Say the words work/life balance to a small business owner or solopreneur, and chances are you’ll be met with a blank stare. If you’re an employer, you’re probably aware of it for staff, but not necessarily for yourself until their GP, spouse or kids put it on the to do list.
There are a lot of reasons why people who own and run their own businesses don’t manage to clock off at finishing time, get to take weekends and holidays off, or stop thinking about the business when they would rather be focusing on fun, friends or family.
Some start out working long hours and doing it all themselves out of necessity at the start, but never quite manage to let go as the business grows. They are working in the business rather than on the business.
Brad Sugars, the founder of ActionCoach – which has more than 100 business coaches around the world - speaks in his book “The Business Coach” about the Pie Maker who starts in business because they are good at baking pies. But the skills required to run and own a business are quite different to those required to produce great pies.
There are small businesses that don’t grow at all and never intend to - ‘solopreneurs’ who are happy on their own, but who risk finding they have not set up a business at all but have really just got themselves a job - but with risk.
Some set up a business because they are good technicians, but these skills only go so far when they are confronted with the finances, the bank, the customers, contracts and staff issues.
Whatever drives it, excessive focus in your business can rob you of important aspects of your life and relationships and ultimately lead to burnout, a condition that can lead you to lose interest in the business you worked so hard to build and unable to see what to do to meet your goals whether they be business or personal.
So how do you find - and keep - a balance between work and the rest of your life without compromising your small business? Here are 3 things you can do right now to get more time for you and the rest of your life.
Set up physical spaces that delineate work from the rest of your life when you have to work from home - it’s especially important while COVID is with us and a good discipline to have the rest of the time.
“You’ll find it easier to switch off when you’re not working,” says Raymond Goh, a Chartered Accountant and OneTeam partner. “And as a bonus, expenses related to that portion of your house become tax deductible.”
Take time to WORK ON as well as IN your business - step back, think of your business as a system that should run without you in it all the time. Where does your revenue come from, how do you service your clients, and leave something for yourself.
Use technology - are there new apps or platforms that can take away some of the more mundane tasks you’re doing, and as a bonus, give you greater insight into how your business is performing?
“Small business owners who have been around for a while just keep doing things the way they’ve always done them. Maybe the spouse does the books on the weekend manually, or there’s an ordering process based on excel spreadsheets,” Raymond says. “When we get them into Xero or explore their customer-facing systems and processes, they can’t believe how much faster, smoother and more accurately things can get done.”
Hire well, train thoroughly, empower your staff and don’t leave them guessing - it’s not enough to just hire more people. You’ll need to focus on hiring the right people for the roles that you need, managing them, and document systems and processes. This may be time consuming to start with, but pay dividends down the line.
“The small businesses we see that are most successful are the ones that have good leaders and managers,” Raymond says. “They are good with people, focused on the right things, and systemic in their thinking.”
Leadership and management can be learned and there are lots of formal and informal ways to strengthen your skills in this area.
Think about what you can delegate - safely
“Once again, good systems and processes are a must,” Raymond says. “You need a reliable way to monitor the tasks or projects you delegate and good quality control. People tend to relax once they can see that their staff can be trusted to do things right - and it’s a huge relief to be able to let things go and focus on other aspects of the business - as well as getting more time to yourself.”
Watch the clock, put your phone on silent, resist peeking at emails, take holidays and weekends
Sometimes, it’s just a matter of unrelenting self discipline - setting predetermined limits for yourself and sticking with them. “Of course, there will always be things that you absolutely have to attend to outside of office hours,” Raymond says. “But where you can, it’s a good idea to use technology to help you get the timeout you need to recharge. Turn on an email auto-reply or redirect to somebody else, if you’re on holiday, switch your phone to Do Not Disturb during family dinners.”
Get paid on time
When cashflow is tight, we can be tempted to drive ourselves harder to make more money without focusing on the money that is yours, but just hasn’t landed in your bank account yet.
“Lots of small business owners hate chasing overdue accounts,” says Raymond, “Or it’s a job that sinks to the bottom of the to do list because it’s just more admin. Set short payment terms, chase overdue accounts in a reasonable time-frame, add interest or a discount to incentivise customers to pay early and teach them through your actions that when you say 7 days, you mean it.”
Want to improve your systems and processes and get your life back? A OneTeam advisor can help you take a look at your structure, the technology you’re using, what you might be able to delegate or outsource, and more. You may even be eligible to get some of the fees covered under the Regional Business Partner programme.