I never wanted to own my own business. I’d been asked by someone I worked with years earlier, “Wouldn’t you ever like to own your own business one day?” My response was, “No, my parents were small business owners and they didn’t really have much balance in their life.” In truth, it was a much deeper wound than that.
My parents owned small motel properties in the south Texas tourist town that I grew up in. From an early age, I helped out the family business. In 6th grade I helped clean rooms and cleaned the pool. Starting at age 13, I learned about customer service, billing, calculating sales tax, business letter writing, and I even did the bookkeeping on the family computer. We lived in an apartment on one of the properties and so there was no real boundary for when home life ended, and work began.
In high school we moved to a new house, separate from the motel which was meant to provide all of us with a lot more balance. Throughout high school, I regularly worked the front desk, checking in guests and taking payment. The times that I was there working meant my parents could have a break. Plus, I also got spending money.
I saw first-hand how stressful it was for my parents to manage and how stressed and strained they (and their marriage) became. They eventually divorced when I was a senior in high school. The whole experience turned me off to the idea of ever owning my own business.
I think this is a common way people view the entrepreneurial journey, that it will sap you of your life and your energy because you’ll always be focused on the hustle and the job.
It doesn’t have to be that way though! There are lots of things we can do to get more of our energy back, set boundaries, and reset so that we’re in a better place to do our jobs well and serve our customers/clients too.
Here are two important ways to make sure your business nourishes you instead of grinds you down.
The corporate grind can be hyper-focused on metrics, competition, staying relevant, growing revenue quarter by quarter and year by year. It can also lead to you being judged based on your team’s ability to help meet these metrics, even if you have no direct control over who buys the product, when they buy the product, or how much they buy.
However, when you start your own business you have the ability to completely reset the expectations. You can choose what to focus on. I suggest you start thinking through the things that will make you feel nourished in the business, instead of, or in addition to, the normal types of metrics businesses follow.
This could include time off, boundaries, gym time, taking a walk every day after lunch, etc.
What are activities that recharge you? Find a way to build them into your business from the beginning. For me, I have to give myself permission to have downtime. When I have empty slots in my calendar, a week out, I make plans to use those time slots to recharge and take a walk or do something else outdoors. Most people would just find some other work related task to fill the time slot. But this is one technique I use to make sure I stay nourished and energized.
It was a big deal for me when I decided to reset my expectations from overachiever perfectionist to one that focused on balance and boundaries. It’s worth giving as much time to this kind of introspection on what nourishes you as you’re giving to your business plan.
Measure What’s Important to You
From the beginning of my entrepreneurship journey, I wanted to make sure I could take enough time off from work. I had four weeks of vacation time at my previous job. I wanted to at least double that as a business owner.
I knew that I never wanted to take on so many clients so that I always had to be “on,” producing, in constant meetings, and stressed. I didn’t want to replace one stressful situation with another. A few times, I started to get too busy. I would say to my husband, “I’ve got too many clients!” We would laugh and joke about it because how could I think having too many clients is a bad thing?
In truth, I was on a dangerous precipice of going right back to feeling burned out. I never want to go back to that place of feeling frustrated, overworked, and stressed with my health suffering.
So, I knew I needed to make a change. And at that point, I started to figure out how to ask for help. I asked myself, “What are some things that I can outsource to get more of my time back? How can I be more discerning with the people that I take on as clients? How can I make sure I spend my time and focus on nourishment and not energy depletion?”
So, I made a decision. Instead of the normal way in which financial advisors measure and categorize each other using revenue, number of clients, or assets under management, I would do something different. I started focusing on measuring my days off, how much I could outsource and how much time I could offload using automation tools.
If you measure it, it gets done.
I decided to make some big changes as a result of the shifted focus. First, I changed my fee structures to better reflect the value I provided my clients. Then, I hired on part-time help for marketing and for onboarding new clients which were both very time-consuming functions of my job. When I did that, I immediately saw improvement in my stress levels. I was getting time back, but there was an additional surprise. I found joy through the hiring of young financial planners because it presented a mentoring opportunity.
My industry isn’t diverse. There is a huge lack of women, black people and other people of color. To be able to hire someone, even part time, as a way to help them get their feet wet and understand what the industry was like was very fulfilling to me. It unlocked a passion. Now I feel like I have a dual purpose: to help demystify finances for women and to help make our industry more diverse.
As I got more energy back and I had more time for myself, I found that I could be creative and solve problems in new ways both in and out of the business. Had I continued to work myself to the bone, the level of client service I provided would have eventually slipped. I wouldn’t have any time or the patience to mentor young planners and I wouldn’t have found this dual purpose for my career.
More is not always better. Working too much has the effect of reducing our productivity and burning us out. Instead focus on measuring things that nourish you. If you measure it, it gets done.
Worksheet: How to Get What You Want Out of Your Business
|Questions for Reflection
|What nourishes me?
|What’s my ideal workday?
|What’s my ideal work week?
|How many days off per year do I desire?
|How will I ensure that I focus on the things that nourish me? What will I measure to make sure I focus on the right things?
|Who can I share my business goals with that will help me remember to focus on the things that nourish me?
|When will we meet to discuss it?
This article is adapted from Chapter 11 of my book, The Resiliency Effect.