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Seven-year itch can also hit business owners

- Kelly Sharp is the owner of the Heart of Iowa Market Place.

The seven-year itch.

Almost everyone associates it with marriage or, if you’re old enough, the Marilyn Monroe classic with the iconic scene where she’s standing on a subway grate and a passing train creates a breeze that blows up her white dress.

Specialty retailers might not know it, especially when they’ve been hit by it, but it’s been proven that they are also prone to the itch. Sometimes it’s seven years, sometimes it’s shorter and sometimes it’s longer, but make no mistake, the itch can sap energy, excitement, motivation and satisfaction from the best of us.

Employees can feel the itch, too. Especially millennials, it seems. But that’s a topic for another day.

Experts say rollercoaster sales and revenue cycles can be a major big cause for the itch among business owners. (Sound familiar, retailers?)

Ironically, what business coach Jim Rohrbach described in an August 2000 Entrepreneur magazine article as the “boredom of success” can be another trigger.

In other words, the itch can strike if your business is too volatile or too successful.

Rohrbach said in that same article that one way to scratch the itch is by creating a bigger mission for your business. “Large goals take many steps to achieve and each can erase boredom and keep the entrepreneur focused,” wrote Jeffery D. Zbar.

I agree, but with this caveat: Make sure that bigger mission fits snugly to your business plan. I can think of few things that would aggravate the itch more – and be more exhausting – than to take on a big investment of time, energy and money that pulls you away from what you do best.

Other potential remedies are pretty much what you’d expect, including time off, travel and looking at your business in a new light with the help of advice from other business people, a book or class.

For me, the itch doesn't wait seven years. Mine usually hits every five years, but it's a good thing. I don't necessarily want to change my career path, but I need to find some new excitement with my career or business.  Whether that is taking on new projects, looking for new ways to grow my business, just something to continue to make me excited about going to work.  

I’ve always been a big believer in asking tough questions – and being honest with myself about the answers – to keep my focus where it needs to be. I make sure it becomes a motivator to keep my store and products fresh, take a look at the entire business with a fresh set of eyes and from the customer's perspective to see what new goals we should implement and new products we should introduce.

Having the itch is not a bad thing when it's used as an opportunity to re-evaluate what you are doing and not become complacent.  

As for me, I can’t image a better script with a happier ending than to be a specialty retailer in today’s competitive economy.

Next month: What to do to scratch an employee’s seven-year itch.


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