In the lead up to Christmas last year I heard a radio interview summarising the results of a survey and one key finding really stuck out.
25% of New Zealanders were planning on checking their work email on Christmas day, and the vast majority of these people were small business owners.
I'm sure this will be a pretty accurate reflection of global trends…. so read on!
Because my heart sank and my first thoughts were full of self-doubt. “I'm a small business owner, but I'm not planning on checking my work emails on Christmas day (or for a good week afterwards)…. should I be? Maybe I'll be more successful if I do check my emails on Christmas Day”
Neither Janine or I were planning on going anywhere near emails, computers or our offices on Christmas Day.
However my next thoughts were slightly clearer: “Why would you go to all the effort of establishing a small business if it meant you had to work on Christmas Day?”. After all, the vast majority of employees would not accept this requirement from their boss (unless they were shift workers) so why would you expect it from yourself?
Does small business start-up always mean huge sacrifice and the loss of work life balance?
Small business start up comes with all kinds of expectation and unconscious assumptions, and it would be easy to buy into the notion that to be successful you must work 16 hours a day, demonstrate your commitment by being prepared to make huge sacrifice, and compromise on other aspects of your life. And I don't deny that some of the most successful entrepreneurs out there are hugely committed, dedicated and hard working.
However, I firmly refute the idea that small business success can ONLY come at the expense of your time, health, relationships and personal values.
Yes, small business start up requires huge dedication, commitment and hard work and I'm under no illusion that it's all butterflies and cupcakes. I know that entrepreneurs don't always create their ideal work life balance from the get go.
But given that many women start out in small business because they want more flexibility, more time with family, and more opportunity to have work life balance, why would you choose to set yourself up so that your small business didn't allow any of this?
Bringing personal goals and values into a successful small business
I don't believe that I (or any other entrepreneur out there) must sacrifice relationships, balance, or a work-free Christmas Day just to be successful in their small business endeavours. In fact I firmly believe that your business should reflect your personal goals and your values.
Janine and I have been hugely intentional all along about establishing a business that allows us to combine a successful business with other aspects of life and we are both very clear that while we will (and do) work hard and are hugely committed, our families, relationships, health, balance, fun and life outside of work are also essential to our own happiness and sense of well being.
And yes, sometimes I do find myself working on a weekend or in an evening, but it is rarely an accident. More often than not it is because I've chosen to do something else with my day and therefore am happy to work a Saturday morning. It is not because I feel I must work 6 days a week.
It's a conscious choice to align our business with my personal values and the goals I have outside of work.
What do your work hours and choices say about your values?
Now I'm aware that some small business owners may choose to check their work emails on Christmas Day so work with me here. The underlying point is that the way you set up your business and the expectations you place on yourself MUST be conscious choices… otherwise you may well find yourself sacrificing far more than you had intended to, including compromising on your values and not achieving your personal goals.
So I invite you to reflect on this:
When and how do you currently work?
What do your work hours and choices say about your values?
Why did you start out in business in the first place and are you on track? Is your biz supporting you to achieve your personal goals?
If you are currently doing the “putting in the hard yards till I get off the ground” stage, great stuff – but when will you make a change? How will you know when it's time to ease into the routine where your biz supports your lifestyle?
How happy will you be if you are still working in this way in 5 or 10 years time?
I want to be clear that this is NOT about choosing an easy route, slacking off, or living under a false notion of the realities of starting a small business. Nor is this a "telling off"!… in fact I hope that for many of you this is an opportunity to celebrate and recognise that your business is truly supporting your 'out of work' life.
Lifestyle Business success is about making conscious choices to get clear about why you are in business and how you want to live your life and THEN (and only then) to examine the structure of your business and the way you use your time so that your business is the vehicle that moves you towards your ideal life.
Keen to combine business success with your personal goals, values, and work life balance?
If you find that you would like to make some changes, here are some ideas to help you get on track:
Are you crystal clear on what lifestyle you hope to attain for yourself by achieving business success?
Take some time to think about how your day or week would look if you were achieving your ideal balance and capture it on paper (get creative with images and colour!)
Think about how you could work more efficiently in your business (outsourcing could be key here).
Gain an understanding of how effective you are with your time and cut out distractions. One idea would be to install a time-tracking software (lots of free ones out there) so you can track where you spend time on your computer and become more conscious about how you use your time.
And if you'd like some structured support to make this a reality for you in your business and your life, take a look at our recent Ebook “Work Less, Earn More, Make a Difference” – which is specifically for women entrepreneurs who want to create their ideal profitable, lifestyle business!