Business Issues

3 Year Itch - Best Ways to Survive It

The 3 year itch: Twice the number of business go out of business between their 3rd to 7th year than do in their first 2 years?

Did you know that twice the number of business fail or go out of business in their 3rd to 7th year in business than do in the first 2 years? It’s because of the 3-Year Itch.

The 3 Year Itch – What is It?

Just like in marriages, business owners seem to hit an ‘itch’.  It just happens a bit sooner.  Instead of the 7 year, you have the 3 year itch.    The US Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes the survival rate of businesses, and its data shows remarkable consistency.   Regardless of economic conditions, roughly the same percentage of businesses exit between the 3rd and 7th year of existence.  Why?

The 3 year itch comes down to basic human nature.  Just like in a marriage, it generally boils down to 4 key factors

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling unrewarded
  • Hidden money problems
  • Failure to communicate or delegate

Most business owners start a business because they love what they do, not because they love running a business.  It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done.  The love of what you do can keep you going for a year or two, but after a while, it takes its toll. Then, 3 year itch starts.

What are the symptoms?

That feeling of being overwhelmed can lead to feeling unrewarded.  Business owners with partners or employees can also have difficulty in communicating or delegating.  Without good communication, it’s more likely that problems will be hidden, which can become a crisis due to inattention.

Eli's Story

We want to introduce you to Eli. Because he had been growing quickly, he was having a hard time keeping pace.  He was burning the candle at both ends. While not a bad problem to have, it’s wasn’t sustainable. He needed help avoiding the 3-year itch.

“The business is going great, but I wish my life was. I find that I’m spending so much time working that I don’t have time for everything else. It’s not as fun as it used to be. I’m resent being so tied to the business, and I’m wondering if I should do something else. But my family needs the income so I can’t. I really feel stuck”

This is probably the most common problem we see. It easy to get overwhelmed with all the ‘business stuff’ because most professionals aren’t educated in business management. That means it’s easy to get caught off guard by everything that needs to be done to run a company well.

3 year itch

How can you survive the 3 Year Itch?

  1. Be honest with yourself about what you know and where you need help
  2. Have an impartial party look at your business to ensure that no one person is carrying too much of the load
  3. Have an impartial party review your business processes to ensure transparent and timely communication
  4. Know which parts of your business are most sensitive and/or carry the most risk.

Founder Headshot

About the Author

Brian Cairns, CEO of Prostrategix Consulting. Over 25 years of business experience as a corporate executive, entrepreneur, and small business owner. For more information, please visit my LinkedIn profile

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