A successful entrepreneur shares her thoughts on business success and failure.

When You're Sick, What Happens To Your Small Business?

Small business sick
Imagine waking up every morning and feeling like you have been hit by a freight train. You take naps throughout the day, but to no avail — you feel worse when you wake up than when you went to sleep! Every time you eat, no matter what you eat, you feel as if you’re slipping into a coma.

It’s hard to concentrate for more than a few seconds; writing anything more than two sentences is almost too much effort. You can’t remember anything and begin to slip on making appointments because your brain is so foggy. You find yourself constantly glancing at your calendar for fear you have missed another appointment. You are invited to social events, but can’t muster the energy to go. Even taking a 20-minute walk makes you feel like you need another nap.

This is what my life has been like for nearly a month now. I won’t mince words — it’s devastating and depressing. I wondered constantly what I was doing wrong. It was clear that this had something to do with food, but eating less, more, or different foods didn’t change the situation. I was sleeping 14 or more hours a day and not finding relief.

It became increasingly clear I wouldn’t solve this myself; besides my brain being too foggy to self-diagnose on the Internet, it was time to heed my own advice and hire an expert to help me solve this issue.

Finding an Expert

My massage therapist recommended a nutritionist named Nancy. I called Nancy and, to my relief, got an appointment last Friday. At Nancy’s request, I started keeping a food diary. On Friday, I headed to her office, where we would spend the next three hours discussing what was wrong and my treatment options.

I explained that every time I ate, I felt like a wreck — no matter what I ate. I had changed my diet to eliminate most meat, but even fruit was causing me issues. I had eliminated alcohol, caffeine and most sugar years ago due to similar problems. Yet whatever I had, it was clearly getting worse. It was to the point where I didn’t want to eat because I knew it would make me exhausted. I had lost 5 pounds in the past few weeks, even though I wasn’t overweight to begin with.

Nancy said one thing that stood out to me: “My goal is to make sure you can go to the ballpark, eat a hot dog, and drink a beer and feel great — even if you don’t want to do that!” I knew I had picked the right person to help me when I heard that! ๐Ÿ™‚

My Visit With Nancy

Something really interesting happened at her office. I had only eaten a light breakfast before I came, for two reasons: one, I didn’t want to pass out during our appointment; and two, I didn’t expect to be there for more than an hour. After about an hour of being there, my blood sugar dropped and I started to get tired. Nancy noticed and handed me a protein bar. “Try this,” she said. “It’s gluten-free and fructose-free.” (She was concerned that I might have a gluten allergy.)

45 minutes after I ate it, I was basically asleep in the chair. I was yawning and struggling to keep my eyes open. Nancy was surprised. “That was fast,” she remarked. I learned that typical food allergies manifest after a few hours; that it happened so quickly meant my body was not properly digesting food. We had solved a small part of the puzzle — I was tired because my body wasn’t getting any nutrients from the food I ate.

Trying to Find a Fix

Nancy prescribed a plethora of supplements, and asked me to try them in a few different dosages and quantities. After experimenting throughout the weekend, the breakthrough came Monday afternoon. I tried a supplement Nancy had given me called Glysen, which has nutrients designed to “support insulin receptor sensitivity” and regulate blood sugar.

It worked like a charm and stopped my exhaustion! On Monday night, I was happy, laughing, and enjoying myself. Richard asked me when the last time I had this energy level was. I said, “I think eight years ago,” and then I started crying. I couldn’t believe it had been that long since I felt like a normal human being after I ate, but looking back, I do think that’s true.

It has only been a few days since I started taking Glysen, and the underlying cause of my exhaustion has yet to be uncovered. I am currently waiting for the results of a blood test and a saliva test to help Nancy and I understand what’s going on at a deeper level.

This is a journey, and I understand that there will be setbacks along the way. There may be days when I feel worse instead of better. The Glysen may stop working, or I may need to take more drastic measures. All I can do right now is continue recording everything I eat and how it makes me feel and continue taking Glysen. I consider it a huge blessing that I am finally able to get back to blogging and helping you.

But What Does This Have To Do With Your Small Business?

I thought hard about whether to even write this blog post. After all, I thought, it doesn’t really have anything to do with business success or entrepreneurship.

Then I realized I was being foolish. After all, aren’t we, as entrepreneurs, the heart and soul of our businesses? If we’re not feeling well, our businesses suffer. I realized I had learned four lessons from this that I could pass on to help both you and your small business succeed:

  1. Call in the experts! It’s so tempting to just Google “exhaustion” (or whatever your symptoms are) and self-diagnose. But often, a web site can’t really help. You need tests to determine what’s really wrong.

    One of the reasons I didn’t want to call in a doctor was because I was afraid the doctor would say what I’ve heard so many times before: “Oh, just eat better and exercise more, and you’ll be fine.” You wouldn’t stand for that kind of vague answer from an employee who has done something wrong, so why stand for it from your doctor? If your doctor won’t help or isn’t taking you seriously, find someone who will!
  2. Once you have the right expert, set expectations. I asked for recommendations from two people in the medical industry I trusted, then used my gut instinct to choose Nancy from the list of folks I got back. When I saw Nancy, I made it clear up front I wanted tests done to determine what was wrong, and while I was willing to take diet suggestions, I needed them to take a back seat to figuring out what was wrong.

    In retrospect, Nancy handing me that gluten-free, fructose-free protein bar and seeing me nearly fall asleep might have been the best thing that happened to either of us all day. At that point, she realized the primary conern wasn’t what I was eating, but why my body wasn’t digesting food. She took action and ordered saliva, blood, and urine tests, and recommended additional tests based on results of those three tests. I am now on my way to figuring out what lies underneath this exhaustion.
  3. Communicate with your investors, customers and employees as much as you can. Those close to you should know what’s going on. Don’t hide it from them. Remember, you are an important face for your business. Especially if your business relies on you, it’s critical to keep in touch with your team regularly — I would say daily if at all possible.

    If you have many customers, email them all or write a blog post. Explain candidly what’s going on and what steps you are taking to resolve it…but if you don’t know when it will be resolved, don’t say you do.
  4. Use this time to create and maintain a strong support staff. If you’re not feeling well and can only get 30 minutes or an hour of work done each day, make those 30 minutes or an hour working with employees and contractors so they can handle customer issues. Have someone else in your company call or email customers and keep them up to date. That hour of good work time you have in the day shouldn’t be spent putting out fires; the stress caused from that will certainly not make you feel better.

Being sick isn’t easy, especially when it is an extended illness or one that doesn’t have a horizon where you know you’ll be “over the hump” and feeling better.

If there’s one thing I can impart on you from my experience, it’s this: If you decide to be your own doctor, CEO, personal assistant, and support team, you will fail. None of us succeeds alone.

Just as you would with employees, feel free to “fire” doctors who won’t work with you and find the good ones who will go the extra mile to get to the root of the problem. You deserve to feel your best so you can go out and become the next small business success story!

Addendum: After I finished writing this post, I saw a news headline that reinforced my point about communication. Most of us are aware that Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, has been extremely ill lately. Recently, Warren Buffett, billionaire investor, said Apple should have disclosed the seriousness of Jobs’ illness.

Buffett said, “If I have any serious illness, or something coming up of an important nature, an operation or anything like that, I think the thing to do is just tell the American, the Berkshire shareholders about it. I work for ’em.”

This is a great attitude and I wholeheartedly agree. Communicate with your customers, employees, and investors. The good ones will understand. The ones who don’t probably weren’t worth keeping anyway!

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