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Can running a small business give you work-life balance?

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Many people start their own business in the hope that it will afford them more time with their family and more time to do the things they like, however the reality is often quite different.

People starting a business for the first time are typically coming from an employment background. They have been working in someone else’s business for some years, and are pretty good at what they do, so they figure they’ll do it for themselves, make a killing and spend more time at home. What people from an employment background typically fail to take into account is all of the work that goes on in the background to keep the business running that they haven’t been privvy to previously. Things like:

* Organising for the copier to be repaired
* Negotiating with suppliers
* Sorting out employment contracts
* Calling the cleaners to find out why they didn’t empty the bins on Tuesday
* Talking to the bank to organise an overdraft
* Getting quotes on insurance
* Buying plates for the kitchen … the list goes on

Running a small business, especially in the early days, means doing everything yourself. There is rarely someone to delegate things to and, even if there is, there are certain things that only you can deal with and you’ll find these can place enormous pressures on your time. Things that seem simple often end up being complicated and very time consuming. All told, it can be quite a frustrating experience.

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Can it ever deliver more flexibility and a better work-life balance?

Absolutely, but there is a lot of hard work in getting to that point and it involves clever planning right from day one if you’re ever to take a holiday without constant interruptions. Have a business plan in place that speaks to your desire for real work-life balance. This means putting in place strategies to allow you to become disentangled from the day-to-day operations of the business and instead  stay focused on the bigger picture. You’ll need to look at having:

* A solid management team to look after your staff and be held accountable for performance
* Great training and support to enable your team to deliver the best results
* Reliable marketing and sales processes that deliver a steady stream of new revenue
* Constant improvement of product/services including customer/client feedback
* A healthy cash flow and savings
* Quality reporting systems (that can be accessed via the cloud!)

Much of this means that solo operators are, while not doomed exactly, going to find it much harder to find real work-life balance as they are expected to do everything themselves. That said, there are some simple solutions you could employ to try to get your evenings back such as:

* Automated software wherever possible for things like invoicing, debtor chasing, etc
* Virtual receptionist services to answer your calls and email you the messages to save on interruptions
* Outsourced bookkeepers to handle your acccounting
* Virtual assistants to handle small tasks (e.g. booking flights) for you
* Contracting out other tasks that aren’t your core competency (e.g. marketing)

Moral of the story? Anyone running a small business can have real work-life balance, but there is good reason it remains elusive to so many. It’ll take hard work and clever planning to get the result you’re after, but you didn’t start a business because you thought it’d be easy, did you?

Written by Ben Fletcher, managing director at Generate. A version of this article was originally posted on their Better Business blog.

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Generate are not your typical accountants. We provide operational and strategic support to creative and innovative businesses of all stripes and colours.