Aaron J. Crowley

Owner, Crowley’s Granite Concepts

Countertop Derangement Syndrome – or CDS as it is referred to in medical circles – is a condition affecting stone shop owners after prolonged periods of uninterrupted contact with impossible customers, unreliable employees, and ignorant bankers.

If left untreated, owners lose the ability to think rationally as thoughts of escaping the circumstances replace the thoughts of how to improve customer service, hiring, and financial management.

At least that’s how I describe my own bout with the disorder.

My escape was daydreaming about a secluded beach somewhere in the Florida Keys. It went like this: apply for a major credit card, buy an RV, pack up the family in the middle of the night and head for Florida, leaving everything and everybody behind. When the daydream included burning down our stone shop on the way out of town, I knew it was time for strong medicine. 

The strong medicine was not a visit to the pharmacy or liquor store. It was much needed break from the grind. 

In a word… rest. 

While many business owners are familiar with the word rest, most are unfamiliar with it in practice. 

The following disciplines can be implemented slowly and incrementally will heal even the most deranged stone shop owner: 

1. Disconnect
: The smart phone is both a blessing and a curse; for the business owner barraged by customers, employees, and bankers, it’s mostly a curse. Phone calls, texts, and emails at all times of the day and night and over the weekend permit the owner no relief, and it’s the first habit a weary owner must break!

Step one is a baby step: go to lunch without the phone.  Step two: leave your phone in your truck when you get home… in the evening, and all weekend. Most of us don’t have the discipline to resist the ring tone or vibration of an incoming call, voicemail, text or email, so removing the temptation is a simple step towards a more rested and healthy existence.

2. Distance:
Once electronic disconnection has been mastered, find a quiet retreat and visit it regularly. Your retreat can take many forms, and activities can range from sleeping to reading, to hiking or whitewater rafting. For me it was buying a farm 45+ minutes from our shop where I can clear brush, buck hay, split firewood, and lose money raising Scottish Highland cattle in almost total isolation. The point is to do something you enjoy, somewhere far enough away from your work you can leave it behind. 

Frequency depends on the level of derangement, but one day per month is a good average to pursue. Distance should be far enough away that you’re not tempted to return, and close enough that the drive isn’t a disincentive; between one and two hours distance is ideal. Just remember that putting distance between you and your business is all for naught if you bring that wretched smartphone along!

3. Delegation:
Disconnecting and distancing will enable rest outside of work, but getting a break at work is important, too. Every business owner (and especially small business owners) will inevitably be responsible for doing work that does not come naturally. If that unnatural work comprises more than half of the owner’s responsibility, call a doctor! Doing that work without interruption will do two things: first, it will limit the effectiveness in the areas of work that do come naturally; and second, it will slowly grind the life out of the owner.

The only way to find relief is to delegate that work to others. Again, baby steps are important here. Begin by identifying a task you loathe and assign that work to a capable member of your team. Then, repeat as needed. Over time, departments and even the entire company can be placed in the hands of competent personnel, freeing the owner to do the kind of dreaming and scheming that conceived and built the company in the first place.

Business owners are famous (or maybe infamous) for their perseverance, but there comes a point where doing too much for too long actually works against the owner and his enterprise.

So, if you’re suffering from CDS, take a dose disconnecting, distancing, and delegating and call me if you’re not feeling better in the morning!

Aaron Crowley is a stone shop owner, author, speaker, and inventor of stone safety products. Contact Aaron by email at aaron@fabricatorsfriend.com.