A few weeks ago, I attended a luncheon for women in business. There were about 45 of us at the event. During the discussion session, one of the attendees asked the speaker whether she had any hobbies. The attendee expressed frustration that she herself had none – while her husband had several – noting that every day her day was filled with responsibilities and that her need to stay on task all day long prevented her from developing hobbies. To my surprise, the speaker responded that she herself had no hobbies and then she inquired whether any woman in the room had several. Very few of us raised our hands. She then asked how many women had hobbies at all. A few more raised hands. In this group at least, I was in a minority group: business women with avocations.
There is a reason why I have decided to share this experience; and it isn’t to make generalizations about how women might balance work and life differently from men. I will, at least for now, let other people draw conclusions about that. The reason why I have decided to share this bit of luncheon conversation is that it raises a subject that I think is important for small business owners.
Small business owners with an entrepreneurial mindset often work six or seven days a week, even into evenings. Their schedules often don’t allow – or at least seem not to allow – for them to pursue other interests. I have seen this in myself as a business owner and seen it in family members and friends and clients who own businesses.
Early on, this might not seem an issue. The business owner will think, I’m happy to do whatever it takes to make my business succeed, because having this business succeed will make me happy. Too often, though, in the long run that turns out to be false. Doing whatever it takes, takes a toll. The costs of doing whatever it takes to succeed in business can include owner burnout, strained family relations, lack of friendships, health issues (related to stress, lack of exercise, or too much labor), loss of personal identity apart from work, and missed opportunities to enjoy life. I even read an article recently about how entrepreneurs make lousy mates because they dedicate too much of themselves to their work, making their partners suffer along the way.
At this point you might be thinking I’d never want to be a small business owner if that is what it is like. That is not the lesson to be learnt here, however. The lesson is that with forethought, small business owners can be proactive and take steps to avoid these costs by making doing whatever it takes include caring about familial relations, friendships, exercise, relaxation, doing fun things, going interesting places – whatever it takes not to miss life in the process of succeeding in business. Like many of the women at that luncheon, and like many business owners female or male, I am a task-oriented person. Those of us who possess this trait need to consider doing the things that it takes to have a positive life work balance goals to which we give priority, for instance, by having hobbies.
At the WU KSBDC, we try to help business owners to succeed in business. People often associate this with help at the start up stage or help with financing. These of course, are points at which we can be of assistance. Start up and financing assistance, however, are not the only services that we provide. Sometimes helping business owners succeed in business entails helping them with matters such as time management, goals assessment, staffing issues, and so forth, in order that that they might be better able to achieve the needed balance to succeed.
Laurie Pieper, Ph.D.
WU SBDC Advisor