Life and Business Balance
Part 2: Business Management
Last month, we talked about the dilemma of most small business owners and how a business can take over your personal life. We hope the piece gave you pause to think about parts of your life that may be out of balance and some steps you might want to take to re-align your business and personal lives.
This month, as we close out the calendar, take a breath, and begin to think about tax season, it’s a great time to talk about some business management practices that may help your business—and your life—run a little smoother.
Winter can be a good time to look at your business critically—which is always hard to do when you are in the thick of it—and try to determine which other areas you may not do well and can find someone else can do better.
For example, do you do a lot of shipping? Are you efficient at the process? Would a pack-and-ship company do a better job, freeing 5-10 hours per week to work on things that create even more sales and more income? If you aren’t comfortable with sourcing out that much of your shipping process but find yourself standing in line a lot at the post office, how about an online shipping solution for postage? Printing your own labels, sending customers their tracking number via email, and leaving the packages for the postal carrier could save time as well.
Who thought, twenty years ago, that we could take payments from a phone in our pocket? Innovations in technology have increased efficiencies and reduced startup costs for many businesses. One example of a “thorn” that can get under one’s skin is payroll. Now, you can find payroll services to help you manage this easier, even from your phone. Outsourcing a function like payroll if you have employees—or even if you are only paying yourself—is a good idea. Do you have the time, energy, and skill set to stay current with wage laws at the state and federal level, file the quarterly and annual wage and taxation reports, and stay current with unemployment compensation rules and contributions? Is this the best use of your time and expertise?
Finally, look at how you manage your business’s time. Do you have a retail operation that has posted open hours? Block as much of behind-the-scenes work as you can early in your day before you open. Be there for your customer when they walk in. There is nothing worse than a store owner not being attentive to customers, because they are talking to a supplier. The stress you will create for yourself trying to move the conversation along serves neither you nor your customer. Yes, emergencies happen, but most emergencies in the business world are self-created.
Integrating Business and Personal Time
Now, the tough part is integrating the needs and priorities of your business with your personal time. It’s not easy. Emergencies will arise: the cash register will have an error message, employees get sick, and kids do have the occasional snow day. Building in established systems, even if you’re a one-person shop, can help you jump back into business as usual once you have fixed the issue. There are a variety of tools out there to help guide you through some of these hills and valleys—we've made a few suggestions below.
As you take a look at the resources, please reach out to Craig Olson, senior community development officer for the Small Business team, if you have questions or additional tools to recommend.
In the meantime, here's one final thought from Michael Gerber, author of the business classic, The E-Myth:
“Once you recognize that the purpose of your life is not to serve your business, but that the primary purpose of your business is to serve your life, you can then work on your business, rather than in it, with a full understanding of why it is absolutely necessary for you to do so.”
Here’s to an even more successful 2019!
Resources for Small Business Owners and Managers
- David Allen, Getting Things Done
- Peter Drucker, What Makes an Effective Executive (Harvard Business Review)
- Michael Gerber, The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It
- Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
The Island and Coastal Business Launchpad
Maine’s islands and coastal communities have a high percentage of households that operate their own small businesses. While the national average of small business ownership is 22%, Maine is slightly ahead of that with 23%, and seven Maine islands and coastal communities have small business ownership at over 50%. (Waypoints 2018).
As part of the Island Institute’s Island and Coastal Business Launchpad program, we can help you with everything from business startup and setup, funding, and how to manage the finite time you have to get everything done. Learn more here.
What We Do
The Island Institute’s Small Business Team provides business and financial planning to help entrepreneurs navigate the complexities of starting and growing a business. For more information on our small business support services, feel free to contact Craig Olson.
Commercial Currents is an email and blog newsletter that shares buoyant stories from Maine’s island and coastal communities about economic stability and resilience. To find archived editions, go to islandinstitute.org/blog/economic.
If you would like to receive future editions, you can subscribe here.