Balancing Your Business And Your Life

Jim Blasingame The greatest challenge in the life of any small business owner is not sales, profits, personnel, or capital acquisition, it's learning how to successfully balance their professional and personal lives.

I have learned a lot from the business owners I have observed. Their levels of success have been all over the board, both with regard to their business and their personal lives. The ones that I admire and like to focus on most are the ones who have managed to be successful in both areas. I call them "The Balancers."

Without reservation I can say that the characteristic that is consistent among Balancers is that they have taken the time and effort to honestly define success for themselves. Balancers also do one more very important thing: they let their families participate in the definition process. It is not possible to overestimate the value and importance of both steps.

Defining Success
Webster has two thoughts on success: 1) a favorable outcome or result; 2) gaining wealth, fame, rank, etc. If you want to know how you define success, take a little test. Write down the item from either list below that represents what you consider to be the single best indicator of success. Then write down under that choice the next best indicator of success from either list, and so on, until you've created your own list of 10 success indicators in your order of priority. I'll wait.

List A
Money
Home in an exclusive neighborhood
Status
Vacation home, yacht, cruises
Taking your company public

List B
Self determination
Knowing your children and being active in their lives
Loving, functioning family
Personal spiritual, mental, and physical well-being
Financial independence (not necessarily the same as Money)

Hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm......Finished? We'll check your answers in a minute. First let me say that I would never be so presumptuous as to tell you how to define success. But I will tell you that your answers on the test creates what I call your Personal Success List, and is a pretty good indicator of how balanced your life is, or will be.

Blasingame's Balance Quotient
Now let's grade your list against Blasingame's Balance Quotient (BBQ). If more than 3 of the top 6 items on your list are from List A, then your priorities are skewed toward you and things, and result in a low BBQ. Not conducive to balance.

If at least half of the first six items on your list are from List B, then you have a high BBQ. You are, or have the potential to be, a Balancer. Congratulations.

This test has no pass/fail, or right or wrong. It's your life, and it's your BBQ. The question is, do you know what you really want, and are you willing to take the steps to get there? My job is to motivate you to think about it, and to help you make changes if you wish.

You Can Have Success In Business Without Losing Everything Else
The key to having it all - business success, family, etc. - is balance and communication. Balance begins with where you place your priorities; communication begins by talking with the people who love you.

Is your daughter's ball game or your son's recital a priority? Then schedule it. If you want to be a Balancer, know what's going on in your family's schedule, and work yours around it. If you have a low BBQ and want a higher one, begin by attending all of the family events (including dinner) that you possibly can. And when you can't be there, since it's on your schedule, you can tell your family what's going on in advance. They will understand.

While you are telling your family how important they are to you, also include how important the decision to own your own business is, and how you believe the business will ultimately be good for the family. Treat them like partners, because whether you realize it or not, they are in this with you, just like partners. A Balancer's dialogue with family members actually allows them to feel a vested interest in the business, even when they are not directly involved.

You're Important, Too
One of our Brain Trust members, Marc Allen, author of Visionary Business and A Visionary Life, encourages us not to lose ourselves in all of this. Being a Balancer also means that you blend in time for yourself. Marc says an important component of his balancing act is finding time alone, away from everything, to think. He reminds us that just like attending the family functions, if you don't schedule time alone, it probably won't happen.

Remember, you're not the family pack horse. You are one of the human beings in your family with needs just like everybody else. You have the right to maximize your potential professionally, and follow your business ownership dreams. It's important for your family to understand this, too. You might have to say it out loud.

Don't Feel Guilty
Guilt is a very unproductive emotion. Part of being a Balancer is getting to the place where you don't feel guilty about the extra time you spend in your business. If you want to jettison the guilt, begin the communication. Knowing that your loved ones understand why you work so hard minimizes the guilt, makes you more productive, and consequently, gives you more time for your life outside the business.

Balancing Isn't Easy
I know what you're thinking: Being a Balancer is easier said than done. You're right, it's not easy - especially if things aren't going well in the business (which is a distinct possibility, particularly in the early stages). Remember, all businesses, young and old, have problems that have to be solved by the owners. These problems take time, energy, resources, and emotions. If you have a family, they are involved in the good, the bad, and the ugly. When things get tough, let them help you shoulder the load.

It's understandable that you might not want to tell them all the details. It's enough just to say, "Things are a little tough. Just know that if I have to work a little extra right now, it's not that I wouldn't rather be with you."

But remember, communication explains why you are not around part of the time. It's no substitute for you, and isn't worth your breath without your corresponding balancing efforts (priorities, scheduling).

Money And Stuff Won't Make You Happy
You read it correctly! I have known many millionaires, and believe it or not, whether they were happy or not (some were, some weren't) had nothing to do with their money, their status, or their stuff.

Don't ever forget this: If you are unhappy before you acquire money, status, and stuff, you will be unhappy with those things. You will only be happy with them if you were capable of being happy before you had them. Here's the bad news: If you were happy before you had money, fame, and stuff, these things might actually make you unhappy.

You can't be a Balancer if you are unhappy. Balancers know this and have a healthy, well-thought-out definition of success. They blend professional success with the love of family, the support of friends, plus personal mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being.

If you want to have a high BBQ, go back to my test and see if you want to make a new Personal Success List. Then ask your family how they define success. Incorporate that information into your List to create your Family's Success List. Next step: tape that list on your morning mirror. Last step: Live your List.

Write this on a rock... It's cliché to say that on the day you die you won't wish you had spent more time at the office. But there is one thing that we know about clichés: most of them are true. This one definitely is. Now go hug your family and create that list.

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