How to get a life and grow your business

Tired of working long hours as an owner manager? By taking a step back, you can improve your quality of life and will be in a better position to take the business forward.

Being your own boss is one of the biggest attractions of starting a business. The freedom to make your own decisions and determine your future is a driving factor for successful entrepreneurs.

However once the company is up and running, the reality can be very different. Many owner-managers find themselves working such long hours that they effectively lose control of their own lives and become a slave to the business.

While hard work and persistence is essential, working seven days a week over a long period will not only take its toll on your health and relationships but can also limit your perspective and your business prospects. By stepping back from the business you will be better placed to take it to the next stage of its development.

Professor Andrew Griffiths, Dean of UQ Business School, meets many business owners through his involvement with the School’s Owner Manager Program. “Typically the business has developed alongside them. They are suffering from stress, have a poor work-life balance and may lack a support network. In short they are too busy working in the business, rather than on the business.”

Here are a few ways to get back in control:


  •    Identify your goals in life


A good place to start is to define your personal priorities – what you want to achieve and the value you place on your relationships, time and hobbies.
Writing down your priorities can change your approach to the business and the way you manage it.

Lanny Goodman, president of the US-based consultancy Management Technologies, says the business should serve the needs of the entrepreneur and not vice versa. “Business is a design problem in a lot of respects,” says Goodman. “And in any design process, you have to know what you want this thing to do and to really understand that deeply. Then the form falls out of that understanding.”


  •     Focus on strengths


Many smaller businesses can have different strands of activity, some more profitable than others. “Entrepreneurs tend to be highly reactive and opportunistic, which becomes more of a liability as the company grows,” adds Goodman. “They tend to be very sales-driven, and that’s dangerous because it focuses on revenue instead of profitability.”

Analyse the different revenue streams, identify which are most profitable and where you add value. By discontinuing those activities which not worthwhile will free up time and allow you to focus on what you do best.


  •     Improve your productivity


Working long hours may mask poor productivity. Try logging your hours to see where you time goes. Personal development guru Steve Pavlina says: “You may be surprised to discover you’re spending only a small fraction of your working time doing what you’d consider to be actual work. Studies have shown that the average office worker does only 1.5 hours of actual work per day.”

He recommends severely limiting your time in the office for a day to force yourself to work faster – then gradually stepping up the time at work while maintaining maximum efficiency.  Avoid unproductive meetings and distractions such as social media and explore the use of apps and new technologies to save time.


  •     Learn to delegate


Entrepreneurs playing a hands-on role may find it difficult to delegate. However Jeff Kadlic, co-founder of Evolution Capital Partners which helps businesses to scale up their operations, says it is essential if they want to move the business from start-up to the next stage.

“You can’t stay focused with concerns about survival, spending most of your day wrapped up in solving smaller issues – expenses, employees, whatever,” he warns. “When you get to second stage – normally $4-10M in revenue, 20 or more employees and around $500k in profit – you really can’t micromanage anymore. What made you successful during start-up won’t necessarily drive your future growth.”

Delegation is easier if you build a team of good people who you can rely on and who will support you in your role. Molly Aldridge, global CEO at M&C Saatchi PR, stresses the importance of “critical support factors” at work and at home including “an incredible executive assistant, trusted senior management and a flexible and fabulous husband”!


  •     Look after yourself


In his classic book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey refers to ‘sharpening the saw’. “Sharpen the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have – you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental and spiritual.”

Your role is central to the success of the business so you need to maintain good health and happiness to ensure you make a positive contribution. Eat well, set aside time for yourself and your family and learn to relax. Exercise is also important – we already know that exercise helps reduce stress but recent research at Saint Leo University in the US has found that it also helps people feel they can manage their work-life balance.

Professor Andrew Griffiths adds: “By stepping outside the day to day functions of the business, owner-managers can improve their work-life balance, their relationships and quality of life. At the same time it gives them a clearer perspective and allows them to see new possibilities. Ironically we often find that by working fewer hours, they discover a renewed passion for the business and the motivation to pursue new ambitions.”

Last updated:
27 February 2019