Supervisory Leadership

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How does a small business owner achieve work/life balance?

Let's start by re-framing the question. First of all, it's not work versus life. It's different parts of life. Work is a part of life as much as being a parent or a spouse or a church member or a golfer.

And talking in terms of "balance" implies that there's an ideal, or balance, point to aim for. In fact, small business owners need to make choices about the mix in their lives. There's no right answer, only intelligent choices.

The magic is in the mix. There are times in your life when business gets the first place. A friend of mine started his own business when his wife was pregnant and unable to work. But they made the choice to do so. And, in their case, it worked out. Both the business and the marriage are successful.

That's a key point. In most of the successful marriage/business partnerships I know, both he and she participate in decision making and have similar goals.

You have another big question to answer, too. How do you define "success?" If it involves attending all of your daughters' dance recitals, you won't be as successful on the business side as if you work through some of them. If you need to travel on business to succeed, you won't hit all those recitals.

One of the things I've always enjoyed about having my own business (both now when I'm an individual contributor and when I had a small publishing company) is the freedom to make life choices. But that freedom is an empty promise unless you choose to use it.

Many years ago, when my children were young, I realized that I was working through those dance recitals and basketball games. I was passing up opportunities to go to a ballgame or the opera so I could work. So I put a sign above my work station that said, "I didn't start this business to "

The sign reminded me that my freedom to choose only mattered if I exercised it. It got me out of the office.

If you decide to choose, there's almost always a way. When I go on vacation, I don't check email or check for orders. I have a young woman who does that for me and handles just about everything. She may need to call me once or twice in two weeks, but that's OK.


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