Finding work-life balance

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Many owner-managers find themselves struggling to strike a balance, especially once the excitement of the new start-up has worn off. Here’s some advice on how to make yourself happier at home and at work

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8 December 2008 | 0

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THE PROBLEM

 I started up my own company this year, offering printing and packaging solutions mostly to food businesses. It’s a small operation which I run mainly from my office at the small printing facility I lease in a business park. I also have three children, in primary and secondary school, and a husband who works full time, so needless to say we have a very hectic lifestyle at the moment.
I’m running into difficulties at the moment in the sense that I’m not generating any new business, which is kind of crucial for me right now. I find I’m not really getting out there or reaching anybody new – which is something I need to learn to go about doing – and I’m also finding I don’t really have the time because there’s so much to do at the office.

I have taken on one employee to help with the printing and deliveries and I’d like to hire more but don’t think I can really afford it. Although, it would help cash flow to have more time spent chasing invoices. Can you advise me on how to go about creating new business/organising myself better, with a tight budget and little available time?

THE ADVICE

The position you find yourself in is not uncommon in start-up situations. The excitement of obtaining clients and building up your business eventually leads to the situation where you find yourself: too busy to deal with the success, burdened with paperwork and feeling over-whelmed by all of the functions that owner-managers need to take on (head of finance, marketing expert, secretary and administrator, as well as business guru).

Firstly, I will ask you to imagine that you have fast-forwarded your life by five years. Take a few minutes to look at all aspects of your life. In order for this exercise to be totally effective, I would suggest that you write down your thoughts under two headings; family and work.

Family

Imagine that I meet you at the end of December 2013 and you have just had the best year of your life. What is going on in your family life? Do you have help at home? Are you finally secure due to the success of your business?
How are your children getting on? Perhaps one of the older kids has left school. How was their school experience? Were you there as much as you wanted to be? How supportive were you as a parent? What time did you give to your family life to achieve the best year?
How is your home environment, your relationships, the stress levels? How are you switching off in the evening? You know your family circumstances a lot better than I do but what I really want you to focus on is the “perfect picture” and how you achieved it.  

Work-life

Now look at your business in December 2013. Let’s focus on where the business is in five years time. Ask yourself some of the following questions:
•    Where are you working? (Has your office environment changed?)
•    What income have you earned in the last year in the business and for yourself?
•    How many employees do you have?
•    Who are your customers?
•    Are you recognised in the market?
•    What is your position in your market?
•    How organised are you?
•    What is your management structure?
•    Who is responsible for finances and cash collection?
•    Who are your ‘wow’ clients?
•    What clients have you kept for the last five years?
•    What are your clients saying about you?
•    Who are your competitors?
•    How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?
•    Is this business financially viable in its current form? Why/Why not?
•    Do all of your employees generate more income than they cost?
•    How many hours do you spend in the office everyday?
•    How would you describe your success to date?

There may be more questions that come to you. The list above is an aid to get you to really focus on the future you and your future business. When you have this very clearly set out, it will be easier to focus on the present situation because now you know what you are aiming for with the business. The answers to the list of questions will provide the road map for your business.

How will you get there?

The next stage of the exercise is to focus on the present situation. What are you doing today that will allow you to get to the future state that you have described for your business? Again, this will require a bit of soul searching; the need to balance time with your family versus the need for your business to succeed. Most of my successful clients are able to manage family life with business life. Not all of the time, but most of the time; you are only human.

The important thing is that you prioritise your actions with regards to your family:
How many hours are you wiling to commit on a daily basis? (Best case scenario and worst case scenario)
Identify what back-up you have (your support system). What is your back-up plan? Who can you ask for help?
When things become “hectic”, learn how to reduce the chaos. Reflect back on what you could do differently when you encounter a particularly stressful or difficult day.

The future state of your business is an excellent gauge of what you are doing right and wrong:
Maybe carry out a comparison between what you want to happen in your business and what is currently going on; the difference is your road map. For example, you mention two specific areas that you are struggling with at the moment; generating new business and cash management.

Looking at the responses to your future state questions, you may now have a clearer picture of what you want your client base to look like. Take a look at how you achieved the clients you currently have and what you are doing to service them. Call them and ask them how can you help them in the current climate. What do they need and what more can you do to make your customer relationship easier? 

This feedback will provide you with support and positive feedback that will bring you greater enthusiasm for going out cold into the market. Packaging and print solutions are a necessary cost for many businesses who are trying to survive in the current environment. Find out who else is in contact with your current client base (not competing with, simply advising or helping) or your future client base and let them know of your services. 

With regard to your cash flow, I would recommend that you outsource this function until you can afford to take on another staff member. You will find someone through your local business network; someone who is very eager to take on a small business. Agree an hourly fee and ask for a written report. 

Make better use of employee spend

Given your time constraints it is crucial that you focus on your strengths. You mention that you have another member of staff that helps with the printing and the deliveries. You may need to focus on the utilisation of this staff member. Can this person’s time be used for other functions that will ease the pressure on you?

Start by calculating a daily rate for this employee; include a portion of overheads, car etc. Now, divide this by eight and work out an hourly rate. Check out how long the deliveries take. Time on the roads, particularly in the city is an expensive use of an employee. There may be more efficient ways of getting the printed material to your customers. A quick analysis of this could save hours that can be put to good use in other administration areas of your business. 

If, after going through this process, you find a “block” in your mind-set, it may be worth investing in a mentor or coach. Now is the time to put yourself out in the market when others are pulling back due to cost restraints. 

My final word is “focus”. If your mind is constantly moving from thought to thought, it’s time to focus. Take one aspect of your future business this week, another the next and so on, and spend 30 minutes each day focusing on that aspect alone. You will be surprised at what you realise.

 

Meet the Coach

Eibhlin is the managing director of thinkCoaching, which works with business teams, executives, managers and self-employed professionals to help them discover their core strengths and create bottom line results. Her specialty area is talent retention of individual high performers.
  Eibhlin has over 17 years experience in financial services and uses her past expertise to help business-owners. For more information visit www.thinkCoaching.ie or call 353 87 8583564. 

 

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