Starting a business as a single person is stressful enough but trying to juggle family life and business life is even more challenging. There needs to be a structure to your day, boundaries, time allocation for different people and a feeling that we are “all in this together“. While the vast majority of entrepreneurs seem driven by money and egos, if you dig a little deeper you will probably find a greater motivation, their families. There is no point in sugar-coating this, starting a business and balancing family life is not easy. It is achievable, it is possible but you need to think ahead and think smart.
When outsiders talk about splitting business and family time they seem to be under the impression this is simple. In the early days of a new business there will be challenges, problems, rewards and hopefully success, not in equal measures. In theory, there is nothing wrong in apportioning different parts of the day (and indeed different days) to business and family. However, it is highly unlikely you’ll be able to stick to this rigidly day in day out, month in month out.
Make sure the family are in a routine so they appreciate business time and family time. However, when there are issues to address which need action now, simply let the family know you will make the time back. Communication, communication, communication – that is the key to avoiding undue friction and pressure within the family. Many talk about the downside of taking your work home but it can be just as problematic taking your home issues to work!
In the early days of a new business you are likely to take on some of the characteristics of a gambler. You share your good news and rewards with the family while keeping potential problems, delayed contracts and income issues to yourself. Cash flow is King whether you are looking at a business or running a home. Without regular income it is impossible to plan ahead, if you can’t plan ahead the pressure will gradually build until it becomes too much. This is when relationships implode, families begin to unravel and the whole dream starts to evaporate.
Work out the income you require to run your business, contribute to the home and family life. If for example you have a reseller hosting account then you will have a degree of certainty over cash flow as you build up your customers. If you are a service business, or a traditional e-commerce website, there is not always this degree of certainty over cash flow. In the good times, when excess income is flowing, put a little aside to make up for the difficult months – which will come!
Building up a useful reserve fund (while not always possible) helps to smooth out your income waves and reduce the pressure on family life.
While some entrepreneurs would rather “get their head down” and get on with business themselves, it can be useful to let your partner and children know what you are up to. I once read of an entrepreneur who was running his own business which was producing more than enough income to cover household expenses. His young step-son had no idea what his job entailed and began describing his work as a “fake job“. Aside from the fact this brought a smile to the entrepreneur’s face, it does highlight a problem.
Let the family know what you are doing – you never know, they may be able to help motivate you!
As the saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy“. While this may be a little tongue in cheek, the Internet is littered with online entrepreneurs who started with nothing and built up successful online businesses. Unfortunately, you won’t need to go far to find those who placed themselves in a state of social isolation to achieve their dreams. Cut themselves off from friends and family, forgot how to socialise outside the business arena and were unable to enjoy their new-found wealth with their nearest and dearest. It is unhealthy to have a 24/7 focus on your business, as it is unhealthy to have a 24/7 focus on your family, there needs to be a balance.
Social isolation, and an inability to switch off, can in some cases lead to major stress, health issues and mental challenges. You don’t need them!
You will actually find that social events offer a useful distraction to the stresses and strains of everyday business and allow you to unwind. Going back to work the next day, refreshed, reinvigorated and refocused will not only benefit you but also your business. Those who believe you can work 12 hours a day seven days a week are fooling themselves. The chances are if you worked half that time your productivity would be greater as would the quality of your work. Think on, 12 hour days seven days a week are not a badge of success!
The business world is littered with individuals who built up successful businesses but just did not know when to let go. The constant need to micromanage everything has on numerous occasions led to the collapse of not only businesses but also reputations. Delegation is something you should consider in the early days but it is a necessity as your business grows. This allows you to focus on your strengths, while others play more a supporting role, keeping the business going and sales rolling.
For example, if you’re considering your hosting options for an e-commerce business would you look at a reseller hosting account, VPS hosting account or would you need to go for a private server? The chances are you wouldn’t even know what those terms meant and why should you? This is why the vast majority of successful businesses have information technology experts to build the systems behind the e-commerce successes. Behind every successful entrepreneur is a support team which very rarely receives the accolades they deserve.
We can very quickly cover the financial targets section. If you have no short, medium or long-term targets, how do you know when you have achieved your goals? When do you start cutting back on your work commitments to improve/enhance your family time? You can only buy some many houses, so many cars and enjoys so many holidays before it starts to get tedious. There is nothing wrong in re-evaluating your financial targets/goals along the way, and maybe extending them when you achieve them, but you need some focus on the future. Otherwise, how can you measure your success?
If you have a successful business then eventually you will attract the attention of third-party investors and competitors. Once your business gets to a certain size, or you get to a certain age, or other issues take over your life, do you have an endgame in mind? If you are looking to pass your business on to your children, are they ready, willing and able? If you are looking to sell the business and bank a large profit you need to consider the best timing. For instance, if you are a “forced seller” the likelihood is you will not achieve the best price. If you sell when markets are still rising, and you are still a force, you can pretty much dictate your price.
It would be crazy to reach a certain point in your life without a successor in mind, whether from the family or your business support group, as you need to plan ahead. Make sure they are capable, confident and trustworthy – after all, they will be looking after your baby!
Many people use their family as motivation when setting up a new business. They may want to give their nearest and dearest the things they never had in their childhood, the security, comfort and opportunity to enjoy life. Other entrepreneurs have taken great satisfaction in funding their children’s education, allowing them to fulfil their potential in some of the best schools/universities in the world. It could even be the opportunity to help kick start a business for friends, family and acquaintances – fulfilling a role and opportunity which may not have been afforded to them in their early lives. Everyone needs their foundations, their base, a reason to go to work in the morning and a reason to come home at night.
You hear about many entrepreneurs who have adopted a healthier lifestyle in their later years after punishing their bodies and minds to start their businesses. Whether looking at an improved diet, more exercise, relaxation or different kinds of refuelling, you will need to adopt a healthier lifestyle to withstand the long term rigours of business. For example, the e-commerce sector is extremely competitive and working at a constant high level of stress is not helpful. It neither helps the making of rational business decisions, your home life or your mental health.
Why would you want to check your Twitter account 24 hours a day, view the latest Google Analytics data over lunch or constantly think about work budgets? A successful business can dramatically improve your family life, but wealth can only do so much.
A working/family time balance is vital to not only your relationships but also your business success. Nobody can healthily focus on a business 24 hours a day seven days a week, there needs to be some relief, alternative activities and downtime. As your business grows you will also recognise the value of delegation. You don’t need to know the difference between a VPS hosting account and a shared hosting account, leave that to the experts. Building a business is fun, and can be extremely rewarding, but the best part is sharing your new-found wealth with your family, friends and acquaintances. Now that is something which money cannot buy!