Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Small Business Advice Part One - Work Life Balance

You know how all those business self help books are often based on one simple idea repeated over and over again? When I was young The One Minute Manager was all the rage amongst my colleagues who were bowled over by what was a very good statement of the bleedin obvious spread into twenty of more chapters. I imagine that anybody who had to read a book to tell them how to manage their time efficiently was never going to become leader of the board.  I hope to periodically offer similar pearls of wisdom here but I feel that, whilst every football team needs at least one star player, no team has ever won anything with only one man and no one idea is going to make you successful in business.

So, in no particular order, I am going to cover topics that have influenced my career and played an important part in giving me a modicum of success. One of those closest to my heart is striking the right work/life balance.

Over the past thirty or more years I have seen more and more emphasis placed on working hours. Today, many business people seem to wear their excruciatingly long working days as some sort of badge of honour. "I was in the office until midnight". "Got a breakfast meeting at 7" "I don't have time for lunch " are all spoken as if they prove a dedication to the job in hand whereas, in my humble opinion, they are an admission of failure. By that I don't mean that all those hard working people are failing in their jobs but they are failing in their LIVES.

Unless you are particularly religious you've only got three score years and ten (or maybe four score nowadays) on this mortal coil and there's not much point reflecting in your dotage on sixty and seventy hour weeks. If you are single and you love work then go for it, if that is what you enjoy, but remember that you may not always be single and once your have created a working environment it is going to be very difficult to put things into reverse. But if you are not single remember that you have a partner and maybe children. Your son is not going to be chosen as an angel in the school nativity every year and a video is no substitute for your being there. Whilst the kids might appreciate their new XBox and the two weeks in Florida (despite you spending the whole time on your Blackberry or laptop)they would much rather you took them to the park after tea a couple of nights a week. Likewise your partner might appreciate the luxuries that your endeavours provide but a shared night in front of the telly could be just as welcome.

Think about it. You run a business and you earn a reasonable income. But you are working sixty hours or more plus your lunch breaks and all that time answering your emails in the evenings. Are you earning that much? You might be better of in a 9-5 job and have no pressure. By deciding at the outset on what is a reasonable working week and sticking to it I believe that you will have a far happier working life than if you become a business obsessed workaholic with a one track mind. Of course there are times when you have to deviate from the chosen hours. You may want to launch a new product or attend a trade fair and in those exceptional times you should throw yourself into it wholeheartedly. I managed to work for over forty years and typically averaged about 35 hours a week. I saw plenty of the kids, never checked my business calls or email on holiday and it didn't cause me a problem. If you are successful you will employ others and if you lead by example on your own working hours you will find that your staff will be far happier with theirs. If you doubt me, just give it a try and see how much your life improves.

I'll be posting another small business advice topic after Christmas but in the meantime here's a nativity for the digital age.