How to balance a startup business with family life

Starting a new business makes huge demands on your time. For the first few months, even the first year, you may end up working the most hours you have ever worked, for the least pay you have ever worked for. Working more hours, whilst juggling family life can be even more difficult, missing out on regular or key family events can be tricky to justify to yourself, let alone your partner or child. We take a look at a few things to get you off on the right foot and help you balance a startup business with family life.

Get buy-in

Getting buy-in from your family and friends is key. Yes, there will be a few detractors, there always are but letting people know your plans, hopes and fears ensure that everyone can buy-in to your business from the start. Yes, there will be highs and lows but you will all be there for the journey so it’s good to be open about everything from the start.

Measure and record your progress

In most cases you will have to sacrifice some family time when you start your business, it’s just how it is. What will help you to see the progress you are making and give you the motivation to keep going when times are difficult is if you can track your progress. There are lots of different tools to help you do this, a good one is a one-page plan.

You can easily start with your existing position ‘where you are now’ and set some goals for ‘where you want to be’. You may want to include a number of goals for example; level of sales or profit from £x to £y or the number of blogs, videos or podcasts you want to produce, it might be gaining an accreditation or it could be actions around outsourcing some work or how many days it takes you to get paid.

When you have established exactly ‘where you are now’ and ‘where you want to be’, you can then set out your actions for ‘how you are going to get there’. Add short, medium and long-term goals to your one-page plan and make sure to share and celebrate your successes with your family.

Be super organised

Organisation and planning are key. Download a calendar sharing App, for example, Time Tree is a good one but there are many more. You can invite your family, friends or business contacts to view your calendar and book in appointments. Schedule in family days out, birthday parties and even date nights with your partner!

A lot of new business owners will make a commitment to always have dinner with their family or never miss bath time. You may end up working until midnight, but an hour, half-hour or less out of your day won’t make a huge difference in the long run.

It’s important to get into the habit of daily planning. Take 5 minutes at the end of the day or the start of the next day to list one or two tasks that must be completed the following day – make yourself accountable and you will notice that you progress quicker.

Ask for help

Being a startup is really exciting but it can also be pretty daunting at times, so ask for help. It could be a friend, family member or another business owner, but ask someone you trust. Also, this doesn’t have to be in direct help with the business. You might be under pressure to meet a deadline so asking someone to pick up your child from their sports class or running a small errand for you could take some pressure off.

If you can, think about outsourcing some of your work to-do list and/or your home to-do list.  Make a list of jobs you would be willing to outsource; how much time it takes you to do them and work out if it would be commercially viable to outsource these tasks. These often end up being admin or finance related.

As for that dreaded home to-do list – pay someone to cut the grass, clean the house or clear the gutters.  This doesn’t have to involve a monthly bill, most cleaners, gardeners and odd job businesses, offer ‘one-off’ type services to get your jobs done. This is especially useful, if you have a few jobs, home or work that have got out of control.

Find a business mentor

When you are starting out, find a business mentor. This could be a friend or family member that runs their own business but it must be someone you respect and trust and ultimately someone you would be happy to accept advice from. You don’t have to take their advice but it’s important to have someone, who is independent of your business and daily life, to act as a sounding board, to talk through challenges and opportunities.

Local business chambers and some business startup programmes from Scottish Enterprise and Business Gateway often offer access to a business mentor, so it’s worth checking this out too.

Take time out

Schedule time in your planner to ‘work on your business, rather than in your business’ – this means reviewing your performance in line with your objectives and setting goals.  With the pressures of juggling family and business life, this can be difficult to justify, especially if your business is doing well and you are busy with customers. It may also seem like a luxury, but it should be viewed as a necessity.

This could be as simple as; making time to meet with your business mentor to review your one-page plan, listening to that podcast or making a trip to attend an expo or conference to get some much-needed inspiration and motivation. Mixing up what you do with this time is important too but it’s the actions you take away from those activities which will really make the difference to your business.

Have a dedicated work area

When you are starting up and you are trying to keep costs down, your business HQ will probably be the kitchen table. If you are working from home, try and make a designated work zone, ideally a separate room, to contain your area when you need to work from home. When not working, it’s a good idea to try and clear your work away as having a work zone set up in the family zone will only act as a distraction.

Set some business boundaries

It’s important to try and set some boundaries to help balance work and family life. It might be that you don’t work on a particular day for example and it’s OK to inform your customers about this. Transparency is key and explaining that you ‘do the school/nursery run’ or ‘go swimming with your kids every Tuesday after work’ will be understood by most people and if it’s not, you’ve got to ask yourself if they are the type of customer you are happy to work for?

Look after yourself

Sometimes your own health and well-being are put on the back burner in the first few months when you are starting out and let’s be honest it can sometimes be a small victory if you manage to get the kids down, order a pizza and get to bed by midnight! But on the more organised days, it’s important to try and look after yourself, eat well and exercise, this will only help you to do those long crazy days. You can even use your ‘take time out’ to go for a walk and listen to that podcast; working on your business and getting fit at the same time, win-win!

The balance

You might not get the perfect mix of work/life balance right at the start or even further down the line, but putting a few things in place from the beginning to help you along the way will be time well spent.

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