Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle path that can often consume and leave the best and the brightest stressed about a work/life balance. Many entrepreneurs chose this path thinking the balance will pan out at some point in time, only to find themselves year over year without it.
It’s something that both my brother Mathew and I understand all too well from our early days. It can take some time to find your stride and figure out how to craft the right balance between the work you love and the family you love even more. We wanted to integrate our love of entrepreneurship into our home life and especially, into our children’s lives. It’s one of the primary reasons we wrote our book Kidpreneurs -- to get our children involved in our passion for entrepreneurship.
Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with a fellow entrepreneur and like-minded dad, Pat Flynn, the founder of SmartPassiveIncome.com. Flynn is a father, a husband, a podcaster and a hustling entrepreneur who loves this lifestyle just like we do.
Flynn got his start as an entrepreneur after getting laid off from his architecture position back in 2008. Before the layoff, he had been working on a blog as a means to both study and help a couple of co-workers study for a tough architecture exam. After the layoff, Flynn heard a podcast about someone who was making six figures helping people pass a different exam. It sparked an idea to focus on the blog and creating an online product.
“After a lot of struggle, hard work and close moments of giving up, I eventually published a study guide and sold practice exams on the site to an audience that had come to trust me as an expert," Flynn says. "In October of 2008, the month I launched my first product, I generated $7,908.55 from a $19.99 ebook, and the business continued to grow.”
It was around that time Flynn started his site, SmartPassiveIncome.com, where he shares everything he’s learned and is learning in the online space.
With the success of that first product launch came the challenge of learning when to turn off the newfound excitement and attention on his business, especially because he worked from home and business was just the open of a laptop away.
“After my wife and I got married, my business was just taking off and I remember specific occasions where I'd be having conversations with my wife, but in the back of my head I was thinking about that one email that I had to answer, or that next product I wanted to create.” Flynn says. “It wasn't fair to her, and it wasn't until she called me out during a conversation that we finally had a serious chat about creating boundaries and understanding where the line was between personal life and work life. It was such an important talk and many great things came from it.”
Here are Flynn's steps to find a balance:
1. Set a schedule.
Flynn’s first step to create the balance between love of entrepreneurship and love of family was to put a schedule into place so both he and his wife knew when work started and finished. That way he could check in and out of work mentally, which was especially important while working from home.
2. Establish physical boundaries.
Flynn’s next step was to create a physical space in the apartment where only work could be done.
“When I was out of that area both she and I knew that it was not the time to think about work, and vice versa,” Flynn says.
It can take a while to learn how to create those boundaries, but they pay off!
3. The plan grows with your family.
Kids are a game changer in everyone’s lives, but this is particularly true for entrepreneurs who often work out of the home. When Flynn started SmartPassiveIncome.com, there weren’t any kids in the picture. After a few early bumps with establishing the boundaries, it was virtually smooth sailing.
“When we had our first child in December of 2009, it totally changed everything,” Flynn says. “Our schedule for work, eating and sleeping was all based on his schedule. Babies grow up so fast and change so quickly, once you get into a rhythm and are set on a routine, something happens and then you have to figure out how to adjust again. It took a lot of communication and working together as a team with my wife to continue to run the business like it needed to, and continue on as a happy and relatively stress-free family.”
The plan has to change and evolve as your family does.
What is Flynn’s best advice for those entrepreneurs who are still trying to find the balance?
“Get them involved as much as they want to be,” he says. “Some family members will be more interested than others, but to those who are interested (and in my experience, most children will be), let them be a part of it. Show them the spreadsheets, get them playing with the equipment, make them feel included because it will inspire them.
"Then when it's time to get busy and you leave the house or walk into your home office, it won't be some mystery to them where you go, but an indication that you're there to support the family. Who knows, they may potentially get inspired to do the same.”