To an outsider, owning your own business can seem like a dream. You can set your own hours. You don’t have a boss to whom you must answer. You have unlimited abilities to earn income, to provide a better way of life for yourself and for your family. Furthermore, you don’t have fears over losing a job, being transferred halfway across the country, or working endless hours for what appears to be limited rewards.
Indeed, many seek to start a company, purchase a going concern, or enter into a joint venture, to gain access to the entrepreneurial life. Yet, even in those businesses where the proprietor ought to know better — coaching, counseling, medical practices, even ministry — the entrepreneurial life provides challenges to the elusive balance between work and family.
Nonetheless, having a strong, solid family life is a key to a successful business foray. Many an entrepreneur will tell you that she would not have been able to build her business without the support of a spouse, parents, siblings or children. That support is crucial during times of unparalleled growth; it’s even more key when times are tough.
But sometimes, the entrepreneur finds that other than perhaps depositing funds into the family coffer, the rewards of the business don’t carry over into the home environment. In fact, family can suffer as a result of the burdens of the family business.
So how can the entrepreneur keep the home fires burning while still creating and running an amazing business?
Plan, prioritize and schedule. You cannot have quality time with your family if you don’t allot time in the first place. Like anything else in your busy schedule, making your spouse or children a priority is important. There’s nothing unromantic about scheduling a date night with your hubby. Putting your daughter’s soccer game on your work calendar is not unprofessional. If you tell your kids that you’re planning a day at the beach and fail to make a firm commitment, they quickly perceive that other things take priority over them. Many entrepreneurs find value in scheduling time during each day to spend with family. Others find it important to arrange breaks from the business, even quick getaways, with loved ones. But if you don’t plan for these moments, they’ll never come to pass.
Work smart. Too often, the entrepreneur exists in a constant state of tension over ensuring the future viability of her business. There are never enough hours in the day to plan strategically or to engage in ruminations about expansion or dreams of empire building. Nonetheless, don’t confuse working long hours with working smart hours. Much like zero-based budgeting can alter your perception of how you look at your expenses, consider a zero based analysis of your time. What do you spend your time on? Are all your tasks productive? As an entrepreneur, you typically enjoy the time you spend at work. Don’t let that enjoyment become so pervasive that the 10-hour day becomes the 13-hour day simply because your work is your passion. Do what is necessary and what is profitable, not that which fills your hours at the office.
Learn the power of no. As the head of your own organization, it’s difficult sometimes to turn down requests that you believe may help grow your company. Whether it’s demands upon you from community organizations, employees or contractors with whom you interact, or even customers, the fear is that shunning these things will affect your bottom line. Remember, however, that time is the one resource that you can never recoup. Once you give it away, it is gone forever. Moreover, if you give away time that you could otherwise spend with family, these are moments that can never be replaced. Your son will have only one first baseball game and your daughter one 12th birthday. How many tombstones are inscribed with an epitaph: “I wish I had spent more time in the office”? No, the most common death-bed regrets are about now forever-lost opportunities for precious moments with family or friends.
4. Be there when you’re there. You’re not present for the moments with your family if you’re checking e-mail on your phone or daydreaming about how to make that sales call on Monday. Even young children are very perceptive and notice quickly that you are not paying attention to them but rather are multitasking. Learning to live in the present moment has many benefits, well beyond the scope of this simple article. Suffice it to say that training yourself to “live in the now” will help you enjoy your family more and be more productive in your work.
Successful individuals from humble entrepreneurs to the titans of industry and government understand the importance of those moments spent with your loved ones. Family and friends keep you grounded. They know the real you. Make those moments spent with them special and you’ll find that you haven’t sacrificed any success in your business endeavors but that rather the opposite is true — a nice bonus!
Enjoy Your Life!