The Difficulty of Work Life Balance as an Entrepreneur
I was sitting in the chair in front of Jose in his office one morning recently, and he stopped me and asked why I hadn’t brought up the business at hand, when were had tickets to the ball game a couple nights before. “I didn’t want to bother you with my problem in your off time” I said. “I figured I would see you at our next appointment and then we could discuss your professional services”. “That is just like my dad” Jose said. “When I was a kid at home and I asked my dad about the retail store we had, he wouldn’t talk about it. He said to ask him at work the next day and he would explain. He had a great business-life balance”.
It’s difficult enough to balance work life and home life when you work for someone else, but the reality is that when you own your own business It’s so much more challenging. Throw in a home office, family members who are involved in the business, or financial challenges that squeeze family resources and the separation can become almost non-existent.
When we know that we are being paid from 9-5 or that someone is taking over our job for the night shift, we can rest easy. When it’s someone else’s business, we leave work at work and can come home and be with our family and friends. We can take holidays knowing that our job will be there when we get back.
Owning a business is different. The work never seems to go away. There is nobody who takes care of the big picture when we are not focused. Our business problems are difficult to leave behind, especially when the business is tied to us personally, financially, or emotionally. The weight of the business makes us feel that we are trapped in our own little world that no one else understands.
I remember clearly that day in the late 1980’s when I was involved in the start-up of one of my ventures. I had just put in a 12- or 14-hour day and was meeting some friends after for a drink at their house. I went in enthusiastically talking about the new business and all that was happening that I had found so exciting. I hadn’t been talking for more than a couple minutes when I remember looking in their eyes and noticing that they didn’t care. Their eyes were glazing over. They wanted to talk about their lives, their work, their challenges, not mine. More importantly, they didn’t comprehend what it took to make a business run successfully. It was as if I was speaking a different language.
I fully realized at that very moment, that I had to leave my business at the shop. I couldn’t bring it into my social life except at a superficial level. From that day on I have tried hard not to talk about my business ventures unless someone specifically asks about them. This is the challenge of each and every business owner, and it creates a lonely space.
It isn’t surprising that you will find business owners meeting together, joining business groups, or developing family friendships. They share a common bond that goes beyond their individual businesses. They know what it takes to own and run businesses, and the struggles, challenges and opportunities that entails. There is a common language and understanding.
We need the social context to discuss business, however we also need to know that there are times when we need to leave business issues alone. Even our fellow business owners don’t always want to be talking shop. Creating balance in our lives makes us healthier as Jose’s father wisely knew. If we can find ways to shut our business brains down and focus on other aspects of life, our businesses will be better, our relationships will be better, and we will be happier.
Dave Fuller, MBA, is an Award winning Certified Professional Business Coach and the author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy. Dave loves to hear about your business day or night by email email@example.com. However, he will only reply during certain hours away from family time.