How to Run a Business Without Ruining Your Life

This isn’t as easy as you might think.  It starts with knowing your priorities.  This helps you define your business goals, and should definitely save you some stress.  If you know you want to exercise every day, eat dinner as a family and be free in the evenings and weekends for your kids’ soccer games – then you’ll have to make some adjustments to your business plan.

Unfortunately, we’ve all read stories or know people that take the leap to build their dream business only to have their confidence take a beating or they retreat from social get-togethers because of the toll their business is taking. Reading stories of successful entrepreneurs, it turns out many had to go through these stages on their way to their goals.  It’s a long and emotionally tough road to success.  Which is why many give up. We all know individuals who start their own business who are far more talented & work much harder than other people in their field but yet they never find success. Only from experience can we fully understand this popular saying: The only difference between the people who are successful and the people who are not is that the successful people didn’t give up. This is a huge part of success, staying the course when the road gets tough. The process is grueling and not for the faint of heart. Sure, there are the instant success stories but those are not the norm, but by putting your priorities in order you can find success however you define it.

Ali Mese, now living the lifestyle he prefers over his former corporate one, writes pretty candidly about how hard the journey was for him for a while.  In his article he offers 5 questions he wishes he had asked himself before he set out on what he calls “this painful journey”.

I even found this article difficult to read because in my experience Mese’s experience and advice is right on target.  If you’ve launched your own business you will recognize the good, the bad and the ugly he writes about.  For the long journey to success he discusses 5 questions that cover areas like the social pressure you face starting up a new venture, the need for having support from the people in your life, the importance of having enough cash to make it through the build-up phase of your business, the hard truth about how much work is actually involved to finally – defining what success looks like for you.  My favorite part of his article is when he gets to the point where he doesn’t care about what other people think of him anymore.

He says “I was so hard on myself and punished myself with even more work so I could announce my success as soon as possible. That is, until the day I realized no one gave a f*ck about me, so why would I?”

If you read Mese’s article, the good news is that he achieved much that he set out to achieve.  He wasn’t happy in his high paying corporate job/lifestyle.  Now, he is living a lifestyle more closely matches his ideal. So a surefire way to let running a business not ruin your life – is to make sure you keep your goals and priorities clear!  If owning a 5 million dollar business is how you define success then you have to accept all the ramifications that will entail.  If, on the other hand, you value time to do things for yourself, or time with your family, or weekend getaways, you’ll have to adjust your business goals.

Another key of having a successful business and a life is learning to delegate.  Early on in my career I worked at Microsoft and a practice I learned there has stayed with me ever since.  You have to surround yourself with and hire people equal or more skilled than you and once you get these people and train them, let go of control.

Two of my previous bosses come to mind that used the opposite approach.  They were very controlling, unable to let their managers manage.  The result?  Lots of conflicts with their staff and high turnaround.  They both were unhappy people who never connected the dots between their inability to trust others to do their job and their limited success.

We all want to run our business while at the same time safeguarding the things that matter in our lives.  Achieving this work-life balance is something we  all need to work on because reading “The Experts” tell their side in a Wall Street Journal article on work-life balance from 2013 – it ain’t an easy task.

One entrepreneur said outright that balance was a myth for any business owner.  Another said, it isn’t a 9-5 job, so accept that at the get go.  Yet another told of how he intermingles his family life with his work.  For example he took his teen with him on international business trips rather than on a family vacation. If this is fine with you, then know you are in successful company.  There are many business owners (or successful people in general) that spend 60, 80 hours plus per week on their work and love it.

If the idea of that makes you sad, do what we discussed earlier.  Define what it looks like to run your business in a way that allows you to achieve the lifestyle you desire.  Some entrepreneurs in the article in the WSJ found things like delegating or making time for what they enjoyed like hiking or even marrying someone more balanced than they are – all helpful ways that help them achieve balance in their work-life continuum.

What many people who strike out on their own are hoping for is to be able to do what they love to do and make a decent living at it.  Syndicated Columnist, Charles Krauthammer, M.D., often speaks of how he fell into his political commentary and writing career after training to be a psychiatrist.  Stumbling upon work he loves to do is one of his life’s great joys and it’s something he wishes for everyone to find.  He agrees with the oft quoted statement from Confucius: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

If you’re happy with the work you’re doing, you also don’t have to worry that you’re ruining your life.  But keep in mind that doing what you love isn’t going to always mean balance.

As one business owner, Mary Liz Curtin, put it, balance is a great goal, but “I don’t think most of us small-business owners were particularly well-balanced to begin with.”  If that’s true for you, aim for small increases in balance, like taking mini breaks in your work day, rather than pressure yourself to fit all your work into a 10  hour workday.  The opposite is also true.  If the whole reason you want to work for yourself is to have more time to spend with your children or to cook home cooked meals, or do volunteer work or go on more vacations, you write the rules.  Readjust your business goals to allow for the lifestyle you are aiming for.

The answer to running a business without ruining your life is within you.  Trust yourself.  Figure out what is important to you and let your business serve your life.  Not the other way around.

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