Business life balance
February 25, 2022 | 10:45 am CST
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I  talk a lot about business efficiency and productivity, about how to be more profitable and grow your business. But with all the emphasis on bigger, faster, and more profitable, there’s something that can too easily get lost in the mix: That’s your life.

The evidence is everywhere. Successful celebrity entrepreneurs brag about sleeping only four hours a night and working 80 hours a week. Is that the path to prosperity? When I talk to woodworking manufacturers, I frequently ask them how many hours a week they work. Often, they don’t answer and just laugh at me. Sometimes they honestly have no idea because they are afraid to count. When they do add it up to give me a number, it’s typically way north of 40 hours and a five-day work week. Is that the only way to get things done?

Part of the problem is that many small business owners just don’t plan for their own time off. They are so busy wearing all the hats in their business, that they just keep piling up the work. When I explain things in workshops like how to calculate a loaded hourly shop rate, it’s fascinating how many don’t account for vacations, sick days, or even five-day work weeks. It’s just not sustainable to be working at your business 24/7/365.

So, what can you do? Well, you can’t do it ALL, that’s for sure. But small business owners everywhere are famously bad at delegating. So many decided to be self-employed because they wanted to be the boss, but they haven’t learned to stop being the worker bee, too. 

Of course, the current shortage of skilled workers doesn’t help the situation. How can you turn over parts of your work to other people if you can’t find those people? No easy answer there, but a bigger emphasis on growing a team instead of just hiring hands is probably a start. There’s also the matter of compensation. I talk a lot about pricing work based on customer-perceived value. As a business owner, you need to apply some of that same thinking to your staff. What’s really in it for them? Is it just the paycheck? Is there other motivation? Is there growth potential? Are you attracting the kind of people who want to grow with a team in the first place or are you just bringing on warm bodies?

All tough questions, but you need to ask some even tougher questions of yourself. What is really your business goal? Are you trying to create value and wealth that makes you and your family comfortable? What fulfills you beyond the business? What would you do if you weren’t running your business? What helps recharge your batteries?

No business owner, no matter how talented and energetic, can do it all, all the time. Even if you build your business that way, you’ll likely find your marriage and home life suffering. Creating value in your business without creating value in the rest of your life is not a good equation. It just doesn’t balance.

Will Sampson will be speaking in person at Wood Pro Expo California April 27-29.

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About the author
William Sampson

William Sampson is a lifelong woodworker, and he has been an advocate for small-scale entrepreneurs and lean manufacturing since the 1980s. He was the editor of Fine Woodworking magazine in the early 1990s and founded WoodshopBusiness magazine, which he eventually sold and merged with CabinetMaker magazine. He helped found the Cabinet Makers Association in 1998 and was its first executive director. Today, as editorial director of Woodworking Network and FDMC magazine he has more than 20 years experience covering the professional woodworking industry. His popular "In the Shop" tool reviews and videos appear monthly in FDMC.