Break Down or Take a Break?
Running your own business can sometimes mean running yourself into the ground, especially when things finally start taking off. Columnist and our Director Lee McQueen shares his own experience of balancing business with pleasure.
This is a really important year for my business. In 2013 I’ve got busier and busier, and I have subconsciously decided to do more and more work, with less and less play. It’s really easy to get carried away with it all; I’ve somehow, without even realising it, got into the habit of doing 65-hour weeks as standard. But how much is too much?
Spotting the signs
Burn-out can creep up on you as your workload steadily increases, but there are some pretty key ways of spotting when you’ve simply taken on too much. The classic is when you’re not doing the job properly. You can tell, because you end up spreading yourself too thin, or the delivery of your work is not up to scratch. As business owners, we generally take pride in doing as good a job as possible. When you can’t give 100% to each task, that’s a major sign that you need to delegate more. But most people reading this column will be business owners, and therefore realise how difficult it is to switch off and give up control.
Honesty is the best policy
It can be very hard to take a break if you’ve got lots on – no one likes to turn down work. The best way to ensure you’re not taking on more business than you can handle though, is by setting expectations. This is key: you need to have a plan of action for delivery, which lays out exactly how you’re going to do it. It’s pretty important not to take on a client if you physically can’t deliver the work to the agreed timescale. I’m sure most of you readers will have done that in the past, and I’m equally certain you will have got your fingers burned in the process. Be honest with the potential client, and let them know the reality and the timescale.
Another way of dealing with this issue is to have a delivery function that can easily expand and retract; use contractors or temp workers in instances where you have more work than you and your staff can deliver alone.
The balancing act
Sometimes I get asked, like many entrepreneurs, if I find it easy to separate my work and my personal life. Not really! Generally, I’m lucky in that we have quite a few holidays a year, and I feel very fortunate to be able to do that. But even that has changed this year – normally we would have had a break by now, but we had to cancel our latest one. During the week it’s all about work. If I get home at 7.30, I put my daughter to bed, but then I’ll be on the iPad until 10.30 so that I know what I’m dealing with the next morning.
So I’m still struggling to find the right balance, just like most Talk Business readers – but always remember, taking a break if you need it is always better than having a breakdown. Biting off more than you can chew is not always the best thing for your business.