When I was a little girl, there was a time of year I most looked forward to. School was out. Summer had started. All of that was well and good for most of my classmates, too, but there was something more in it for me. Those things meant I would get to spend a little extra time with my dad.
Growing up as a child of a family-run small business, there were not many times I got to enjoy with my dad. He owned and operated an architectural firm, and now that I’m an adult with two small children trying to balance finances and family time, I get it more than I ever did before.
But that doesn’t change what it was like for me, as a kid, to be part of a small business. There were perks, to be sure, like we had access to internet and cell phones before that was even considered cool, but that’s not what mattered to me. What really mattered to me was getting to spend time with my dad.
I know he worked hard. He provided for my family so that my mom could stay home and raise my little sister and I. I know that wasn’t easy. But that doesn’t change for me the one time of year I held most dear growing up: our family vacation.
It always happened right after school let out. We would pack up the old Dodge Caravan and head out to exciting destinations like the Smokey Mountains or Mount Rushmore. These are the moments I remember most. The moments I got to spend time with my family. Together.
These are the moments we need to cherish as small business owners. Now that I operate my own small business, I know it’s true more than ever before: people talk about work-life balance like it’s some easy peasy thing to figure out. And, maybe for some people, it is.
But for the average small business owner who is living the dream of bringing his or her passion to life on a daily basis, it can be exhausting. And not even for the reasons you’d think. Yes, you get to be your own boss and set your own hours and make your own rules. But you also take on about as large a personal responsibility as possible as the owner and operator of not only your dream coming to life, but also your source of financial stability.
Only one in five small business owners work less than the standard 40-hour work week.
A recent study conducted by The Alternative Board found that 19 percent of small business owners work more than 60 hours a week, and only one in five small business owners work less than the standard 40-hour work week.
Sure, there is something to be said for doing something you love and never working a day in your life, but here are some other things to keep in mind when the rubber meets the road:
#1 – Find your foundation.
From attorneys to architects to visionaries crafting new projects people of the past could never have possibly dreamed of, something simple unites us all: a vision. Everyone who dreams of starting a small business has a special spark in their soul to remind them it’s possible. To remind them that dreams are meant to be achieved. But commitment and dedication also come into play, so it is that much more crucial to remember your why. Why did you want to start this business? What were your goals? What were your dreams? Focus on that.
#2 – Remember your priorities.
Dreaming big doesn’t come without a price. Most entrepreneurial minded folks are hard wired to work hard to get what they want. They set goals and achieve them because they believe from the start they can. However, it’s important to set a list of objectives from the start to help keep yourself in check and remember why you wanted to do whatever it is you’re doing.
#3 – Set achievable goals.
Baby steps mean something to new parents for a reason. First steps matter, because everyone knows more is coming. Remember that when you set goals – make them achievable and don’t be afraid to set teeny tiny milestones in place toward making them a reality.
#4 – Define your “why” from the beginning.
Research shows that despite what most small business owners expect when getting into the business, 97 percent end up working on the weekends. The struggle is real when you know you’re in charge, you have dreams and goals you’re working toward and you want to keep up. But that’s why it’s so important to set aside some time, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem to you, to spend on things you enjoy outside of work. Maybe it’s joining a men’s softball league that plays once a week, taking your son to soccer practice twice a week or carving out time on the weekend that’s set aside to spend time doing something fun with your wife – make it happen. Your “why” matters, not only to you, but to your spouse and your children, as well as your family and friends. They all want to see you happy almost as much as they want to enjoy a little quality time with you.
This all brings me back to those precious summer vacations I had with my dad. Aside from that, I don’t have many prominent memories with him. We had some times together here and there as I grew up, but one of my biggest regrets was not spending more time with him while he was alive.
My dad, proud small business owner and entrepreneur, died prematurely at the age of 48. I was 24 years old at the time and didn’t really even know how to handle all the emotions of everything. But now that I look back on my childhood, now that I look back on my life as the daughter of a small business owner, I can say with some sense of emotional authority that I know a thing or two about the importance of finding work-life balance as a small business owner.
I’ve seen it firsthand. I know how much it meant to me when my dad took 15 minutes to play basketball with me in our driveway after dinner before he headed back to work. I know how much it meant to me when he’d spend a day in sweltering heat to watch me swim a whopping 2 minutes in the 100-meter butterfly.
And when I was a little girl, there was a time of year I most looked forward to. School was out. Summer had started. But most importantly, I remember the song my little sister and I used to sing when we counted down the days until it was time for our family vacations. I saw how much my dad was personally revived by the time he spent with us. No matter how small or insignificant it may have seemed to him, it meant the world to us and that meant the world to him. That is work-life balance worth dreaming about.