According to Warren Buffet, one of the richest and most generous people in the United States, “Don’t risk what is important to you, to get what is not important to you.” This is great advice for entrepreneurs who are looking to balance their work and family and making both sides of their life work out successfully.

How to Keep Your Family Happy When You Are an Entrepreneur

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In this article, we will look at 1) the importance of family for an entrepreneur, 2) how to keep your family happy when you are an entrepreneur, and 3) successful entrepreneurs and family.

THE IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY FOR AN ENTREPRENEUR

Entrepreneur David K Williams highlights the importance of family, specifically the spouse not only in his articles but also his book. He attributes this role as one of the most critical and underappreciated ones on an entrepreneurial journey. He also mentions in another article that of all the critical priorities and people for an entrepreneur, their spouse and family should stand at the top of the list.

There is a misconception that an entrepreneur’s family gets to benefit from them being their own boss or that there is a higher income and more flexibility for vacation time and family emergencies. However, the truth is much the opposite. An entrepreneur’s life is a whirlwind with long hours, lots of risk and a high degree of uncertainty. Most of their time and interest is, therefore, devoted to the company even in the best of times.

Many successful entrepreneurs agree on the fact that in dire times, if they had not had the support of their families, they may not have gotten through them towards success. This highlights the importance of family for any successful entrepreneur. For this reason, a considerate entrepreneur can take some steps to work on his family and their happiness despite being deep into the creation of new businesses.

Even the President of the United States gives due time to his family. He has breakfast with his wife and daughters every day along with daily exercise routine. He then heads to office at 9am and makes sure to take time out for dinner with his family at night before returning to work.

At work, success is measured by numbers and results. At home however, it is the amount of dedicated time that you put in that counts.

HOW TO KEEP YOUR FAMILY HAPPY WHEN YOU ARE AN ENTREPRENEUR

Though it may seem that you do not have enough hours in the day to work on keeping your family happy as an entrepreneur, but there are several small steps and actions that can help you achieve this without taking time away from the business.

1) Prioritize

For an entrepreneur, prioritizing effectively is extremely important for the successful accomplishment of goals and tasks. It is not enough to have a general idea in your mind. Instead, it is good practice to make a list of items in order of importance to help make decisions about what needs to be taken on when. If this prioritization exercise is ignored, the urgent tasks will always take over, whether they are meaningful and value creating or not. The more vital tasks will take the background and create chaos and frustration. Entrepreneur Brock Blake cites his three top, never to be missed, priorities as family dinner, time spent with each child and a weekly date with his wife.

And this is the key point to note. No matter how important it is to ensure the success of a business, family needs to be prioritized above all else. Family is there for you before, during and long after your current endeavor has ended and you are ready to move on. The way to go about this is to rearrange work schedules or take a day off once in a while to spend as much quality time with you family as you can.

2) Plan

Once the priorities have been clearly laid out, plans can be made to ensure that these priorities are met. The plan should take into account the details of work, family time, meals as well as special events. Though it may seem strange to make plans for fun or family time, it helps ensure that time is optimized and every moment is spent doing something productive or meaningful. The COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg makes sure that she leaves work by 5:30pm. Her priority is then to spend the evening with her family and her plan ensures that she leaves on time to make it happen.

3) Organize

Making a plan may be easier in the end then actually sticking to it in practice. There will always be something or the other vying for your attention and pushing the rest of the priority items away. There may be requests for appointments and meetings, a new challenge, a new competitor or some upcoming deadline. These will become excuses to make exceptions to the plan. During these times, your priorities will truly be tested and it will be up to you to handle these items without changing the plan.

4) Hard Work and Sacrifice

To continue to be organized, follow your plan and stick to your priorities, you will need to put in extra effort and make some sacrifices. In order to make time for family and continue to be effective at the workplace, social activities with friends or colleagues may need to be taken out of the equation. In addition, some early mornings or late nights may need to be added to the work day. These uninterrupted periods of work will allow you to catch up on projects and emails without interruption.

5) Work Smarter, Not Harder

In the business world of today, everyone is always too busy to do anything and this is taken as a point of pride. Being busy is seen as a sign of success. However, successful business owners build systems that allows them to spend time with their families, enjoy weekends and take vacations when they can. These people have learned how to prioritize and plan as well as to delegate to the right people. To achieve this, a good idea is to conduct an audit of your time to see how you spend an average day and an average week. Identify if the tasks that you are engaged in are important and whether they are creating value for the business. Also identify which tasks can be delegated to others without a loss in productivity or direction.

6) Appreciate

Another good way to keep your family happy by acknowledging their sacrifice and input into your life is to give a voice to your appreciation. Take the time to say thank you every day. You can also surprise family members with an unexpected gesture when they are least expecting it. Practicing gratitude on a daily basis will help maintain a state of happiness.

7) Learn to Say No

Often, the entrepreneur or CEO is the most involved and thought to be the most important person in the company. This is the thought process of the entrepreneur himself as well as those around him. However, in addition to growing the company you also need to focus on your family and your health. This is why it is important to say no and refocus on your priorities. With adequate delegation to the right people in your team, you will be able to pass on tasks that do not absolutely require your personal attention. Growing a company is not a sprint, but a marathon, and you need to sustain your family life alongside for long term success.

8) Find Harmony

When making your plans, it is important to define what a harmonious day will look like for you and your family. This could mean taking kids to school before work, coming home for lunch or leaving work early. Harmony will also mean allowing yourself to stray a little from your scheduled list of activities and your plan. This helps make time for family events or emergencies or whatever else is needed.

9) Communicate and Share Information

Another key to success for entrepreneurs is communication. This goes beyond tools and calendars and instead is more basic. Spend time everyday checking in with your spouse and kids to find out what has been happening in the family and where one or the other person needs support. In addition, when there is a stressful situation at work or at home, do not try to hide it. The more secrets that build up, the harder it will be to manage the issues that crop up later.

10) Be Away When You Are Away

One of the most important, yet most difficult task for most entrepreneurs is to switch off completely when they are away from their work and with their family. When you stop working, then shut down your computer, turn off your email and take a step away both physically and mentally. The decision has to be made consciously and strongly to be present in the moment and pay attention to your family.

Multi-tasking may seem like the best of both worlds in this situation but in case of work and family, it can turn out to be a bad habit that leads to an unhappy family and a difficult to manage workplace. The best idea is to be present fully when you are at work and all-in when you are with the family. Children especially sense a parent’s distraction and this method will help you pay attention where it is due.

11) Take Family Vacations

Vacations seem to signal too much money and time spent, but in the end a vacation together can go a long way towards strengthening a family’s bond and keeping everyone happy. A well planned vacation will not break the business but the benefits will be felt by all parties.

SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS AND FAMILY

Insight from Richard Branson

Richard Branson is an English business man and investor, best known as the founder of the Virgin Group. His company is made up of more than 400 companies. He began his foray into entrepreneurship when he was sixteen and he has continued to grow and expand his reach ever since. According to Forbes magazine’s 2014 list of billionaires, Richard Branson is the 7th richest citizen of the United Kingdom.

On kids

According to Branson, “If you share in your kids’ lives and give them a chance to take part in yours, you will have a much better relationship with them, and you will waste far less energy worrying about what they are doing. One of the great things I learned from my children was that I was a better parent when I was also their friend. When they needed guidance or discipline, I’d recall my own youthful misadventures and explain how I resolved those problems and what I learned from them. I carried over that sort of sharing, understanding and energy to my work life, and I believe that it made me a better manager.”

On Priorities

Branson suggests that instead of trying to juggle home and family at the cost of both, keep your family the priority. He suggests putting family time into your appointment calendar and to prepare your colleagues to handle situations where you are called away from work in an emergency.

On Flexibility

Branson does not share his daily routine because he doesn’t have one. Says Branson, “I try to make every day unique. If you love life and live it to the fullest there are limitless ways to spend your time.” He feels that a key quality of an entrepreneur is to be flexible. There is no way of knowing what the next day will bring and what will need to be managed. But this does not mean letting go of priorities and things that you enjoy doing. He stresses the importance of finding the time for friends, family and whatever else is important to you.

Other Entrepreneurs

Catherine Clifford asked six finalists in the running to win the title of National Small Business Person of the Year Award about what keeps them happy, grounded and peaceful. Some of their answers are explored below:

Michael Miqueli – Founder San Antonio Broker Services

Founded in 1996, the company has 71 full time employees and an annual revenue of $8 million. Michael says that his wife and kids keep him grounded. The family jokes around and helps him forget his stresses. He also takes time out to play golf as a way to disconnect from thoughts of work.

Necole Parker – Founder The ELOCEN Group, LLC

Founded in 2006, the company has 62 employees and annual revenues of $19.4 million. Parker feels that stress is part of the package when it comes to entrepreneurship. You are always on the go and there is never a dull moment. She relaxes by including exercise in her day as well as spending quality time with her family away from work.

Alan Doan – Founder Missouri Star Quilt Company

Founded in 2008, the company has 180 employees. Doan finds that his happiness is all about family. From dinners together to lunch at his mother’s home with siblings to playing baseball with nieces and nephews. He feels that family never lets you get a big head or feel too sorry for yourself and it is important to have these people around.

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