There's a common thread amongst business owners when asked why they started their businesses. Typically, answers include more freedom, more money, and more time with family. The reality is, however, that these things are some of the last to be achieved.
There's a cycle that happens very quickly when people start their own businesses and it goes something like this:
People often get stuck in a cycle of convincing themselves they need to work really hard in the beginning and therefore justify the lack of money coming in, the long hours, and time away from family and friends. But there should be no compromise when it comes to spending time with your children, and if you're missing things like school plays, or tucking them into bed each night, your mindset needs to change.
Whilst it's true that it takes a lot of hard work to build a business, particularly in the early days, there are strategies you can implement early on to make sure you don't start compromising on the most important things in life.
So, how do we go about creating this pattern instead?
If the reason you went into working for yourself is to provide for your family, great, but you can't forget how important it is to spend time with them too. You can't get those years back, there is absolutely nothing more important in the world than your loved ones and they should absolutely be included in your business plan.
Business plans are almost a thing of the past, but if you have one, create a whole section in it for your work-life balance strategy which should look like this:
Set Your Boundaries
Sit down with your family before your business starts and agree on your weekly schedule. Of course, there needs to be flexibility here and there, but you should have a loose plan that you can write into your family calendar so that everyone knows what to expect. Perhaps your day starts at 7am, but at 8:30am you take the children to school. From there maybe you work from 9am-6pm. Maybe you schedule one day per week as your 'flexible day', let's say Wednesday. On Wednesday everyone knows you might have to work later than usual, that's your catch-up day, the day you schedule calls, or the day you agree to travel for meetings. You will always have some element of control over this as you can fashion your work diary however you want to. Decide on weekends, do you work them or not? Maybe these are part of your "no compromise" rules. Your no compromise rules should include days off, putting the children to bed, date nights, and just about anything you do not want to miss. If you plan it into your diary early. you have a better chance of sticking to it and under no circumstances, should you be tempted to compromise.
These boundaries aren't just about family time, however. This is where you need to include time for yourself, such as gym times, going for walks, or just blocking out an hour each evening to read. Many business owners make the mistake of going into running their business with no plan and before you know it there are arguments and resentments to deal with. This is your opportunity to make a promise to yourself and your family and to stick to it at all times.
Show me the money!
Making money might not be the priority when it comes to running your own business, perhaps you already have enough to live on, and the motivation for running your business is a project you really want to do. Neverthless, having a figure that you NEED to live on each month, is the first thing you should think about. At this point, you're not thinking about earning millions, you just need to have a figure in mind that will enable you and your family to live. This monetary figure will create your first boundary, it will stop you from stepping over the line and getting carried away working too hard, compromising time with those you care about, and the number one reason you need this figure is so that you can delegate as early as possible.
Delegate from Day 1
Ideally, you should be choosing the amount you NEED to live on, not what you WANT to earn, that comes later, and please, don't be one of those people who doesn't take a wage out of the business, to begin with. You need to take a wage, you need to live and you need a reason to keep going when times are tough, this will give you that reason. Let's say you've agreed with yourself that you need to bring home £2,000 per month minimum. Because you have chosen an achievable amount, it shouldn't take an age to achieve it, as soon as you do, DON'T be tempted to keep any new work coming into yourself to have more money or higher profits. At this point, you should delegate without question.
Delegating early enables you to start handing over the jobs you don't like doing, the ones you don't need to do yourself, anything that stops you from doing what you really love to do in the business. Most importantly, it frees up your time to concentrate on growing the business. For a while, you might stay stuck on that £2,000 per month, because now you're having to pay whoever it is you're delegating to and I'm not going to lie, at times, you may have to sacrifice some of your own wages to pay them, but it is important to steer the course because the only way to get to the next level is to have someone else helping you.
In all likelihood, you may well stay on that £2,000 per month for a while, as you emulate this blueprint you have, ideally, you will bring in more help but at some point, you will start bringing in enough business to increase your personal income. You will have achieved all of that whilst not compromising on your family time and the reason you will have done it without compromising is that you delegated early. If you hadn't, you would most certainly have had to spend long hours working to pick up the slack. By taking a wage early, you will still feel there's progress happening, and you are less likely to become resentful of your business, working all the time for little to nothing in return.
It is important to remember that building on that initial wage can take time, but eventually, through this model of no compromise and delegation, you will start to grow your business and your revenue all without missing out on the most important thing in life...the people you love
If you have already started your business, it isn't too late for you to implement these strategies. You simply need to go back to the drawing board.
Decide on your minimum monthly income and sit down with your family to discuss the schedule. You might have to do some maneuvering, change the days and times you usually meet with clients or go into the office, but it can be done. After that, the rest of the concept is the same. In fact, you might have to start delegating right away to enable you to implement these strategies. The bottom line is, that you need to do it and you shouldn't hold back due to fear.
It is so important you recognise the difference between hard work and getting somewhere, and just treading on the hamster wheel. Stop promising yourself you will get there someday, that all the compromises you are making are 'just for now'. They aren't. There is no entrepreneurial guidebook that says working yourself stupid equals success, so don't listen to the hustlers out there, take the smart approach instead and hold dear what matters to you most.