Yes -- although each of you had a different definition of burnout. Some talked about personal stress, while others treated this poll as a referendum on the recession and the state of the economy.

Feeling burned out?

Yes 62% No 38%

A lot of you have just about had it with the process of starting and growing a business. "I thought over the years I would work fewer hours. I find myself working harder," complained one. "I resent the time my business takes away from my family and personal life," said another. Some offered suggestions for learning to cope: "We need to learn to relax. More hours does not translate into high productivity." Ultimately, someone suggested, burnout may be a by-product of a bad match. "If you are feeling burned out, you may have gone into the wrong business." Happily, very few of you reported that you had no one to turn to (5%). Many of you use relationships at home and at work to stem the tide of stress. There also seems to be a lot of networking going on, as 52% of you turn to other business owners. Relatively few of you talk to your customers about what's wrong with your business (17%). One major resource that seems to be overlooked is therapy. Perhaps there's still a stigma attached. But, as one of you put it, "If it weren't for therapy, I'd be screwed!"

Has your business undergone any of the following changes in the past two years?

Decreased profits 58%

Decreased sales 54%

A cost-cutting campaign 53%

Increased sales 38%

Layoffs 37%

Increased profits 29%

Decreased employee hours 25%

Other 4%

The cause of all this burnout seems to lie in waning sales and profits, which are in turn caused by the downturn in the economy. Not surprisingly, those of you who weren't burned out were more likely to report increased sales (59%) and profits (46%). Quite a few of you focused on the recession in your comments. "I have never experienced such a bad business environment" was a typical comment. "People are dropping like flies -- companies, too!" "I've never struggled so hard or been so concerned for our country's economy." All those concerns divert attention from other areas. "The shift to cost cutting kills new revenue ideas."

What are your main business concerns?

Today? Two years ago?

Increasing sales 54% 64%

Surviving 42% 24%

Profits 41% 43%

Cutting costs 24% 15%

Securing adequate 19% 25%

capital or credit

Keeping my work force 19% 25%


Other 7% 6%

Have things gotten worse lately? It would seem so. While profits and increasing sales remain among your primary business concerns, a larger percentage of you now see survival as a much more important issue than you did two years ago (42% versus 24%). Among those who reported feeling burned out, survival is the top concern today (55%). Ouch. No wonder you're feeling the crunch. Some of you couldn't see any relief in sight: "It's going to get worse, too!" Others took a more cavalier approach: "The period 1979 through 1981 was a recession. This is more like a burp." At least one respondent chalked the whole thing up to experience. "We're going to be stronger in the long run -- we're learning how to survive."

Do you sense that employee morale is lower than it was two years ago?

Yes 51% No 49%

Is employee morale at a low ebb? Your answers were split pretty evenly, although the scales seemed to tip when it came to top managers (as opposed to owners, CEOs, and vice-presidents), who are presumably closer to employees on a day-to-day basis -- 68% of them reported lower employee morale. Those who said they felt burned out tended to answer yes to low employee morale (66%), while most of those who said no to burnout also said no to low morale (78%). While no causal relationship can be assumed, a key way to keep burnout in check may be to keep employees happy, thus lessening the drain of being surrounded by negativism -- admittedly, no mean feat. As one of you put it, "It's very difficult to keep motivating myself and others."