The Challenge of Balance

Being an entrepreneur can be a 36-hour a day job.

It’s that way in the beginning and as the company gains traction the time demands will only increase.

After all, you (and your co-founder if you have one) wear all the hats — CEO, head of R&D, chief technology officer, marketing VP, lead salesperson, customer service rep, not to mention office manager, and accounts payable clerk.

Starting a business requires some craziness for sure, but you don’t want to go completely insane. The most effective entrepreneurs figure out how to strike a personal balance. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned from watching them operate.

1. Recognize that there are only 24, not 36 hours in a day.

If I could give entrepreneurs only one suggestion about time management, it would be to prioritize every day’s activities and resist interruptions, including IMs, texts, emails and phone calls.

There is no law of entrepreneurship that says you have to respond immediately to everything. On the other hand, you do need to realistically set others’ expectations about when you will be available and when you won’t.

2. Ask for and accept help.

Entrepreneurs are intrepid. They like to do things themselves; otherwise, they probably wouldn’t be entrepreneurs. They also are on tight budgets, always. But don’t let self-sufficiency, an appetite for control or limited funds box you in.

Don’t scrimp on legal and financial guidance. There are attorneys and CPAs who have “startup” rates for entrepreneurial companies.

Learn how and when to delegate. Sometimes it is more economical and you’ll get a better result if you hire a contractor for certain projects. Consider using interns from a local college or university. Find out what low-cost services are available from your local economic development organization.

3. Find a mentor you can talk to heart-to-heart.

That it’s lonely at the top is not a cliché. You’ll be stressed and worried, and yes, sometimes afraid. Yet who are you going to talk to about it? You’re the founder and CEO. You have to project confidence and an optimistic and positive outlook, no matter how you may feel inside. Find a mentor and build a relationship with him or her early on. It can be a professor, another entrepreneur, or a trusted individual in your business community. You need a place to vent.

4. Have interests outside of work.

It’s easy for entrepreneurs to live and breathe the business. But that can’t be all there is. Whether you like golf, gardening, go-carting, or going to the movies, make time every week for interests outside of work. And when you’re visiting that museum or taking that hike, unplug…unplug…unplug.

5. Stay connected with the people who are important to you.

Spend time with the other people in your life. When you are with family or friends, really be with them, present and in the moment.

There is no one solution for achieving entrepreneurial balance—but if you make your personal sanity a priority, you will find a combination that works for you.



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