How to run a small business and still have a life

How to run a small business and still have a life

Don't let running your own business take over your life. Here's some tips for keeping some balance.

So you have a great idea for a business and you want to strike out on your own. Good on you! 

The trap for many new small business owners is making sure to keep having a life outside your business so you don’t put yourself at risk of burnout.

Here are some tips so you can still work to live, rather than live to work.

Write a business plan

Having a detailed business plan will help you define your business goals and how you’re going to achieve them. A key part of any business plan is research - take a close look at your customers and ask them if they would value your product and how much they would pay for it. 

If you’re not sure where or how to start writing a business plan, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has a handy section on how to write a business plan, including templates to follow. 

Find a business mentor

There’s nothing like the opportunity to bounce your business ideas off someone else - particularly someone who is able to offer good, objective advice because they’ve already been there, done that.

It makes sense to look for a mentor with experience in an industry relevant to your business, but it’s worth remembering that someone who doesn’t know your particular industry but knows how to run a successful business may see things you don’t. 

Someone who has learnt how to run a business successfully will obviously have great insights, but it can also be very valuable to have a mentor who has experienced business failures before. You can learn from their mistakes rather than your own. Think about what aspects of your business you think a mentor could be most help with and use that as a way to help you choose.

If you can’t immediately think of someone who would make a good business mentor within your own networks, you could try Business Mentors NZ, a charitable organisation with a network of nearly 2000 volunteer business mentors.  

Don’t over-commit

This holds true both in business and in your personal life. You are better to ace a modest amount of business than just scrape through, delivering mediocre results on a workload that is too heavy. 

Likewise, when you’re starting a business, you may need to scale back on personal commitments. But keep balance. Be realistic about what you can achieve right now, without cutting yourself off from the rest of your life, family and friends.

Delegate where you can

If you’re feeling totally swamped, it could be time to hire someone. While you’re right to be cautious about taking on extra costs, an extra pair of hands should help ensure your time is spent on areas of the business where it’s most valuable.

Data entry, for example, probably isn’t it. And remember you may not need to hire full time staff. You can investigate contracting out certain tasks and admin jobs for a few hours a week as you need them done.

Depending on the nature of your business, it’s a good idea to factor these kinds of delegation into your business plan from the start if you can, so you’re ready for the costs.

Make time to communicate with your partner, and/or friends and family

It’s easy to neglect your relationships when you’re up to your ears in setting up a new business, but if you do, you’re cutting yourself off from one of your main sources of support. 

Make sure you make time to talk things through with your partner or other key people in your life, and remember to listen as well as talk. 

And don’t forget your business partner (if you have one)

The same is true for communicating with your business partner. It might be easy to assume you’re on the same page, when in fact you’re thinking different things. The simplest way to stay on track with each other is to schedule a weekly catch-up, with an agenda, so you both know where you’re at.

Take holidays, set boundaries and turn off at the end of the day

The problem with running your own business is that there is always something you could be doing. But beware - this way burn-out lies. 

It’s a good idea to regularly remind yourself that you can only do so much, and that you need to take time for yourself and your family or loved ones. 

Schedule holidays the same way you would if you were an employee with a fixed amount of annual leave to use up. OK, you’re probably not going to take a month off in one hit, but regular breaks of a few days here and there will be great for your mental health - and give you the distance you need to get some perspective on your business. 

Likewise, you’ll find everything easier to manage if you set a clear division between your work and home life. In other words, even if you’re working from home, don’t pop out of the office to hang out the washing at 11am and don’t sit up in bed answering work emails at midnight. 

Set yourself a deadline to stop looking at your phone each evening and stick to it, so you have at least a couple of hours of relaxation time at the end of the day.

Another idea could be to mark the finish of your day by writing a short list, of the key tasks you need to achieve the next day. It’s a good day to stop yourself thinking about them - or reminding yourself about them - all evening.

The number one rule is:

Place a value on your own time. And remember why you started your own business in the first place - was it to allow you more flexibility? To do something you really enjoyed? To spend more time with your family? Becoming a stressed workaholic won’t help with any of those.

Other articles you might like:

Nine top tips for starting your own business

Need to get a fix on your business cashflow? Get a fix on this

Are you thinking about starting your own business? Harmoney may be able to help.

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