Starting up and running your own business is without a doubt one of the most exciting, challenging, demanding but terrifying career decisions you can make. The burden of responsibility is a heavy weight to bear and too easily a balanced lifestyle can become a laughable and seemingly impossible concept to develop and maintain. Not only can it be done but it has to be done if you and your business are to continue operating at your peak functionality.
So how does an entrepreneur or small business owner achieve balance in their life? It starts by putting value on your time, your people and your reason for being in business.
It Takes a Village
You might be in this business on your own but this doesn’t mean you need to do it all on your own. Your village is the people who will help support and raise your business-child. They will be a combination of customers, clients, colleagues, friends, family and supporters. Acknowledging and understanding the role(s) they play in supporting you and your business will give you both a depth of knowledge, experience and support you would never have experienced going solo all the way.
Early on in your business planning stages, you would’ve (or should’ve!) done some kind of SWOT analysis and identified both the weaknesses of yourself and business. Your time and talents need to be focused on your strengths. Remember that quote “You are what you repeatedly do”? Same is true in this sense. Do you want to become that something you’re not good at or would prefer to be the master of a field you love? If you’re going to invest time and effort do so in the area which will return the greater ROI in growth and development; your strengths.
So do we ignore our weaknesses? Of course not, that’s where we can lean into the resources provided by our village.
- At Work – Outsource! Your weaknesses are someone else’s strengths so find someone in your village who specialises and outsource this work to them. You’ve now turned a weakness into a true strength whilst giving yourself more time and energy to focus on what you are good at. If you’re a believer in businesses supporting other businesses (as am I ) it’s a fabulous way of generating a mutually beneficial relationship and giving back to your community.
- At Home – What tasks or duties around your home could be done by someone else? Outsourcing is not always a feasible option but this doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help. This is not about being selfish but self-aware. Look at what’s on your plate and focus on the necessary but low-value tasks and consider what can be delegated, outsourced or approached differently? With these tasks, we want to maximise efficiencies and reduce overhead. Consider:
– can you alternate school pick ups and drop offs with another parent?
– would batch cooking on the weekend free up time on the weekend?
– what additional responsibilities can your partner or kids take on (caring for the pets, folding laundry etc)?
Asking for help is often tied to the unsavoury emotions of guilt, embarrassment, defeat and more so let’s reframe these from an admission of defeat to creating win-win opportunities. Recognise we have the opportunity to help another with their needs when we open the door to have someone help us with our own.
Be laser focused on your priorities both personal & professional and make (not find!) time for these. Schedule it and what doesn’t fit into the schedule then turn to your village. We’re all struggling with balance and the beauty of a community is a common understanding that “we’re all in this together”. So put into practice that understanding! Work together, share resources, outsource weaknesses, support others and acknowledge an individual can’t do it all – but a team can.
Time is NOT Money
By viewing everything through the prism of a financial transaction limits your potential and growth as a business and individual. This may seem obvious but when we work in a culture that ‘a product/service = price’ and the debts are piling up we can quickly find ourselves focused on producing more to earn more. The focus needs to be on finding value in how we’ve spent our time.
- Hours – You need to know your productivity capacity taps out at around 50 hours a week, and after 60 hours your output is down by at least 25%. This does not even factor in the compounding health, relationship, injury risk factors that also exponentially grow as the hours do. So our time has a cost but it’s not financial. As the hours mount the value as far as output goes diminishes.
- Networking – Sales-focused thinking can blind some to the enormous (non-financial) value networking provides. Networking provides the opportunity to create and develop our village: generating and providing support, gaining wisdom, insight and learning. It’s not about what you can sell or buy it’s about collaboration and being part of something bigger than yourself and enterprise.
- Education – For your strengths to be maintained and for you to continue to grow and develop as a person you MUST invest time into education and personal development. The investment may feel intimidating in respect to time and money but ROI applies personally and professionally in the short and long term. The trick is identifying where best to place this investment. Go back to your strengths and weaknesses and in this instance don’t discount your weaknesses. Sales may not be your forte but some knowledge in this field would build your understanding of the process. This, in turn, would assist you in finding an appropriately qualified company to outsource your sales activities too.
Remember Your Why
Why did you start your business and pursue your dreams? Did you want to earn more money, have more time with your family, be your own boss or share your idea with the world? The answer to this question is the foundation of your mission statement, the source of your passion and the motivating force that turned your idea into reality. Too often though as businesses grow the ‘why’ can become lost to growth & opportunities and entrepreneurs find they’ve lost their way.
If you are a chiropractor who loves being hands-on or a developer who thrives on coding and you’re finding you’re hands-deep in managerial & administrative paperwork; you’re lost. If you wanted to make a fortune and retiring early and find yourself facing bankruptcy then you’re lost. If you thought that being your own boss would give you more time with family but the reality is whenever you’re with them you’re on your phone and laptop; you’re lost.
To find your way back, remember your why and pursue it. It may have changed slightly since your launch and if it has then seek to understand how and why it’s changed. It may require a shift in thought, priorities and even processes. It may cost additional time and money but it is why you chose to do what you do. It’s your recognition of the best way of valuing your working time. If we don’t honour the reasons that prompted you to start your venture will be the same ones that have you abandon it.
As an entrepreneur your most precious but limited resource is YOU. So make sure your time is spent mindfully adding value to you and your dream. You are not alone in this venture so allocate some of this precious time to the people who helped it happen. Finally be true to you and don’t forget why you’re on the exciting and turbulent adventure in the first place.
P.S. If you know of an entrepreneur or small business owner who could do with a friendly reminder on maintaining a healthy balance in their personal & professional lives please share this article with them!