Whoever came up with the phrase “work-life balance” must have been someone who knew all about the teeter-totter experience that defines the life of an entrepreneur.
If you’re trying to grow a small business when you’re married with a young family, for example, you might often find yourself torn between vastly competing priorities: meeting with customers and managing staff vs. helping to supervise a class field trip, perhaps, or missing out on “date night.”
We also live in an era where already overextended entrepreneurs are constantly told how hard they need to “hustle,” and when being busy has almost become a badge of honour. It’s almost like earning trust as a business leader means working non-stop.
Depending on where your small business is at, “free time” may occasionally be viewed as a nice-to-have amid the quest to stay competitive. Even though health experts would suggest free time can be restorative and makes us better at our jobs, it’s probably easier to put off than trying to close another sale.
Without enough balance between work and free time, however, small business owners face the risk of under-performing on the job, or even reaching a burnout point. That’s not going to be good for your customers, your family or your long-term well being.
It’s not simply a matter of “work smarter, not harder,” in this case, but developing an approach that gives you enough confidence to step away when you really need that break. If you’re not already incorporating the following ideas at work, here are some tips to start:
There are only 24 hours in a day. You can’t work through all of them.
You’re always going to be at risk of being distracted by the latest fire that needs to be put out, but you also need to review their schedules and allot their time based on what brings the greatest value. Instead of relying on a senior manager like you might have when you were employed elsewhere, now is the time to use the right technologies.
A CRM like Sales Cloud, for instance, will help identify the activities that most often lead to a customer win. Marketing Cloud can give you free time back by clearing up which channels deserve the most attention based on customer engagement. And of course Service Cloud can assist in reducing the hours spent troubleshooting or dealing with complaints.
It’s not enough just to have these tools in place. It’s applying them with an eye towards bringing greater balance into your life as an entrepreneur. That’s different than simply looking at the technology as a means to run the business. Success in this case means you have at least some free time, so consider that as a “soft” key performance indicator (KPI) alongside the more bottom-like metrics you track.
The most common advice entrepreneurs hear when the subject of time pressures come up is the need to hand off more work to their team. The trouble is that many small businesses don’t have a big enough team, or at least not yet.
While delegating to team members makes sense in general, it overlooks the ability of customers to address a lot of needs on their own. Mechanisms to do this include online customer communities or chatbots that let them have the kind of 24/7 access no human being can provide.
As you map out your objectives around the number of customers you want to reach through marketing and the number of sales you want to win, set some goals around moving more business activity to a self-service model. This not only lightens your workload, but also allows you to learn more about your customers as they use technology to tackle problems.
The data you get from from customers shouldn’t just be treated like a post-mortem, you should also be searching for insights.
This has become a lot more feasible as artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have become available even to the smallest businesses. The trick is to be intentional in how you apply AI.
Do a weekly self-assessment and ask yourself: Is AI and the data I’m seeing helping me get smarter about what customers will need and want, or how the business will have to move forward? If the answer is “No,” you may need to spend more time analyzing to anticipate.
Technology isn’t a panacea to provide you more free time, of course, but it can help set boundaries, provide peace of mind when you’re not at work and to ensure your focusing on the right items. That means, hopefully, you’ll be able to spend more time not only on what grows the business, but also on the things that lead to your personal growth and fulfillment.
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