Starting a Business

Striking a Balance Between Work and Home

Don't let go of your personal life just because you've started a business.
4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The mad rush to succeed as quickly as possible and the image of start-up entrepreneurs working 18-hour days and living at the office became much more common during the dotcom boom of the late '90s. Flush with venture capital, entrepreneurs frantically struggled to get established in what was a brand-new marketplace. To be sure, some succeeded. Many more burned out before their 30th birthdays.

Is it still necessary to work hard to start a business? Absolutely. Is there sacrifice involved? Most likely. But do you have to sacrifice everything for it? No. There are a whole spectrum of things to consider when making the transition to entrepreneur, and they're not all business-related. You must take friends and family into account. And as I always remind people, whether entering into an entrepreneurial venture or moving into a new career, you must be sure to take care of your own health and spirit.

Keep in mind that whatever sacrifices you make, your family also makes. If children are in the picture, then their physical and emotional needs must still be met. This need not be complicated; much of what they require is simple in nature. Being present to go to school engagements, for example, is a simple thing but still gives them emotional support. You have to make certain you don't let this sudden rush of energy you'll inevitably have as an entrepreneur seem wrong to your children. Make sure they feel it in a positive sense, and let some of that enthusiasm and energy spill over to them.

Another important factor that often leads to entrepreneur burnout is the ability, or the relative inability, to put aside the burden of work at the end of the day. As an employee, because you work with others in an office environment, you can talk about office politics, projects and frustrations, at least in a passing way, with co-workers. Even if it's not a dedicated conversation, it still allows you to "dump" some of the frustrations of work so you don't take everything home to your family. But as an entrepreneur, you may not have the luxury of doing that as casually as you would as an employee. And what's more, as an entrepreneur, especially if you are a company of one, the burdens of work become much more personal to you, and you may be less likely to leave them at the office. Separation of work and home may become fuzzier, and if you're not careful about it, you'll find yourself "on duty" 24/7.

Remember, your cell phone has an "off" switch--use it to give yourself a little precious time to yourself and your loved ones. You most likely have voice mail, e-mail and fax capabilities, so people can relay messages to you when you're not available and get a timely response once you've taken some time away and re-energized your spirit. It may seem as though you need to devote every minute of the day to your new business, but in the long run, this sort of fanatical devotion will actually hurt the business when you start to run out of steam. If you work hard and take time for yourself and your family on a regular basis, you'll find yourself succeeding to even greater heights than you had ever imagined.

Janice Bryant Howroyd is founder, chairman and CEO of Torrance, California-based ACT-1 Group, the largest woman minority-owned employment agency in the United States, with more than 70 offices, 300 full-time employees, 65,000 temporary "stars" and annual revenues exceeding $500 million. Founded in 1978 around Howroyd's personal philosophy of "Keeping the Humanity in Human Resources," ACT-1 is today a multidivision conglomerate serving such clients as Ford Motor Co., Gap Inc. and Sempra Energy and meeting demands for well-educated and well-trained temporary, full-time and contract employees. She has twice been honored by the Star Group as one of 50 Leading Woman Entrepreneurs of the World.

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