It is one of the most common questions entrepreneurs ask themselves when deciding whether they want to start a small business: how can I run a small business while raising a family? Indeed, raising a family is one of the biggest and hardest challenges a person can face during their lifetime. Running a successful business is also one of the hardest and most difficult challenges a person can take on. Combining the two is infinitely more difficult. However, business owners can still enjoy a successful and prosperous family life while at the same time having their own business. In this post, we’ll cover a number of tips for managing the challenges of entrepreneurship and family together.
1. Try to Establish a Work-Life Balance Early On
Small business owners don’t typically have a lot of free time, especially when their business has just started. A business needs time, attention, and care (it is far more demanding than a typical full-time 9 to 5 job) – just like a family. However, whenever you start a new business, it is critical to establish a consistent work-life balance early on, which will help you in setting boundaries right out of the gate.
Setting boundaries and creating a work-life balance is all about establishing rules that you can abide by, and which put a limit on how much time you can devote to your business. For example, maybe that means establishing a rule that after 8:30 p.m. on weekdays you are done responding to emails so that you can spend time with your family. Or maybe that means that you will leave the office every day at 5 p.m. so you can be home in time for 6 p.m. dinner. Then from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., you can work in your home office until you reach your cutoff time. Whatever the rules you set are, just try to keep in mind that work-life balance is all about balance. So, it is not just enough to set rules. They have to be rules designed to help you provide an ample amount of attention to both your business and your family, not just one or the other.
Now, obviously, being a successful business owner is all about flexibility and adaptability. It requires that you be able to respond to developments and changes quickly and efficiently. This can seem counter to the idea of setting work-life balance “rules.” But it is not. These rules can be flexible, and inevitably exceptions will have to be made. The point of the rules is to try to give you a guide to follow in your effort to maintain your work-life balance. Sometimes you will have to break the rules, but if you didn’t have the rules in the first place, there would be nothing to say to you, “hey, you have really been spending a lot of time on your business lately and not much on your family.”
Thus, the rules are there to help you identify when a lot of work is becoming too much work. As a result, they can serve as a wake-up call for when it is time to take a step back and reassess what is going on. Otherwise, it can be easy to slip away into your work without realizing it.
Indeed, these work-life balance rules can be a good part of a successful business plan. So, when you go to write your business plan, consider developing these rules as part of it (though you should keep these rules separate since they really aren’t part of a traditional business plan – instead, they are for your personal reference).
2. Be Flexible
As noted, being an entrepreneur and a small business owner is all about being flexible in the face of adversity. Being able to adapt to whatever comes your way is also a critical component of raising a family. Be ready for the unexpected and try to prepare accordingly. This means training your staff and your employees to handle situations when you may not be there (something that is bound to happen on account of family obligations) and, as we will cover next, establishing a tried-and-true support system that can help you persevere even through the toughest moments.
3. Establish a Support System
If you have a family and are going to start a small business, then the most important thing you can do is establish a support system right away. You are going to need people to rely on who can help you in times of need. For example, maybe you have a few family members, like your mother or father, who are retired and able to help with your kids. That could also mean building a relationship with a babysitter or childcare professional who knows your children well and who you can trust to be on call when you need them. Reaching out to individuals who you know will be able to assist you and explaining your situation can help you build a network of people who are able and willing to jump in when you need them.
It can be tempting to want to be superman or superwoman, but the reality is that everyone needs some help in life. The sooner you build that network, the sooner you will be able to tap into it and the more comfortable you will be in embarking on your small business journey.
Beyond just having people to provide logistical and manpower support (like babysitting), having someone you can talk to and confide in is important as well. Mental health is critical in running a small business, and sometimes people need to be able to vent. They also need people around them who can be critical and tell them the unvarnished truth without upsetting them. Surrounding yourself, particularly in the workplace, with “yes men” will not help you or your business grow. Running a great business is all about critiquing and refining your methodology and your approach – if people only say “yes” to you, then you won’t know when you might be headed down the wrong path. The same goes for raising a family. Surround yourself with people who aren’t afraid to tell you that you have been spending too much time on work lately and that you need to devote more time to your family life.
4. Start Young if Possible
One of the great benefits of being a young entrepreneur is that you often have a whole lot less responsibility than older adults. If you don’t have kids or a spouse, then there is a lot less you have to worry about. With each additional family member you have, the more time your family responsibilities are going to take up. And family time is important, so you shouldn’t sacrifice it all for business success.
This does NOT mean that you cannot start a business if you have a family or are older. It simply means that sometimes being young is the best time to take a gamble like starting a small business – and so, if you are a young person reading this article who has a business idea, now might be the perfect time to take the leap.
When you are young, there is plenty of time for failure (though hopefully, your idea will be a success!). Which means it is easy to bounce back and start over if needed. This is a lot harder if you have a family with a spouse and kids who are financially dependent on your ability to earn money. After all, being self-employed is extremely rewarding, but it can also be risky. Many times, people fail their first time only to have a massive success the second time around because they learned so much from their first failure. It’s always better to get those lessons out of the way sooner rather than later!
5. Make a Plan and Define Your Goals
Running a successful business is all about defining your goals from the outset so that you know what exactly it is that you are working toward. Otherwise, without goals, you would simply be wandering adrift, making decisions based on the immediate circumstances rather than in line with a long-term vision and objective.
The same can be said about managing your family life. Try to set goals in both your business and personal life. For example, maybe your goal is to attend 80% of your daughter’s basketball games or maybe you want to be able to afford to buy your son a car when he turns 16. Maybe your goal is to spend more time with your spouse and kids. Whatever your goals are, write them down and define them. Then, keep those goals and your business goals at the top of your mind when you are making decisions.
Having goals will also allow you to prioritize activities and work that are truly necessary for advancing those goals. As a small business owner, it is easy to get caught up in the minutiae and the details. However, often, while those details can take hours upon hours to resolve, they don’t really advance you toward your overall goal. If you know what your goal is, you will be able to make sure that you are using your time wisely and actually working at things that will help you progress toward your goals.
6. Hire the Help You Need and Delegate Tasks Appropriately
As a small business owner, it is easy to want to do it all. The result is that you end up micromanaging your business and your team members. Not only is this bad for your team members and the amount of free time you have but it is also usually bad for your business as well. If you don’t learn how to delegate tasks to employees in an appropriate manner, then you will never be able to scale your growing business. Successful entrepreneurs work hard and often get into the weeds with the details, but they also know when it is time to take things off their plate and give them to qualified employees.
In line with this, consider hiring one or two employees more than you absolutely need. If your business has the resources and the means, it can be a good idea to hire an extra employee who may not be absolutely needed to get the job done. This will alleviate the time requirement being placed on you and your other employees. Sure, it may result in you having to take a slight pay cut or your business making a little less in profit, but it can be a huge advantage in the long run, allowing your business to scale more efficiently and reducing your overall workload. Obviously, this depends on the nature of your business and its financial situation, but it is something worth considering if the circumstances are right.
7. Consider Getting Your Family Involved in the Business
If you are an entrepreneur and have a business, you don’t have to be the only member of your family working for or with the business. Oftentimes, running a business can become a family bonding experience and a great learning experience for the children in a family. For example, it is not uncommon to see the children of restaurant owners working as waiters or waitresses. Obviously, there is a lot of responsibility that comes with doing something like this, like setting boundaries between work life and family life (after all, there are long-standing risks of doing business with family and you want to avoid the pitfalls that come with that).
Remember that there are special tax implications (some beneficial) with employing children as well. The IRS has outlined these on its website. However, whenever dealing with complicated components of the tax code, we recommend getting professional help. Reaching out to a certified public accountant (CPA) that specializes in or has experience with working for small businesses will enable you to make sure you are doing your taxes correctly.
These tax implications vary based on the type of business you are operating (i.e. an LLC, corporation, etc.), the relationship between the owner and the family members (i.e. there are different rules for when a married couple operates a business), and various other factors.
8. Consider the Demands of the Business Idea and Business Model Before Starting Your Business
Some businesses are naturally more demanding than others and will require a much greater exertion of time, energy, effort, and other resources. For example, the restaurant industry is incredibly tough, and it takes a lot of hard work and very long hours to build a successful and sustainable restaurant (not to mention a lot of upfront funding often). This is much different than some e-commerce business models, some of which are much easier to run and are not as demanding in terms of time. Many e-commerce operations can also be run from home, eliminating the need to commute to work each day and allowing you to be at home for important family events (however, this can also cause you to work more since it can blur the line between your work life and your home life if you are not careful).
As such, whenever you are considering starting a business, as part of the process of writing your business plan and doing your due diligence as to whether it is a viable idea, you should consider carefully how much time that particular business idea and model will demand. If you feel like you won’t be able to dedicate the amount of time needed to make the idea a success, then you should pursue other options.
Running a business is not easy, and when you add in raising a family, things only get more difficult. However, with the proper approach and strategy, running a business while raising a family can be rewarding for both you and your family members (especially your children if they get the opportunity to work for your business at an early age). As always, starting a new business is something that must be considered carefully. However, if you have done your due diligence and research, considered the idea carefully, and think you have what it takes to make the idea a success, then having a family shouldn’t stop you from moving forward. If anything, they should be one of the greatest motivations possible for success!
At Biz2Credit, we work hard each and every day to support the millions of small businesses operating across America. We realize this work has never been more important than it is now. So, please continue to check back here at our Biz2Credit Blog for all the latest news and information on trends and events impacting America’s small business communities.