Finding Work/Life Balance as a Small Business Owner

We asked small business owners across the U.S. one simple question: what does work/life balance mean to you?

Regardless of the type of business you own, finding a balance between work and life is a challenge for anyone. Can you find work/life balance? If it is possible, how do you balance your passion – or what helps you provide for your family – with your family, friends, and other hobbies? What does balance even mean for some people?

We asked hundreds of small business owners what work/life balance means to them – and pulled together some of the common themes among their responses. Maybe one of these perspectives will speak to you … or perhaps you’ll get a better idea of what it means to you to have work/life balance.

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Is it possible to balance work with life? Some say yes. 

For some small business owners, work-life balance is achievable – but it takes effort.

Work/life balance means a person has frequent opportunities to disconnect totally from work and just enjoy life. I believe balancing work and life makes a person more productive in their business and more relaxed in their personal life. How does one accomplish this balance? It’s different for each individual and different for each business. For me, I need enough personal interaction with family and friends so that when my mind turns to business, I am excited to work the next step toward our goals.  In our cleaning business, we have lots of opportunity to interact with others; to talk and laugh and connect with other people in the midst of business goes a long way toward keeping a great work-life balance.

– Vicky Blacknall, The Dirt Busters Are Us, Dallas, TX

I’m extremely blessed with a husband who loves seeing me happy. Making jewelry & going to craft shows makes me happy. But, I’m also blessed to be retired & have time to spend on my craft. When I began making jewelry it was for the distraction from chronic pain. I try to keep both my work & my life at an even pace. I make time to do what I enjoy, and I also enjoy keeping my life and taking care of my family. So I guess I am so very blessed, being able to balance work & life!

– Joanne Gregg, Colorful Kreations, Clementon, NJ

[Work/life balance means] being okay with how much money you make. Another key is to have a supportive and knowledgeable staff that you can trust to run this business efficiently the times you need to be away. Another key element is having a supportive group of family and friends.

– Mike McMahon, Rave Luxury Transportation, Moline, IL

Since I love what I do, I put my entire focus on creating cakes while I am at work.  However, I really enjoy physical activities. Therefore, right after work 2 days a week I do Pilates and modern dance. I also love yoga and weight-strength training. I think that all of those things, along with cultural experiences, enhance my ability to create great cakes.

-Diane Nussbaum, Diane’s Patisserie, Washington, DC

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It’s not easy – many struggle to balance work and life.

For other small business owners, work/life balance doesn’t seem possible all the time – work usually takes priority over life. Many small business owners are always on the lookout to grow their business so they can care for their families.

In my opinion, this is the hardest subject to breach. When does work stop and you concentrate on family? For me I don’t know if work ever stops. I am always looking for opportunities for work throughout my day. What I do is take the time to set the phone down. Put it on silent and focus my attention to the people I do all this for. None of this is for me. It is for my children and the woman I love. I have to remember that and still give them their time and attention as often as possible because without them none of this would happen.

-Todd Conley, Steels Roofing Co., Chico, CA

Work is usually the priority, so if I have to miss something in my personal life due to work obligations I make sure I “make it up.” That may be that I drop in on friends or family when I have an extra half hour or make an appointment to schedule some down time. Also, I do it as soon as I can so I don’t forget that I’m “owed” this. I am not as effective when my life is consumed by the job.

-Sherri Renaud, Rock Foundations, LLC, Bay City, MI

From my perspective, there really is no such thing as balancing work and life. As a small business owner, work is part of life if you are striving to achieve your goals. The key is finding a career path or business that you are passionate about so that your occupation does not feel like “work”. You should enjoy what you do and be able to balance professional and personal [life]. Additionally, carve out time for vacation when necessary, but it is usually more rewarding after you have built a solid foundation with a roadmap for success.

-Markus Hunter, Recess Charlotte, Charlotte, NC

At times it is hard as a small business owner not to take your work home with you. The downside is you need all the jobs you can get so you take calls at any time, day or night. I find that at least once a month I need to get out of town and leave the phone alone so that I do not get burned out.

-James Haynes, JEH Solar, Houston, TX

As a small business owner, the work/life balance can be tough. We need to go when the work is there. We find establishing strong relationships personally and professionally is the key to the work/life balance.

-Daniel Guilbeau, TCC Inc., Lafayette, LA

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When you love what you do, it’s never “work.”

Many small business owners love what they do so much they never feel like they have to choose between work or life. Some of them went as far to say that their business is part of their family.

The Sitting Service is an extended arm of my family, every new client is just that FAMILY, and my family is my passion, so every day I get to build my family.

-Nettie Elvy, The Sitting Service Private Employment Agency, Dallas, TX

If work is your life, then you are in the wrong line of work.  Never work for money, work for the satisfaction of helping your clients and all else will follow. Always remember your creator as you are not the sole author of your life.

-Michael Doran, American Retrolift LED, Windermere, FL

Work/life balance to me means creating the perfect balance of the two and make them one. I find jobs that I enjoy that doesn’t make it feel like “work”. I find satisfaction in every job I do. I find a job I love so I will never have to work another day in my life. Too often I see people slugging their ways through work and settling for something that makes them unhappy and they usually prefer their home life over work. I look forward to going to work every day, I would just call it a life balance than work/life [balance]. Life is hard, you have to work at it, life is work. I also believe and practice the law of attraction – I manifest my dreams into reality so work only makes my life better.

-Rachel Olson, Rave Luxury Transportation, Sacramento, CA

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Family comes first.

Family seems to be the top motivator for most of the business owners we surveyed.  Many of them told us how they make time for their families, even when it’s not convenient because they are their top priority and reason they do what they do.

[Work/life balance is] being able to take time out of my day – to take my daughter to her appointments or meet friends for lunch. I create my own hours to work around my customers’ and family’s needs!

-Elizabeth Vietti Miller, Grandma Vietti’s Kitchen, Seattle, WA

Running a campground, lodging business, spring thru fall is nonstop. We always make sure there is a spot for family to visit and be a part of the fun, and we make off-season count with lots of visits with our grandchildren.

-Nancy Souza, Sleeping Bear Campground & Cabins, Atlanta, GA

To be honest, it’s almost impossible in my first year – it’s been all work, work, and more work. If the kids have something going on I do make it, but I’m working right up to the event and then right back to work after. I do stick to when I close Saturdays at 2pm, and I’m with my family until Monday morning, but that’s not enough time with my family. So yes, it is important to me as a small business owner to get more of a grip on the balancing of my work and life … my main goal this year is BALANCE because family is more important.

-Thomas Kerwin Jr., Tommy’s Appliance Service & Repair, Binghamton, NY

For many in my profession, success leads to working long hours, weekends, and most often frequent out of state travel. For me my goal was to work hard but smart using the best resources possible. When I started my firm in 1988 it was hard to believe many lawyers did not even own a computer. By 1989, I had a network and very early versions of legal software. By taking this approach I was able to run a successful practice but also meet my personal goals to be home for dinner most nights with my family. To be able to spend most weekends with my family, to rarely have to travel for business, or be in a position when I could be transferred to another city. By creating my own efficient small business it has entitled me to be successful but still spend time with my family and given them a stable life.

-David Galler, Galler Law, Fort Gordon, GA

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In the end – the work pays off.

Even with the insane schedules and lack of sleep, small business owners realize all of their hard work will pay off – to help support their families, guide their passions, or accomplish personal goals.

Balancing work and life is a huge struggle! Dependable help is extremely hard to find so as an owner operator I work 100 hours a week most of the time. This means no family life! Thankfully I have an amazing wife that is very understanding. The other issue is lack of sleep and the older I get those long days really take a toll. I believe all this hard work will pay off in the future!

-Brian Craft, Craft Refrigeration Heating and Cooling, San Jose, CA