One of the nice things about working for yourself is the flexibility it gives you with regard to the hours you work. This reason alone is why many people start their own business – me included. “I’ll be able to take the kids to basketball practice”, or, ‘I can have the whole summer holidays off and we’ll head off camping”. Sound familiar?

As the business grows, you start working harder – before the family wakes and after they have gone to bed. You take work calls while you’re driving in the car on the way to basketball practice. Your family are supportive, as they hope you’re living your dream.

Father’s Day breakfast comes along, and you go to school with your children (you can do this because you run your own business, right?). After breakfast, you’re invited to see the kids’ work in their classroom. Your eldest daughter has written a poem about Dad and one verse goes: ‘Daddy – talk, talk, talk on the phone all day’. Ah well. Criticism noted!

Next, you go off to your youngest daughter’s class and she has to answer a quiz on Dad. One question is: What does Dad do for a job? Your youngest daughter writes down: Talks on the phone.

You’ve got the message. And wasn’t this the complete opposite of what you sought by starting your own business?
You’ve been isolating yourself from your family and not engaging. Before you know it, you’re not running a business, the business is running you. It can destroy your family life and your family.

If you have your own business and you have a family, then it’s their business, too. You might be happy to work 24/7, but they won’t be. It is only a business, not only your entire life. If you let it, a business can have a profoundly negative impact on your life, but it can also serve you and your family well, as long as you work more on the strategy and less on the tactical aspects.

While I was reading the Sunday newspaper, I saw an article where Carrie Bickmore from The Project was being interviewed by her co-host Waleed Aly. There was a section where Carrie was talking about the juggle of being the best at her job at work and also the best at her job at home.

Waleed commented that his wife, Susan Carland, tells him that when he says “yes” to someone else, he is saying “no” to his family, and he pondered why it’s easier to say “no” to his family. And why is it easier to say “no” to your family than to a client, customer or someone else?

Time keeps on ticking, ticking, ticking

A dad comes home from work and his daughter is about to go to bed. She gives him a cuddle and asks, “Dad, how much do you earn an hour?”

Stunned, her dad asks why she needs to know that.

“I just do,” she replies.

“Around A$100,” her dad says. She then asks if she could have $50.

Her dad is tired and has a short fuse. He says, “Just go to bed – there are enough toys on the floor to last a lifetime!”

The daughter races off to bed.

After a few minutes, when the dad has cooled down, he goes back to his daughter to tuck her into bed.

“Sorry, I’m tired and have had a hard day. Here is the A$50 you asked for,” he says.

“Thanks, Dad,” she replies and reaches under her pillow and pulls out a pile of crumpled notes.

“Why do you need A$50 if you already have all this money?” the dad asks.

‘Because I didn’t have enough, Dad. I’ve now got exactly A$100. Can I buy one hour of your time? Come home early tomorrow please, you haven’t had dinner with us for so long,” she says.

There is only a finite amount of time in a day, in a life, and you are using up that time – second by second. Time is life; when time ends, life ends. Time is the most valuable asset you have. You can use that time any way you want, but are you using it rewardingly, intelligently and as intentionally as possible? If not, you’re squandering it and failing to appreciate it, and living your life oblivious to time passing you by.

Value your time

It’s your failure to manage your time that leads to your business spilling over into family time. So, what is the value of your time? Are you using time effectively and efficiently? What is the opportunity cost of your time?

Failure to recognise and value your time can actually lead not only to the business failing, but you can also lose the other things where your time is valuable – time with your family, friends or doing the things you enjoy.

Years ago, I hired a cleaner at home (actually, two cleaners). It wasn’t because I didn’t know how to clean, or that I was not capable of cleaning my house. In fact, a bunch of my friends and I were the cleaners at our high school, and at university.

I hired a cleaner, as I worked long hours during the week and, often, that extended into the weekend. I was single and living by myself, so on the weekend I had to do the cooking, cleaning, gardening, grocery shopping, ironing, and so on. I decided to outsource one of those chores and chose the one I least liked. Cleaning was it.

The opportunity cost of a couple of hours of my time was greater than the actual cost of the cleaner. Have a think about your business. What is the opportunity cost of the time you spend doing a particular task? Can that time be better utilised?

I like playing with websites. I can and have built websites from scratch. But it isn’t something I can do quickly, and I don’t necessarily build them as efficiently, or make them as effective, as a website designer could.

A paradox I see all the time in small business, in particular, is that the owners don’t spend money. I often hear, “We’re a start-up; we don’t have the money to spend on a website designer, a bookkeeper, a marketing expert, an IT person…” But they expect people to spend money at their business – the website designer might need a plumber, the bookkeeper might need a marketing expert, and so on.

Do yourself a favour. Work out how best to use your time, what that opportunity cost is and then get people to do the tasks which cost less than your opportunity cost. And get some family time back!

And, finally, I should note that even if you are an employee, the business is a family business and how you prioritise work and bring work into your family means that business is now a family business, too.