I caught part of an episode of “Shark Tank” the other day. While I’m not particularly interested in people begging for money from a room full of rich people ranging from slightly to obnoxiously rude, I am fascinated by entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are strange creatures that among other odd habits would rather work 80 hours a week or more (without necessarily getting paid) for themselves to avoid working 40 hours a week (presumably getting paid) for someone else. The whole 10 minutes I caught of the show was of the Sharks grilling a woman who had a small online apparel company. It had grown from a successful Kickstarter over the course of two years with positive cash flow and sales in the six figures. Now she was willing to trade 20% equity in her company for an $80K cash infusion and perhaps some good networking connections from one of the aforementioned Sharks, each with their own specialty and corresponding level of rudeness. She was professional, poised, had more metrics off the top of her head than I do about any of my ventures and kept up with their rapid fire questioning until they asked a very personal question to which they already presumed the answer. “You’re not paying yourself, are you?” She faltered for a minute and admitted she wasn’t. The follow up question was: “So how are you surviving, personally?” Forgetting for the moment how rude and personal and how unlikely a question this would be to a MAN, it does bring up a very, very important point about entrepreneurs—it’s tough out there. And for those of us that choose this life, it is full of emotional—and financial—highs and lows.
While I do not have a panacea to fix all your issues (if I did, I would totally sell it to you! HA!), I do have some thoughts (supported by research) about why taking care of yourself—managing your work/life balance, paying yourself, and learning how to delegate—can actually make your business more successful.
The Productivity Case for Work/Life Balance
Shawn Achor, author of “the Happiness Advantage,” for the Harvard Business Review writes: “The very lack of a recovery period is dramatically holding back our collective ability to be resilient and successful. Research has found that there is a direct correlation between lack of recovery and increased incidence of health and safety problems. And lack of recovery — whether by disrupting sleep with thoughts of work or having continuous cognitive arousal by watching our phones — is costing our companies $62 billion a year (that’s billion, not million) in lost productivity. And just because work stops, it doesn’t mean we are recovering.”
I’m sure none of that statement surprises you. Collectively as a global community we are stressed out, overworked and seemingly unable to recharge. How many times have you gone to sleep at night and woke up after dreaming about your business just to be more tired than before the next day? Or laid awake in bed trying to mentally juggle all the “plates” in your life, even when your body is screaming for rest? Fit-prenuers who make their business off selling healthy habits to other people might just have it the worst of all the entrepreneurs, who face the same pressures with the added burden of being judged on their appearance and personal behaviors.
If we are working our “day job” and our “night job” and every hustle in between, how are we supposed to recharge? A paid six-month sabbatical is typically out of the question so try these strategies on the regular to see incremental improvements.
“We receive 11 million bits of information every second, but the executive, thinking centers of our brain can effectively process only 40 bits of information… Be deliberate about compartmentalizing different types of work activities such as emailing, strategy or brainstorming sessions, and business-as-usual meetings. Compartmentalizing work is useful when you consider that switching from one type of task to another makes it difficult to tune out distractions and reduces productivity by as much as 40%, according to recent research published by the American Psychological Association.” Be ruthless about your schedule and focus only on that one task at hand which not only is more productive, it’s also safer. You really do not want to be thinking about payroll tax while spotting your first-time inverter.
Be kind to yourself and others
“According to research cited by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, compassion increases positive emotions, creates positive work relationships, and increases cooperation and collaboration.” If some life event happens that interrupts your carefully crafted schedule just go with it. Don’t rally against your dog for getting into the garbage again or your baby for having a diaper blowout in the car on the way to a big meeting. Things happen. People happen. Life moves on.
This one is really hard for me. My brain is going a mile a minute and every part of my life is completely scheduled. If something cancels, then another thing slides right into its place. One of my long time friends and fellow entrepreneurs who is a successful tattoo artist credits meditation as the single best thing to happen to his personal well being, his family life and his career. Science agrees with him. An article in Inc magazine claims: “For entrepreneurs, productivity is a necessity. Whether you are an aspiring entrepreneur or a successful leader in your company, you can benefit from consistent meditation. Mindfulness meditation will help you improve your concentration and attention while decreasing feelings of fatigue and improving your sense of wellbeing. Your ability to become so enveloped by the present moment that you forget everything else around you will lead you to stay in a constant state of flow and peak performance.” The key to meditation? Start slow and short, build up your time after trying different techniques as there is no “one size fits all approach” and remember to be kind to yourself if you do not immediately achieve a Zen state.
Pay Yourself First
The start-up phase of any business venture can be expensive and hopefully you have prepared some financial cushion to see your business and yourself through the initial feasts and famines. You may start being profitable right away if you are lucky, or more than likely it will take months or even years before your business reaches a level of stability. Make sure you pay yourself at least a little from the beginning. If you own your own studio you might not compensate yourself for all the management, sales and marketing time but do pay yourself for teaching as you would pay any of your other teachers. This article recommends paying yourself not just for the personal benefit but also as a necessary practice if you seek future funding or investment: “Plan your salary from the beginning. When you set up your budget, include at least a small weekly, bi-weekly or monthly salary for yourself. If you’re seeking financing, having your salary built in is key, as it will increase the amount you ask for from investors. In this case, determine how much you need to live, as well as what you’re worth.”
There is also an intangible emotional benefit to being paid that can have a positive impact on your own performance particularly if you are driven by rewards. Working very, very hard for a long time and literally seeing no rewards just more bills can sap an entrepreneur of their drive and lead to burn out. There are times when you might need to delay paying yourself such as if you cannot afford to pay your critical payments like staff and rent or if you are waiting on a large receivable to be paid, but otherwise, pay yourself something first.
How much should you pay yourself? Entrepreneur magazine has some great thoughts on determining pay and the tax implications of different options based on your corporate structure.
Learn When to Ask for Help
One of the hardest things for entrepreneurs is having someone else look after “your baby.” Finding, training and keeping the right staff, consultants and/or advisors for your business is a daunting task especially since “bad hires” can cost you thousands. CareerBuilder.com estimates that a bad hire can cost $25K-$190K per year when you include training time, rehiring time, “poisoning” of other employees, lost customers, poor productivity and mistakes. Yikes! No wonder us entrepreneurs want to be the “chief cook and bottle washer” of everything we do!
The truth is, we cannot do everything and in many cases we should not do everything. If we did not have good staff to watch our businesses, we would never get to recharge or we might cost ourselves more money doing things we are not really qualified to do.
Start by identifying the tasks you really hate to do. Be honest. At home, I don’t mind washing and folding laundry but don’t ask me to iron—I’ll do a bad, slow job and complain the whole time. Perhaps cleaning your studio is unappealing and a cleaning service would be faster and most cost effective long term, freeing you up to do other things and keeping you engaged and passionate about your business. Then, identify the tasks you aren’t really good at. There is value in learning new skills and having a do-it-yourself mentality, and then there’s screwing up your corporate taxes by “saving money” and not hiring an accountant. Finally, consider the routine things you do that either someone else or a software tool could do more efficiently and cheaply. A little time researching your options might save you a whole lot of time and money down the road.
Delegating, while challenging, is an important part of your growth in business and as a business owner so start identifying those tasks to “take off your plate” now.
Learn how to take care of yourself in terms of your own personal well-being, your personal finances and appropriately delegating tasks and you will be taking care of your business.
article originally posted on the Bad Kitty blog