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Russ Allred, business consultant and author at Sunbelt Business Brokers

I hope summer finds you peeling the tar from naturally occurring oil deposits off your feet after a walk on the beach. Petroleum is strangely sticky for a substance that is supposed to make motors run smoothly. Our local economy revolves in part around oil. To many, the refineries that dot our landscape may be mysterious assemblies of pipe, with flames and steam.

A refinery is basically a tall still. A long vat is filled with crude, then heated to release the minerals, inclusions and salts that make tar so unpleasant. The various levels of refined oil are siphoned off to make grades of gasoline and other products. The heating element, called a heat exchange bundle, that powers the process gets mucked up after weeks of use and must be cleaned to remain efficient. A refinery is periodically shut down to perform this cleaning.

Some entrepreneurs claim they were born to do their work. They love it so much they work long hours, seven days a week. Indeed, some are like machines. Precisely because they are so involved in their work, they can't see their own declining productivity. We have all heard the phrase, "work smarter not harder," but few take the time to muck out the old brain so it functions at peak performance.

Many entrepreneurs design themselves into the daily function of their business. They are integral to the operation, like a cog in a machine. They become what they despised as an employee. The remedy for this condition requires a redesign of the operation. That might necessitate closing the doors for a few days so the boss can destress enough to reimagine how the business could operate without their daily oversight. Most entrepreneurs can't afford the lost income from inactivity, so I recommend incremental retreats. Take 10 minutes a few days a week to take a breath and ponder.

Pondering is a skill society has almost lost in lieu of pandering. Our brains are so polluted by the constant stimulus of electronic inputs that we don't take time to ponder. Pondering is not daydreaming. It is active thought, directed by a purpose.

Consider this article an example. You could scan it with a smile and move on to the next headline, or you could stop, turn off the radio and TV, and ask yourself how these principles might apply to you and your business: Do I work too much? Have I become just a cog in my own machine? Could the shop use some cleaning up? What must I change so I can afford some time off?

Perhaps you could take a walk on the beach and get tar stuck on your foot.

-- Russ Allred, MBA, is a business consultant and author with Sunbelt Business Brokers & Advisors. These are his opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian.