it hard to say no when asked to do things. You accept more and more clients without filtering out the less profitable ones, for example, anxious that you should hold on to every client you can get. You agree to do community activities, guest on webinars, write a book about your area of expertise, and many other activities because if it’s offered it would be ungrateful to turn it down. In fact, if you want to avoid overload and perform at your best, saying no is a skill you need to develop, or you will end up with far too much on your plate.

Managing your workload and preventing overload are essential if you want your business to succeed. Learning how to delegate, outsource and say no appropriately are the main ways to achieve this, so acquire these skills before you find yourself suffering from the perils of overload.

About Carol Trehearn

Carol Trehearn is a writer and blogger.