Lex Tannenbaum

Small business can be all-consuming. It can suck the life out of the business owner. It can destroy families. It can destroy health.

But it needn’t be so. And it shouldn’t be so.

The problem is that small business tends to become the most important part of the business owner’s life. The business takes first, second and third place in the owner’s life. And everything else must just wait its turn – which sometimes never comes. The business owner will complain that there is no other way. If he or she doesn’t give all the attention to the business, income will dry up, there won’t be enough money to support the family, and so on. The owner will explain that there really is no choice – he or she doesn’t spend time on the business to the exclusion of all else because they want to – they do it because they have to. We know that that argument is a fallacy. How do we know it? Because when something really important (in the mind of the business owner) comes along, there is always time for that.

I once worked with a couple of professional men. They had a very successful business but were working crazy hours. Their work-life balance was all out of whack. They never got home before 7:30 or 8:00 pm, missing family dinners, and finding their young children asleep when they got home. They explained that it wasn’t through choice – there was just so much to do, that they couldn’t leave earlier.

I knew that they had an obligation to attend professional meetings from time to time and that these meetings were held in the early evening. When I asked them about their attendance at these obligatory meetings, they were quick to tell me
that they always attended. So how were they able to leave early on those occasions? Of course, a plan could be made. So we made a pact – they had a daily obligatory meeting at 6:00 pm – with their families for dinner. All that had to be done was to make a plan – and they did. It involved creating a proper organizational structure, allocating responsibilities to their team members, and creating systems to ensure that all the work they had been doing between 5:30 and 7:30 was attended to.

Not too difficult – but it made a huge difference in their family lives. They reconnected with their families, got to spend time with their kids before bedtime, and spent quality time with their wives. A lot is spoken about time management, but we know that we can’t really manage time. We all have the same amount of time – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That is immutable. But what we can manage is the way we spend our time. That is totally within our control. We can, of course, let time manage us, and complain that there is nothing we can do. But when push comes to shove, there is always something we can do. No matter how busy we are, we can always find time to attend a funeral. No matter how busy we are, we can always find time to go to the doctor.
How much more important than funerals and doctor visits are kids sporting events, birthday parties, dinners with the family, and time out on the weekends?

There are a number of tools to help the business owner get work and life in balance – a good organizational structure, proper allocation of responsibilities to team members, the proper use of a default diary, and many more. Getting the work-life balance wrong is dangerous – dangerous for the health, dangerous for family relationships, and dangerous for the business. Any small business owner needing help to put the necessary structures in place to ensure that the owner runs the business, rather than the business running the owner, should speak to a business coach. A healthy work-life balance is possible – and it is vital.