How to be there for your family and your small business, and how one may actually nourish the other
By Max Berry
Being either a parent or a small business owner is enough to exhaust the hardiest among us. Trying to be both at once can test one's ability to capably be either. But with the right measure of planning, communication, and passion, these dual roles don't have to put you at odds with your family, your colleagues, or yourself.
It's About Time
"Budgeting time is an enormous part of balancing a business and a family," says Adam Moskow, President of Entrepreneurial Consulting LLC (entrepreneurialconsulting.com). A husband and father of three himself, Moskow is well acquainted with the rigors of this kind of time management. He learned early on that "finding time" (as if there were more hiding somewhere) can be a fruitless endeavor if you're managing the demands of work and home the same way you did before you were a parent. So Moskow uses the time he does have creatively.
"I put a lot of intensity into both
Instead of binding his workday to arbitrary start and end times, Moskow does his work in the hours when his kids-who are all old enough to be in school eight hours a day-aren't around. The hours between 9:00 am and 3:00 p.m. are ideal for Moskow to meet with clients and colleagues, but things like paper work or e-mail correspondence that isn't time sensitive can be done just as easily at 9:00 at night-when the kids are in bed-as 9:00 in the morning.
Of course, if you have more than one child old enough to be in school, as Moskow does, you've likely also got soccer games to attend, or parent teacher conferences, or school plays. But one of the benefits of being an entrepreneur, according to Moskow, is that "you may not have free time, but you do have flexible time." As long as you check in with your family and your staff daily, you can put together the schedule that best accommodates your commitments. You are the boss, after all.
Know What To Delegate
As creative as entrepreneurs can-or must-be with their time, they can also be just as creative with how they delegate. Every small business owner knows the importance of delegation, but it can be considerably more difficult to delegate the act of raising your own child. A working couple with an infant or toddler would be hard-pressed to make it work without some help, a single parent exponentially more so. Before his children were old enough to be in school all day, Moskow and his wife, who were both able to work from home frequently, still hired a part-time nanny to grant them a few uninterrupted hours of work.
But Moskow also presents a method for delegating household tasks without robbing yourself of time with your children. Rather than simply hiring a babysitter or nanny to be there when you can't, Moskow recommends delegating the household chores that don't involve your son or daughter. Hire somebody to go grocery shopping or do laundry. Get someone else to clean the house while you spend time with your family. With this kind of delegation, of course, comes added expense. "Some business owners can't afford anything," says Moskow. "That's when you call a grandparent or an unemployed niece."
The office, meanwhile, could always benefit from an intern willing to do take care of some grunt work in exchange for some real world experience.
A Bridge, Not a Barrier
But to separate your business from your family completely-to place them on opposite sides of the same scale-is its own kind of mistake. If both give you a reason to get up in the morning, it's a disservice to your family to deny them a connection to that other part of yourself.
"That can be a wonderful opportunity," says Moskow, to include children in the day-to-day tasks of running a business. "That involvement in terms of whatever you're working on-whether it's sealing envelopes or making phone calls-helps them learn responsibility. It doesn't mean they'll become a business owner, but they're exposed to
It will also keep them from seeing your work as nothing more than the thing that takes you away from them. "It requires constant adjusting," says Moskow. "There will be times when the business needs more of your time than your family and there will be times when the reverse is true."
To handle these instances when one role takes precedence over the other, Moskow advocates nothing so much as honesty, especially with a kid who may be missing out on time with a parent.
"I tell my kids, ‘There will be times I won't be there, but I'll make it up to you.'"
Still, the most important thing to remember may be that, whatever your business means to you, it exists to support your family, not vice versa. "I could work more hours and probably make more money," says Moskow. "But that's not the ultimate value in my life."