Business Owners Toolbox Blog Discussions and articles to help the small business owner solve the challenges they face as they grow their business.

August 4, 2009

Do I Have to Work All the Time?

“For the Self-Employed, It’s an Endless Workweek. Recession Takes Away Vacations, Weekends as the Consequences of Missing a Business Opportunity Mount”
Sarah Needleman, WSJ Small Business. 8.4.9

In this article, solopreneurs tell us why they can never take any time off. Here’s my response.

I think the folks described in this article have fallen into a bad “24/7” habit. It’s unnecessary, and damaging to their business prospects.

Back in boom times, people said, “There’s so much work, I’ve got to be available 24/7 to handle it all!” Now they’re saying, “There’s not much work, so I’ve got to be available 24/7 so I don’t lose out.” I see many people like this who wear it as a badge of honor that they are on call all the time.

A solopreneur who gets stuck in this vicious circle virtually guarantees he or she will remain a tiny operation. Why? If you work all the time, when do you do the strategic thinking and planning? Develop strategic alliances and new ways of doing business? Train or groom skilled associates who can take part of your load? When do you recharge your batteries, and leave time for creative insights?

That’s the job description of a successful entrepreneur who is intent on growing the business, putting more money in their pocket, and not having to work so dang hard. The 24/7 worker bee never gets to this place.

I use this parable with my small business owner clients:

The Zen master says,
“Every day I meditate an hour,
no matter how busy I am.
Except on those days when the crush of work is overwhelming.
Then I meditate two hours.”

The “hour” is figurative: you set aside the time you need—even during the toughest of times.

Some simple rules:

— Don’t stay a solopreneur. Have a collaborator so you can energize and back up each other. Can be a colleague, a “partner,” or an employee.

— Tell your clients when you are available and when you are not. Mostly, they just want to know ahead of time. I do not believe your clients disrespect you for taking time off.

— Think you always have to be available to Client A even if you have something personal scheduled? Try this simple test: Suppose you have a meeting Tuesday with Client B. Then Client A calls and says, “I want to get together with you Tuesday.” Do you break your Client B meeting? No, of course not. You tell A, “I’m booked for Tuesday; what about Wednesday?” Treat your own appointments with equal weight.

— Feel you absolutely must stay in touch during vacation? Then do so, but limit it. My wife and I  (both consultants) take weeks in Hawaii. We tell our clients when we’ll be gone, and say we’re available only for brief urgent contact. Our insight: we’d rather spend an hour during the morning fielding emails via laptop while sitting by the beach than not go at all. And there’s a subtle joy from billing for $175 while sitting under a palm tree in your swimsuit!

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If you’ve read this far, and you’re shaking your head and thinking, “No, no, this doesn’t pertain to me. I really do have to work all the time,” then respond and tell me why. If I can’t give you a way out of your vicious circle, I’ll send you a free copy of my “Recapture Your Time” book. But of course you wouldn’t have time to read it . . .

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