How to get your work/ life balance right

Woman in thought with picture of scales on blackboard behind her.

Starting up a business can be extremely exciting, but it can also be challenging, and not just for you. It is also likely to be challenging for your family and close friends too as they feel the impact of your decision to go it alone in their own lives. So it is important that you recognise this and take steps to address it – not least because it is going to be a lot easier being an entrepreneur with their support than without it. Getting your work/ life balance is very important to address.

The issues

There are three main reasons why your decision to start a business might have a big impact on those close to you:

1. Because to make your business a success you are going to have to be selfish, at least for the first couple of years, and devote the bulk and your energy, focus and drive to building up your venture. No matter how much you might wish you were superhuman, this is simply not the time to be renovating the house, or embarking on marathon-training. You are going to have to be fairly single-minded, and that can be hard for others around you.

2. Because you may be investing family money into the project – re-mortgaging the family home to raise funds to support you and your family in the early years, for example. This is not only stressful in itself; it may also mean that money which had been available when you had a salaried job to spend on other family activities such as going on holiday or buying a new car is no longer there. It can be easy for a family to feel resentful if they are having to make sacrifices and do without things because you are following your dream.

3. Because they are likely to see a lot less of you, as you stop working conventional 9 to 5 office hours and instead devote every waking hour to getting your business off the ground. Even when you are physically around, you are likely to have your mind constantly on the business and so may seem distracted or distant.

It is perhaps hardly surprising that so many entrepreneurs are on their second or even third marriages, as the stress of running a business takes its toll on personal relationships. Don’t let that be you.

How to do it right

1. Involve your family in the business wherever possible; by giving them shares in it, or employing them in it, or even simply by giving them regular updates about what is happening. If they feel part of what you are doing and can share in your successes, there will instantly be less confrontation between your business and your family. What’s more, once your family are involved in the business and can see it from the inside out and realise just what commitment it requires from you to make it a success, they are more likely to feel less alienated and happier and more able to support you.

2. The biggest barrier to harmony at home is likely to be time, or rather the lack of time you are spending with them. So set aside pre-arranged chunks of time to spend with your family – Friday night dinner, for example, or Sunday lunchtimes. And when you are with them, be there 100% for them instead of having half your mind on work matters. Don’t try to surreptitiously check your email when you think no-one is looking, because they will quickly cotton on to what you are doing and you will just infuriate everyone – including yourself, as you won’t be able to concentrate properly anyway.

3. Let them see the benefits and reap the rewards of what you are doing. When you have had a good month, take them out for a treat, or buy something nice for the house. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive, it just has to demonstrate that you appreciate the sacrifices they are also making.

4. If you run your business from home, then designate a particular part of it as your office. And be rigorous about sticking to this, otherwise, your work will gradually encroach on other areas of the house and infuriate everyone.

Things to consider

The rift between your business and family life can become particularly acute during festive occasions such as Christmas and over the summer holidays, especially if your family were used to having your undivided attention in the past. If you continually make phone calls and check your emails while you are on the beach making sandcastles with your children, or you are glued to your laptop while the kids are opening presents and having fun, it is hardly surprising that they might feel resentful. The fact is, if your business is going well, then taking a few days off for Christmas is not suddenly going to send it under. And if your business is not going well, then working every hour there is over Christmas is unlikely to save it.

Top tip

Be aware the seductive nature of being an entrepreneur – it can be all too easy to use working on the business as an excuse for not taking part in family activities because you feel more in control at work than when you are with your family. Be on your guard.

Case study

Vicki Snow has ensured that her mother Christine always feels comfortable about her running a business by giving her a job in it. Christine now works two days a week in Vicki’s fashion public relations business, Snow PR, looking after the admin side. The business, which is based in London’s West End, employs ten people. Vicki says the biggest advantage of employing her mother has been knowing that she can totally trust and rely on her: “It has been hugely supportive having her here … I love the fact that Mum is part of what I am doing.” She was initially unsure about how her staff would react to her mother being there, but in the event, she need not have worried. She says: “All the girls love her. When they need help, they run to Mum”. Her mother is happy with the arrangement too. “I love the industry, and the atmosphere in the office is fantastic.”

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