There are days when simply getting the beds made, kids out the door and dog fed seems nearly impossible. Add running a business on top of running your household, and it can feel overwhelming. After all, not only do you need to keep track of your family's every need, but you now have to cater to your customers' every whim, too.
But women are resilient. We're used to a constant juggling act in our day-to-day lives. A business on top of that? Why not?
Maybe that's why women have had so much success running their own businesses. After all, we're used to multi-tasking, prioritizing and running in a million directions at once. But what is the reality of running a successful business and a happy home--and is it really possible to "do it all"?
In my newly published book,Secrets of Millionaire Moms, this was one of the key questions I hoped to answer. I interviewed 17 multimillion-dollar businesswomen who managed to balance home life and business life, and I discovered a few things along the way.
Expect more flexibility but not necessarily more time.
Many women go into business because they don't want to be tied to an employer's desk for 40 or more hours per week. It's true that running your own company means you control your schedule, but to be successful, there'll inevitably be deadlines you're forced to meet--and time spent meeting them.
Fortunately, many women can run their businesses from home or after hours, which means they can be near their children while they work. That makes child care issues much more flexible. And because they call the shots, they can get creative. In the early stages of her business, for example, Rachel Ashwell of Shabby Chic brought her two babies with her as she scouted flea markets for furniture to refinish.
Karen Belasco, founder of Good Fortunes Cookie Company, set up a special room for her young children at her factory, and with the help of a nanny, they were never far away. Although these women didn't work fewer hours than they would have in a typical full-time job, they still enjoyed the flexibility of being their own boss and found creative ways to balance family and work.
Prioritizing is key.
Inevitably, certain things must fall by the wayside. For each of the women I interviewed, that thing was different. For some, it was housework. For others, it was get-togethers with girlfriends or "me" time.
Each woman figured out what she could drop and what she needed to stay balanced. Some of them wouldn't dream of giving up daily workouts or a monthly book club, while others maintained time for charity work or a date night.
And sometimes they just needed to focus on one thing at a time. Julie Clark, who founded Baby Einstein and The Safe Side, explains that she had to make a conscious decision to turn off the computer and cell phone at a certain point of the day, so she could focus on family.
Be creative with your time.
If you don't have time to get to the gym but exercise is the only thing that keeps you sane, especially when you're stressed, have a trainer come to you, like Teri Gault of the Grocery Game does.
Do whatever works, whether it's answering e-mails on your Blackberry while waiting to pick up the kids at school, reviewing financials on the treadmill or keeping up with extended family by getting everyone together at once instead of seeing them individually. Gault, whose business is internet-based, also got creative by setting up a mobile office in an RV so she can work from just about anywhere while the family travels.
By keeping one calendar for both family and business, you'll avoid double-booking and overextending yourself. Be sure to jot down important family dates on your calendar as soon as you know them--birthday parties, proms, holiday get-togethers. Then, try to work your business appointments in next.
Obviously, there'll be the occasional unavoidable conflict--an out-of-town trade show that falls on your son's birthday or a can't-miss meeting the same day as your daughter's recital. So you'll need to prioritize issues as they arise and get creative with your solutions. For instance, have a big birthday celebration before you go or send someone to the business meeting in your place, if you can. Other strategies:
- Plan free time as you plan work time.
- Avoid distractions at work so you work smart, not long.
- Take kids to work and get them involved in the business.
- Schedule time with your significant other.
- Get the kids to help out at home.
Ask for help.
It can be difficult to ask for help, but you'll be surprised at who'll lend a hand. Be sure to turn to your network of friends and family in times of crisis. Whether you need help packing a huge shipment, emergency child care or assistance answering phones, there's inevitably someone willing and able to help you. But first you have to ask.
When Victoria Knight-McDowell's business, Airborne Health, began taking off, she enlisted the help of friends, family and even her students (she was still teaching full time to generate income). They all helped her package a huge promotional piece in record time--something she and her husband would've never been able to accomplish alone.
The growing ranks of successful women entrepreneurs prove it's definitely possible to run a business and household successfully. It's simply a matter of using your time wisely and creatively and prioritizing what's ultimately most important in your life.