Is a healthy work/life balance really attainable for SMEs? Depends on your definition of balance.
Many people think balance means an even, equal, consistent separation of work and play. And for wage earners, it’s a reasonable expectation.
But not for business owners. Unfortunately, business doesn’t conform to your gym class or school pick-up schedule. There will be peaks and troughs. Late nights and stressful times. It’s up to you to reclaim your ‘life’ when things level off.
Now you’re flying!
Think of it like a plane. Sometimes it needs to bank hard left or right to get on course. So whenever work demands more of your time, don’t beat yourself up – just make sure you balance the plane by blocking out ‘life’ time once the dust settles.
“But the dust never settles!” I hear you cry. In that case you have to be even more vigilant, and more rigid in making time in your diary to balance yourself. There will rarely be a perfect time to leave the office, so you just have to bite the bullet and block out time.
The keys to achieving true work life balance are:
Separate yourself from your business
Too many business owners lose their sense of self – the business consumes them. And with this mindset, you end up just getting what’s left over after employees and suppliers are paid (if there’s anything left). You can help minimise this by recognising your dual roles of shareholder and director (shareholder meetings are a great way to do this). And it’s vital you pay yourself a wage – it has the added bonus of driving business growth by forcing the business to fund your lifestyle (rather than the other way around).
Get expert help.
One of our guiding principles at The Practice is operate in your genius. Where possible, we try to fit what needs to be done with the skills of our team. The closer we all are to operating in our genius, the more effective (and fulfilled) we’ll be – and the more satisfied our customers will be too.
A good accountant / business adviser is vital to achieving this balance.
MYOB’s recent research found that Australian accountants are their first port of call for SMEs when they run into financial difficulty. Nearly half (48 percent) of those surveyed said that these are the professionals they turn to when the going gets tough.
It’s important to tap into your accountants’ expertise, and get proactive advice to keep you ahead of the curve. This frees you up to focus on your area of expertise within the business.
Stay on track, and hold you accountable
Set regular (quarterly or monthly) meetings with your accountant / adviser to review your financial performance – this frees you up from the responsibility of tracking your own performance against KPIs. Use their expertise and impartiality to guide you on how to correct (or maximise) performance. Regular meetings will hold you accountable to do what you said you would – you’ll be forced to set aside time, so you avoid getting sucked back into the day-to-day vacuum.
The importance of accurate data
Having information that your accountant can interpret and summarise is critical; but it all starts with accurate and timely data. Use cloud-based accounting software to ensure you maintain accurate records. You’ll be amazed at the time you save and efficiencies you gain. And you can monitor your performance anywhere, anytime, on any device.
Lock in ‘me time’
But ultimately, work/life balance rests with you. You need to take responsibility for having a fulfilling life outside of work. Sadly, although more than one third of SMEs look for flexibility when running their own business, over 50 percent of owners work almost six out of seven days per week, meaning they miss out on weekends and quality family time.
In your yearly strategic planning, look for ways to build a business that’s self-sufficient; and that ultimately, can one day operate effectively without you.