Wed 16 Aug 2023 11:00am UK time

For many agency owners, good is never quite good enough. You’re constantly striving for perfection, and anything less is often viewed as failure. But a mentality like that doesn’t leave a lot of room for personal wellbeing – so what happens when you inevitably burn out?

“I lost my battle with burnout,” says Gellan Watt.

“I only put myself in the places where I felt safe, and that was work. But secretly, behind closed doors, I was drinking like a lunatic. In the end, I had to get out of the business.”

Gellan’s burnout journey spanned across five years, and ultimately resulted in him having to sell his agency.

“I first started spotting the signs of burnout in 2011. I was feeling stressed and anxious, to a level that I never really had. Everything was difficult,” he says.

“Then, in 2014, I had a death in the family. I was with this person when they passed away at 6am, and by noon, I was sat in my office. I just didn’t know what to do with myself – work was all I really knew how to get right.”

At the time, the agency was turning over £60m in revenue each year, with a team of around 400 staff. But despite being surrounded by people who thought he was brilliant, Gellan began to withdraw further into dark habits. 

“I just had nothing left in the tank to engage with my emotions. I started finding decision-making very hard. I felt almost cognitively impaired for quite some time, although I was still working insanely hard. I escaped all of how I was feeling with drugs and alcohol,” he says.

“But most importantly, I didn’t ask for any help. I didn’t change at all. I literally just had this superhero image of myself and thought, ‘I’ve got to get through this’.”

But in doing so, Gellan unknowingly sabotaged his own success. The only thing he could do at the end of it all was to sell his business and try to get well. So now, self-care is his top priority. 

“No matter what, everyone’s batteries run out. Everyone gets overwhelmed and overloaded. It’s very common and very human to just need a bit of time and space,” he says. “But the secret to all of this is: we’re in charge of it. We suffer the circumstances that we find ourselves in, but we also suffer from largely our own choices.” 

In this session, Gellan shares the full story of how he lost his battle with burnout, and why he now coaches other agency leaders on how to avoid doing the same. 

Come along to identify the signs of this slippery slope and find out the things you can put in place to help others on that path.