One of the difficulties I often hear about when speaking to relatively new small business owners is the need to find ways of balancing the various pressures – particularly for those who are starting their business while still employed full-time elsewhere. The feeling of having ‘too many masters’ between your current job, your new business, and last but certainly not least, your family – can be over-whelming.
Eventually it will come down to choices, but until that time, I know that every small business owner is interested in finding ways to satisfy all the demands on their time. Therefore, when I came across this article in the American Express Small Business Forum, I thought it was worth sharing. It contains good, thoughtful advice that every small business owner can use. If you have additional suggestions that can benefit our readers, please share them in the comments below.
by Trent Hamm, American Express Small Business Forum
When I was in the process of launching my internet business, The Simple Dollar, I was under a great deal of stress. I was working a full time job while at the same time giving a ton of my time, emotion, and energy to making my new business take off. On top of that, I also needed time for my wife and my children.
For more than a year, I was a complete overstressed wreck. I didn’t sleep enough. My anxiety level was quite high, causing me to overreact to every little thing. I got sick several times, causing me to both miss time at my full time job as well as vital business startup time. I also often felt like I was letting someone or something down in my life because there simply wasn’t enough hours in the day.
That period taught me several vital lessons about the dual difficulties of launching a business while still trying to maintain some semblance of personal finance security and a normal home life.
First, recognize that you can’t do everything. The more you try to take on everything, the more likely you are to begin letting people down – and letting yourself down. That can be a downward spiral of failure and overcompensation that becomes difficult to escape from.
What can you do instead? Spend some time honestly figuring out what the real priorities are in your life. Many people will tell you that their family is a priority – and they may even believe that – but they’ll find themselves making other choices when it comes to crunch time, letting their family life suffer at the expense of a business. If your true priority is your business, admit it to yourself and focus your energies there. If your true priority is your family, admit that as well and accept that you may have to let your business lag a little. If your true priority is maintaining your full time job, accept that your business will probably grow very slowly at first. Once you have your priorities straight, it becomes much easier to determine which elements of your life deserve priority over others.
Another key step is to reduce your personal spending and financial burden. Many people, when their lives are overfull with demands but their wallets are flush with income, will choose to commit to a much more expensive standard of living because of the convenience. It’s easier to go out to eat – where you can relax for a bit before eating your meal – than to prepare something at home, right? It’s also more expensive, which means that you’re more attached than ever to the very difficult personal balancing act you’re taking on.
That’s why a fresh commitment to personal frugality can be so vital as you balance full-time work and the launch of a business. The less you require for your own personal spending, the easier the transition to a full-time businessperson can be. Look into ways to reduce your personal spending without much pain. Install a programmable thermostat and program it to have your air conditioner or furnace not run when you’re not at home. Hold off on upgrading that car. And, yes, eat at home as often as you can – learn how to prepare simple, tasty meals with inexpensive ingredients and remember that the slow cooker can really be your friend.
What finally happened with my own situation, you might ask? Eventually, I made the difficult choice to walk away from my full time job, even though I was earning more from that job than I was from my business. The reason? I realized that my family was the highest priority in my life, more than my job or my burgeoning business. This put my business and my full time job into conflict and I chose the one that made family choices easier for me. Of course, the path to that decision was made much easier by a strong commitment to reducing my personal spending.