Plan for flexibility

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There are many reasons why people choose to run their own businesses and for many a key reason, especially if they want to work whilst raising a family, is flexibility. Having control over your own time can make all the difference when trying to find a balance between work and family needs.

I originally started my business with two young boys to think of, but recently the benefits of being self-employed have been emphasised as I have to sort out issues with my parents.

Fortunately they moved down to Wells from the Midlands a couple of years ago so they are on my doorstep and this has proved to be a godsend. My father has Parkinsons, a degenerative condition that makes his life increasingly challenging, and my mother also has health issues.

My mother has recently had a week’s stay in the RUH in Bath and I had to juggle preparing my father’s meals, daily visits to the hospital, my younger son’s GCSE exam stress and work at the same time. This would all have been so much more challenging if I had a regular job.

Now, running your own business does not, of course, mean that you have a license to let clients down by cancelling appointments at short notice and leaving urgent work undone. You cannot have flexibility without building it into your work life.

If you fill your working week with client meetings and customer work, you will still find it as difficult to deal with short term family emergencies as if you were in employment. More so possibly, because you may not have anyone to cover the urgent work that needs doing.

However, if you build slack times into your work week – knowing that either the young or older family members could have need of your time at fairly short notice – you will find it much easier to deal with crisis situations as they arrive.

You may have to forgo some income, but you will find coping with the situations life throws at you far less stressful.

Fiona 🙂

Why do today…what you can get someone else to do!

One of the problems with being a small business owner is the number and scope of jobs which land on your desk.

These jobs can be broken down into a number of categories:

  • Jobs you like and can do well
  • Jobs you hate and put off as long as you can – worrying all the time in between because they have not been done!
  • Urgent Jobs which take all your time
  • Important Jobs you don’t get round to because the urgent ones take precedence
  • Non important/non urgent jobs which you like doing but distract you

Trying to deal with everything is the route to inefficiency and despair! However, there are solutions which can help you manage your time – and your business – more effectively. Below are a couple of strategies you might like to embrace.

Firstly, look at the jobs you are doing and work out if YOU need to be doing all of them. Most small business owners end up doing everything because they believe their time is cheap. This is absolutely wrong! Your time is the most expensive of anyone’s. You are the only person who can plan the direction your company should be going in so, if you aren’t able to spend time thinking about strategy because you are doing the bookkeeping, how expensive to the company is that bookkeeping work? On top of that you probably hate bookkeeping and worry you aren’t doing it right!

Review the jobs on your plate and decide if there is someone better placed to do them. Examples of these sorts of jobs are:

  • Bookkeeping/Accountancy/Payroll
  • Phone answering and diary management
  • Web design
  • Lead generation

There are people out there who love doing each of these types of jobs so, if you hate doing these activities, find someone to do them for you.

Secondly, look at how you are spending your day and make sure you allow time to think about the really important issues in your business. This will mean managing the ‘urgent’ jobs. Taking telephone calls and answering emails are jobs which will always push themselves to the front of the queue if you let them.

When the phone rings we have an in-built need to answer it. However, if you are in the middle of a job the interruption can be very distracting. If you have an answering service which can take calls when you are busy, you can manage your time better – and also ensure you talk to people when you have the opportunity to deal with their issue effectively.

Similarly, have a method of dealing with emails which works for you. Some people only look at emails at a particular time in the working day and restrict the time they spend doing so. Others will manually click to receive emails (rather than automatically receiving new emails) which means that they can, again, manage when they are prepared to accept the distraction of dealing with emails.

Time management is always going to be a struggle if you are a small business owner. So do yourself a favour, acknowledge the problem, and work to find a solution to save your sanity!