Should I Sell My Business If I Lose Interest in It? (Podcast) | Ep. #075

Elizabeth Larkin, Michael Kelly, and Eric Dollinger

Let’s be honest. Regardless of how passionate you are about running your own business, there are bound to be times when your work leaves you feeling a bit dissatisfied. So, how can you tell if your unhappiness is merely stress or if it is finally time to reconsider your current career choice? In episode #75, Elizabeth Larkin and Gene Marks offer extensive advice on how to assess and ultimately, deal with these negative emotions.

Executive Summary

9:20 — Today’s Topic: Should I Sell My Business If I Lose Interest in It?

11:34 — If you are feeling burned out, take time outside of work to engage in activities that you enjoy.

12:25 — However, if your business is causing you significant unhappiness or physical pain, then it may be time to move on to a new endeavor.

13:40 — Gene discusses how delving into someone’s personal life can actually provide employers with insight into a potential job applicant’s character and employability.


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Elizabeth: Gene, I wanted to hear about your new phone.

Gene: Well, I have a story to tell you, and I think we can all learn from this. Smartphone repair is a big business nowadays. People can do it. They repair the screens and all that.

Elizabeth: I just walked by a kiosk at the mall last night where they charge, I think it’s…

Gene: 100 bucks or 200 bucks or something like that, and then they repair the whole thing. It’s becoming a thing. Anyway, Elizabeth, last Friday I dropped my phone and the screen cracked, and the display was flashing.

Elizabeth: Uh-oh.

Gene: It was unusable. It was bad. I really, I need, everybody needs their phone. I don’t want to say it’s I’m so special, but I need the phone.

Elizabeth: You are special, Gene, come on.

Gene: There’s a phone repair place that was right near me. This is a Friday afternoon, and they were closed at this point, but I went online and their website said they were open at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, and you can make an appointment online.

Elizabeth: Oh, good.

Gene: I go right online, and they were using Calendly, which is, I don’t know if you ever used Calendly. It’s fantastic for a small business to make appointments in advance.

Elizabeth: We’ll put that in the show notes.

Gene: Yeah, it’s excellent. I go onto Calendly and I reserve for 10:00 am the next day to go in. I go there at 10:00 am and I’m standing outside the guy’s shop, and it’s 10:15, and it’s 10:20, and it’s 10:30.

Elizabeth: Gene is getting mad.

Gene: Fuming. Fuming. I was fuming. There’s no guy showing up. It was like, 10 is a business. It’s 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday, I’d made the appointment.

Elizabeth: I hope you left them a mean Google review.

Gene: Good question. The guy, he doesn’t show up. I left. There was a Verizon store locally, and my phone is up for very soon to be renewed anyway, and I’m like you know what, I’m just gonna bite the bullet so I went to Verizon, and I spent even more money to get it bought. That’s a whole other story. Anyway, this guy emails me a couple hours later and said, “Hey Gene, just wanted to make sure that, I saw that you had reserved to come in. We don’t open till noon.” We don’t open till noon. I emailed back, and I was like are you… I don’t know this guy. I’m like, you’re kidding, right? You have on your website it’s at 10:00 a.m., on your website, and I made an account of it. “No, I need to get that update. We don’t open until noon.”

Elizabeth: Not cool. Not cool.

Gene: I was like dude, I’m sorry, I went somewhere else, best of luck to you in the future. The thought did occur to me, should I just go roast him on Yelp or a Google review, and I didn’t. Now, would you’ve? Would you’ve?

Elizabeth: If he’d never contacted me, yes, I definitely would.

Gene: Would you?

Elizabeth: The fact that he contacted you… but it doesn’t sound like he really-

Gene: He contacted me for all the wrong reasons. He didn’t even apologize. It was just like, “Where were you? Come at noon.”

Elizabeth: It sounds like he didn’t take ownership of it, which you would be looking for in that situation. I might. It depends on what mood I was in.

Gene: It’s mood. It’s a mood thing. I just don’t do that stuff. First of all, I got better… it’s all negative karma, you know? I guess the question is, when people give bad Yelp reviews, I totally get, if you had a bad experience I think it’s fair enough, voice your disapproval. In this case, this guy was out of my mind at this point. I already had a new phone in my hand, and this guy was history. I’m like you know what? I’m not gonna go and take even extra time-

Elizabeth: I’ve done that one time. I was looking for a new dentist.

Gene: Right.

Elizabeth: I love my dentist now, but I was looking for a new one, and I found one really close to my office. I looked at the Google reviews, because Google has the best reviews because they’re not edited at all and everyone said, “He runs late.” “He runs late.” “He runs late.”

Gene: That stinks, by the way.

Elizabeth: For some reason, I was like well, it’s really convenient, I’ll go anyway. I had an 11:45 appointment. I waited. I waited. At 12:30, I said to the person at the front desk, “I have a meeting at 1:30 at my office. I have to get back to work. My appointment was-

Gene: Sure.

Elizabeth: At 11:45. How is he running now?” “Oh, it should be a few minutes.” Finally, at 1:10-

Gene: Oh, my goodness.

Elizabeth: …I’m like, I have to get back to my office. I walked out, and I said, “I have a meeting at 1:30.”

Gene: You had an 11:30 appointment?

Elizabeth: 11:45.

Gene: Oh, my god. I would have been furious.

Elizabeth: She looks at me, she just looks up from the desk and goes, “Alright.” I went on Google, and I wrote a review. A couple weeks later, one of my coworkers from another department, not even on my team, came up to me and said, “I was gonna go to that dentist, and I read the Google reviews, and yours was the first one and I decided to not go.”

Gene: You know, it’s funny. I think we’re doing a public service by leaving bad reviews on Yelp or Google, I mean, because you’re… I look at those reviews if I’m looking at a new restaurant or I’m looking at like you just said, like a dentist, it really does provide, helps you. Yet, I can’t… I think it’s ’cause I’m a business owner myself. This guy with the cell phone screen repair thing, he’s running a little business. I mean, okay, the guy stunk, but I’m very conflicted about it because I’m like, I don’t want to sit there and hurt him and his business-

Elizabeth: Okay, but here’s the… I get that.

Gene: But then the customers, shouldn’t I be telling other people this guy isn’t very good?

Elizabeth: The difference is, with this dentist, though, he’s a well-established dentist.

Gene: Right.

Elizabeth: He has a huge staff.

Gene: Right.

Elizabeth: It was really the “alright” that put me over the edge.

Gene: That really stinks.

Elizabeth: Come on. I actually-

Gene: No apologies. They couldn’t even care. Couldn’t even care less.

Elizabeth: No. No. Didn’t care. I went to a different dentist and, the first time I went, sure enough they made me wait 20 minutes for my appointment. They apologized profusely and, on the way out, they gave me a $25 gift card to Target.

Gene: Wow. That makes-

Elizabeth: And said, “We’re really sorry that we made you wait. We know your time is valuable.”

Gene: Oh, my goodness.

Elizabeth: Honestly, I had left work early to rush over there-

Gene: Sure.

Elizabeth: And then I sat and waited for 20 minutes.

Gene: That’s aggressive.

Elizabeth: That’s why, in contrast with the other people who just said, when I said, “I’ve been here for an hour and a half, I have a meeting in 15 minutes, I have to go.” “All right.” It’s really in how you handle it.

Gene: It is. It is.

Elizabeth: If someone had said, “You know what, we really value your time. We’re really sorry. If you want to reschedule, I’ll try to get you in as quickly as possible.” That would have made all the difference. It’s all customer service.

Gene: It really is. It really is. Anyway, I feel conflicted about it, and I just have… I don’t know, and I don’t even… I never leave bad Yelp reviews. I’ve left good reviews, never bad.

Elizabeth: I leave good reviews. I’ve only left… that was the only bad review I’ve ever left.

Gene: Fair enough. Fair enough. Was it therapeutic?

Elizabeth: It was. It was, especially when my coworker came up to me and said… I was a little embarrassed that I had left a bad review, but then I looked back on it. I was like, this is well written and polite, it’s fine.

Gene: I was gonna say, if you’re a consumer and you’re leaving a bad Yelp or Google review, you really don’t want to go back and look at it a week later and cringe because you were angry. It should be constructive if you’re gonna do… that’s how I would do it. Frankly, I guess, I was so furious at that guy it would been a bad… if I had left a review, I would have regretted the review, so it’s probably all good.

Elizabeth: Like a thumbs down, and-

Gene: I wonder if business owners, and if you’re listening to the show and you feel like leaving a comment, I’m just curious if, as a small business owner, do you feel more empathy towards other business owners? Because I did, like this guy drove me nuts, but then I’m thinking like, I don’t know, maybe the guy had a bad day. How many times have I screwed up with my clients? I’m gonna sit there and roast him in public. I get it. I’m also a business owner, and that played into my decision as well.

Elizabeth: If you want to leave comments on that, I would love to hear that too from other business owners.

Gene: Do you feel empathy for other business owners? I don’t know.

Elizabeth: I don’t as much, because I’ve never owned a small business.

Gene: Right.

Elizabeth: You know what, on the same topic, if you go out to a restaurant and eat and you have terrible service, if there’s someone in your group that is a former server-

Gene: Yes.

Elizabeth: They will still make you leave the 20% tip.

Gene: They will. They will. In fact, it’s funny that you say that as well. We were at a restaurant just last week. It was my wife and my two sons. My son, this summer, is a bartender and a waiter at a restaurant, and we were out to dinner at another place and the service was bad, and I was like oh, this is driving me nuts. Should I be complaining? We were waiting for our food, and my son said to me, “Dad, let me talk to the guy. I’ll deal with it because you’re-

Elizabeth: Don’t go nuts.

Gene: Just gonna make everybody angry. Let me deal.” He did it because he empathized more. I think it’s the same way when people fly. When people say stuff to people that are working in places and they don’t have a context of what they’re doing, they don’t get it. That’s why, as a business owner, I just feel more empathy.

Elizabeth: Let us know. Do you leave reviews on other small businesses, positive or negative?

Gene: If you’re a business owner yourself.

Elizabeth: If you’re a business owner, which, if you’re listening to this, I assume you are. We’ll be right back with our question.

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QUESTION: Should I Sell My Business If I Lose Interest in It?

This is from Alonzo in Hood River, Oregon, and he is a calligrapher/engraver. That’s a definite specialty.

Gene: Cool.

Elizabeth: I wonder if that’s full-time?

Gene: Could be. Why couldn’t it be?

Elizabeth: Here’s his question:

“I make good money, but I don’t really enjoy my work anymore. Should I keep doing it? Maybe I should speak to a therapist instead of a small biz expert.”

We’ve answered this question before.

Gene: I remember this question, a similar question, somebody else, which leads us to believe, for the amount of people that listen to the show, we have a very interesting representative population of people that don’t like what they do.

Elizabeth: And a lot of accountants.

Gene: Yeah, accountants. He’s a calligrapher, so that’s a similar whatever. I have definite opinions on that, Elizabeth, which is… I have tons of clients who I don’t want to say they hate their jobs, but they would prefer to be doing something else.

Elizabeth: They’re not fully jazzed-

Gene: They’re not jazzed by their work. They’re selling cardboard containers. They’re truckers. They’re farm equipment dealers.

Elizabeth: I mean, you sell CRM systems.

Gene: Yeah, I sell-

Elizabeth: It’s not like you’re super excited.

Gene: I actually enjoy that because it’s sales and marketing, and it’s actually… but not like, I don’t feel like we’re changing the world. I don’t feel like we’re curing cancer. I would prefer to be a professional baseball player or U.S. senator.

Elizabeth: Being a U.S. senator is the best job.

Gene: It’s like the greatest job ever.

Elizabeth: You basically just ride around in a golf cart around the Capitol.

Gene: There’s only a hundred of you in the whole country. It’s a six-year job, which is awesome.

You are totally respected anywhere you go. I mean, you go to dinner and they’re like, “Oh, my gosh, it’s Senator Larkin. Come in here, we’re gonna give you like this main table.”

Elizabeth: That sounds good.

Gene: Let’s face it, if you’re a U.S. senator for just one term, you can graduate from that and go into the media, be hired by a law firm, write a book, go on a speaking-

Elizabeth: Whereas professional baseball players, I mean, there’s only so many announcing jobs.

Gene: But you get to play baseball for however many years. That’s really-

Elizabeth: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, but then what do you do for… well, it’s not like you’re an NFL player and then you have head injuries-

Gene: Then you have a concussion and you die prematurely.

Elizabeth: Yeah, I guess being a professional baseball player-

Gene: I think that’s the greatest job ever, although it’s a tough job because you’re under a lot… you’re under a lot of scrutiny. Alonzo was asking about his business, whether he likes it or not.

Elizabeth: Calligrapher/engraver.

Gene: For starters, I have to say, life is… it’s not a bowl of cherries, right? If you’re good at something and you can do it well and you’re making a good amount of money and that’s providing a livelihood and an income for you and your family where you can put money away, whatever, I’m a full believer in learning to like, right? Because we can’t all be baseball players and U.S. senators, and then hopefully balancing it out with something else. Alonzo, do your calligraphy stuff for six hours, seven hours a day and then finish, and then go and play the guitar that night or do what you enjoy doing. You’ve got 24 hours in a day, or at least 18 hours where you’re awake, so you spend six to eight hours of them working and then you’ve got the rest to do other stuff with your life, particularly if your job is providing you with a good income. Now, obviously if you super hate it and you’re really miserable-

Elizabeth: Your hand hurts all the time.

Gene: Yeah, I mean, fair enough. Then, clearly, life is short. You don’t want to be doing something you just hate hate. But I don’t know, I always think really, is there not, other than being in the U.S. military in Afghanistan right now where your life is in danger, you think of some people’s jobs that are so difficult, is there any way that you can make the best of it and try to enjoy it and look at the good points, scrape in the money, and then enjoy your rest of the day? Try that first but, again, if it’s just not working and you’re just miserable then, fair enough, give it up and do something else.

Elizabeth: We’ll be right back with Gene’s Word of Brilliance.


Elizabeth: We’re back with Gene’s Word of Brilliance.

Gene: I have a question for you. This is another thing I plan on writing about in the future. I’m reading a great book right now. I’m reading a couple books at the same time, which is unusual, but this one is called The Cubs Way. It’s all about Chicago Cubs.

Elizabeth: Is that because you just went to Wrigley?

Gene: I was inspired a little bit by that. I’m a big baseball fan, and this is all about their 2016 season when they won the World Series and all the backstory leading up to that, and all that stuff. A big part of the book is Theo Epstein. Theo Epstein is the president of the Cubs. He was the former president and general manager of the Red Sox, and he won the Red Sox two World Series while he was the general manager. Epstein is a genius. He’s a young guy. He’s a very data, data, driven guy. Here’s what I find interesting about Theo Epstein, okay?

Elizabeth: Is this your Word of Brilliance?

Gene: It is.

Elizabeth: Theo Epstein?

Gene: Theo Epstein is my Word of Brilliance.

Elizabeth: You’re just gonna piss off all Yankees fans.

Gene: No. Yeah, well, Yankees fans maybe, but let me tell you what my question is to you, Elizabeth. Theo Epstein discriminates. He profiles and he discriminates. By the way, that’s in the book right… when Theo Epstein is looking for players for his team, he looks at the data, he looks at the resumes, he looks at how good a players they are, but he says outright that he does not bring players onto his team unless they fit into the team. To him, it’s all about character and the kind of person that that person is. He says before they recruit and scout potential players, he wants to know their personal lives. He wants to know all about their families. He wants to know where they came from, what challenges they had, their financial situation, all of that, because he believes it’s the whole makeup of the person in addition to their ability as a baseball player that will make them succeed or fail within his organization. Which basically means he is allowed to ask and dig into stuff that, me as an employer, I’m not allowed to do.

Elizabeth: Do you think you should be allowed to do it?

Gene: Yeah, I do, and that’s why it’s a controversial issue. It’s an equal opportunity employment thing. It’s a Department of Labor, employers are not allowed to ask certain questions about prospective employees about their backgrounds, about their home lives or about their whatever. Theo Epstein is allowed to do that because I think the MLB operates in its own universe, and he’s a successful executive and he does that for a reason. It’s not because he’s gossipy. He does it because he knows there’s a lot more to a prospective person than just their resume. It’s character and the background. It’s the person himself. He uses that as a tool to find the right people and, unfortunately, I’m not allowed to do that, and most employers are not allowed to do that.

Elizabeth: Here’s a way you can do that, and a lot of employers do it now, is looking at people’s social media.

Gene: It helps. Well, I will tell you another thing. With all the rules and the regulations, what Theo Epstein does, trust me when I tell you, because I’ve spoken to lots of my clients, we do it anyway. We do discriminate. We do profile. We do look at social media. We do make judgments about people. That’s just human nature. Government rules try to restrict that as much as possible. They want to make it a fair playing field, and I totally get that, but at the same time, for what’s best for the employee to fit into an organization, and what’s best for the employer, we can take inspiration by what Theo Epstein is allowed to do. There’s more to somebody than just their resume, and restricting us from asking and finding out about that person, even if they’re personal questions, I think it hurts our ability to hire really great people, and I think it hurts an employee’s ability to find the right organization for them. He’s allowed to do it. I’m not. I think that should change. There.

Elizabeth: Not a controversial topic.

Gene: No, not at all. That’s Gene Marks’s opinion. The Hartford takes no responsibility for that soliloquy-

Elizabeth: Great.

Gene: …whatsoever.

Elizabeth: Alright. We’ll be back in another couple days with another controversial episode.

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