Of all the reasons why small-business owners start businesses, two are noted most often. They are a desire to be in control and having more time for family.
Yet once in business, many owners indicate that neither goal has been achieved.
By its nature, control should allow for deciding how much you want to work. Yet realistically, the question of when and how much you work is more often customer driven along with the ability of the business to support hiring additional staff and managers. The bottom line for small-business owners is they struggle to find a balance between work and life.
When small, the owner has few resources to hire additional help to cover some of the required tasks. Days are seen as a treadmill consuming all available time. Opening the doors, ordering stock, working with customers, marketing to potential customers, making sales, handling customer service and looking forward can’t wait.
As such, small-business owners get frustrated with the lack of control and not being able to have a “life.” And home-based business owners feel it even more.
The owner does not need to feel this way, however. With prioritizing and planning, it is possible to run a successful business and to realize the personal goals such as control and family time.
Start with schedules, and then follow what you planned out. Adjustments will be needed, but a simple schedule makes you aware of your priorities and subtly forces you to work on the most important items first.
Another opportunity for small-business owner is to mix family and business. That may mean having family members help in the business, with the trade-off that you spend more time at home. Also understand that the business flow goes up and down, as do family demands. Understand the cycles and plan accordingly.
However, mixing family and business for home-based business owners can be troublesome. Being at home often sends the message to the family that you are available. You need to set boundaries. Even very young children can learn that a closed door means you are at work. Also, set times, such as the morning, when you focus on work.
Organization of your business and work space also lends itself to achieving the work/life balance you want. As with prioritizing, you want to spend your time on those tasks, whether work or family, that provide you with the most value.
For example, having the tools to do a job in one space and doing related tasks all at one time is helpful. Cluster meetings together, do office work at one time and even set aside certain times for handling the influx of communication you receive each day. And cut down on unnecessary communication. Be selective in what you read and handle. The old standard, “Only handle a piece of paper once,” remains true whether it is paper or an email. You can read informational items in those spare moments that come along.
Work/life balance is possible. It takes effort but many owners will tell you it can be done.
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Glenn Muske is an independent expert on rural small business, working as GM Consulting – Your partner in achieving small business success. He provides consulting, and writes articles for county extension agents and newspapers across North Dakota. Previously, he was the Rural and Agribusiness Enterprise Development Specialist at the North Dakota State University Extension Service – Center for Community Vitality.