Business, Family and Balance: Expert advice to navigate the challenges
As an entrepreneur or business owner, it can feel like you’re constantly walking a tightrope, trying to balance the demands of running a successful business with the responsibilities of raising a family.
On one side, there’s the pressure to meet deadlines and hit targets; on the other, there’s the need to be present and supportive of your loved ones. It can be a challenging act to navigate, but it’s not impossible.
Our experts in the field, who have been in your shoes, have put together their insights, tips and strategies for managing time, delegating responsibilities, finding balance and more.
Marcus Marchant, CEO, Vista Australia and New Zealand
“In addition to being CEO at Vista, and having a family of my own, I also run a small business called Bondi Joe, it started out as a passion project that turned into something much bigger, and it is an important creative outlet for me – it’s safe to say, that I am a busy person.
“A ruthless approach to prioritisation and time-blocking, are my two tactics for effectively juggling business and family commitments. To do this, I like to take a macro-view to everything I do, and I’m a big fan OKRs (objectives and key results), a goal-setting framework that focuses on if outputs align to targets and strategy.
“For me, focusing on relevant outputs helps me prioritise the things that are most important, and as a result I don’t waste much time on things that I know aren’t contributing to the bigger picture, or agreed KPIs – I apply the same lens across my teams’ work. This is a business-as-usual practice for us, which means we have lots of practice and has resulted in most of us getting some really important personal time back.
“Vista is also a remote-first workplace, so being at home during the day means I’m able to greet my kids when they’re home from school, spend some time outside with them before dinner – this is a priority for me, so this approach to my work allows me to have this.”
Victoria Mills, CEO, Hello Coach
“Be kind to yourself. You can’t be all things to all people. Perfectionism will only lead to self-destruction and exhaustion. Make two to-do lists each day that include your business and family priorities. Use the first list for tasks that absolutely must get done and on the second list write down things you would like to get done but which could be moved to another day if needed. Remember to put self-care tasks on the “must do” list occasionally! If you don’t take time for yourself, you won’t have energy available for others. Be organised and have weekly schedules written in advance. Use quieter moments to prepare ahead of time so you’re not running late for a meeting because you’re looking for a toddler’s missing shoe. Pack lunches and bags the night before and stock the freezer on the weekends. Don’t be afraid to outsource tasks both professionally and personally to give you a better balance. Focus on undertaking tasks in shorter periods of time so you can look at your day and determine where your windows of opportunity lie for maximum productivity. If you’re struggling with the juggle, consider getting a coach for a fresh perspective.”
Brook McCarthy, Business Coach and Owner, Hustle & Heart
“Since starting my digital marketing business in 2008, I had my first child in 2009 and my second in 2011. The early years were chaos. My clients called me multiple times a day, every day, which was painful with a baby and a toddler. It became clear that change was needed.
“Since transitioning my business into marketing and sales training and coaching, I’ve significantly changed how I worked with clients.
“A lot of business owners who work in professional services are Zoomed out right now, so there’s a shift towards asynchronous communication, which is great for managing family commitments as well as business. I offer coaching and accountability via apps, and my instant access and live training courses all come with private podcasts, so that business owners can listen while on the go.
“Nowadays, I have a lot more time freedom than before. I schedule client calls on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which is far easier. There’s no reason why business owners need to be “always on” and available – this is often that a business lacks processes. Far better to make your business efficient while ensuring that you, the business owner, isn’t overwhelmed and stressed, but well rested and resourced.”
Lindsay Brown, VP of APJ, GoTo
“Flexibility is THE key factor in the balancing act of juggling family and running a business. For me, it is important to establish what your ideal lifestyle is, and then shape a work model to fit within this. Being a father of 3 children, while also spearheading the APJ region for GoTo and running a successful small business with my life partner, having a flexible and remote work model has played a huge role in balancing these aspects.
“With the right technology, business leaders are empowered to work effectively no matter where work and life happens. This creates greater flexibility and adaptability in your day with freed-up time to help you connect more with your family. Using our own GoTo solutions both at work and to run my business has allowed me to get work done flexibly while creating time for my family, like fitting in school drop off and pick-up, and supporting my children in cultivating their extracurricular interests. Remote working and collaboration technology that ensures your work life doesn’t impede on family commitments is essential to the juggling act.”
Matthew Thomson, Senior Vice President, Kofax
“Intelligent Automation (IA) is number one on most business New Year objectives so that meeting deadlines, reducing errors, improving employee productivity and, most importantly, allowing you to take on both family and work commitments – all happens seamlessly.
“Implementing an IA workplace reduces stress and offers better time management – a top tip and work hack for juggling your business and family without tears, tantrums and tiaras.
“Meeting all business and customer demands is constant so implementing an IA strategy to meet basic needs, such as finance and accounting, customer engagement right thought to operations will save you time and money which you can then invest in family.
“Build your own workflows and connect systems, applications and data from any business process. Accelerate business processes with document intelligences, task automation and process orchestration.
“Leveraging the powerful combination of robotic process automation and artificial intelligence should be your top priority for 2023. Work like tomorrow with a Kofax digital workflow so that you can stop juggling and start enjoying the power of technology with a less work and more life balance philosophy.”
Stephanie Gobraiel, Founder and CEO, Virtual Associate Services
“I wouldn’t say running a business and meeting family commitments is difficult it’s more of a juggle.
“Some of the tips I use and provide to my clients to help them reduce the stress and overwhelm to be able to have it all is by:
- Planning your week in advanced and incorporating time for the personal things you need to do as well as the business priorities
- Make a list of the things you need to do for your personal life, prioritise the list then schedule it into your week
- Accepting that when you run your business it’s not just the business it’s personal things you need to get done as well and make time for (just like if you’re employed)
- Reminding yourself that the point of running your own business is you run the show which means you choose what and when you focus on business and personal priorities
- By being organized this reduces the overwhelm and stress from everyday life and
- Don’t underestimate the power of outsourcing even things for your personal life this can be the cleaning, running errands so that you can get that time back in your day.”
Nicole Jameson, Director, Dark Horse Agency
“Outsource as much as possible – Including admin, social media, family dinners, cleaning, errands. On a budget? Digital VAs can do a tonne of things, ask around to find a good one.
“Divide and conquer – Team up with your husband, partner, extended family, and close friends who have similar lifestyle requirements to get things done. Don’t be afraid to seek out fellow parents who have similar aged kids and share the load of drop offs or even team cooking.
“Allocate ‘blocks’ – balance doesn’t work – Block out family time and work time. Depending on your business and the age/demands of your family, that might mean 5am starts to churn through admin, so you can spend quality time with the kids after school.
“Plan and schedule – I use a Google calendar with different colours to represent different categories for work, family, personal, rest (yes – schedule rest). That way I don’t miss anything and can see my day at a glance and what I can potentially move if I need to.
“Don’t sweat the small stuff – No one has ‘did all the laundry’ written on their headstone. And your kids won’t get vitamin deficiencies if they have scrambled eggs for dinner. Again.”
Kate Toon, Founder, Stay Tooned
“We put so much pressure on ourselves as business owners and as parents, and so many of the parents in my business communities say they don’t think of themselves as good parents. They’re racked with guilt, full of regret, and exhausted, wishing for more hours in the day.
“My biggest tip for juggling business and family is to get real about how much time you have in your week for work, and then price your products and services accordingly so that you’re able to reach your goals in the actual time you have.
“Yes, we all have the same amount of hours in the day as Beyonce, but not all of those hours are really available for work. Get clear on how many work hours you really have – it’s probably less than you think – and then treat this time as sacred. Especially if you’re working from home. Don’t be tempted to squeeze work and life admin into these hours, you need to have laser focus. The same goes for time with your family, it’s sacred.
“While the boundaries can blur between work and family life, try to keep things separate, for your mental wellbeing and to sustain your business long-term.”
Dr Patrick Aouad, CEO and Co-founder, [cu] health
“Juggling family and business is just that, a juggle. Knowing you are going to drop the ball can soften the blow mentally and financially. Having people to help you get it back in the air – and keep it there – is the reality.
- Know what you truly value, and realise that consistent work, commitment and sacrifice makes it happen on both sides.
- The important ‘things’ are the people, namely your family. Be flexible and present – they are the most important support system for your business.
- Surround yourself with the right people in business – they become your work family. See above.
- Identify the butter fingers in your business who don’t help you keep the ball in the air – and sort that out.
“There aren’t really any shortcuts. Listening, being respectful and emotionally present will build trust and support at home and in the business. Keeping the ball in the air requires a team, in both camps; it’s synchronicity.
“Finally, look after yourself; sleep, laugh, be with friends, drink great coffee and have a hobby that makes you happy outside of the business. Also a mentor is great, or investigate who does it all well, and follow their lead.”
Steve Jaenke, Founder and CEO, Digimark Australia
“As a father of two and a business owner, I’ve found it incredibly difficult to balance my time between the two while also finding time for my wife,
“One tactic I’ve found useful is to schedule in time for both my children and my wife into my calendar. Because my calendar is colour coded with varying levels of priorities, I’m able to prioritise their time; They get highest priority, and then everything else is colour coded under them.
“I also have two separate phones; one for business and one for personal. My personal phone doesn’t have any social media or business emails on it. As soon as I finished work, I put my business phone down and only carry my personal phone with me. This way I’m not tempted to take quick look at my emails, or check Instagram, all of my focus is on my family,
“Lastly, mindset is important. Once a week, I review my time spent with family and visualise my children as adults thinking about the week that just went by. I ask myself, ‘Based on this week, is it likely that my children, as adults, will consider me to be a father that was present in their lives?’”
Kristin Austin, Managing Director, Kristin Austin Marketing
“Having run my marketing agency for over a decade now, my kids have gone from starting school to all but leaving school. The best thing I found was to organise with my partner which days I could routinely start super early (think 5.30am) and which I could organise to work late (sometimes till 9pm or beyond). That way I always had quiet time in the office to plan and prep, do deep work or write without interruption and be home most nights for dinner/reading/bedtime. It meant we could split our carer responsibilities more evenly and I had the luxury of taking a half day off for a swim carnival or something without sacrificing too many hours out of the office. Key for me though, was carving out time for the unmissable family events, but also cutting myself some slack if I missed something because of a looming client deadline. Looking back, I didn’t end up missing too many big days.”
Cassandra Carey, Co-Founder, Inu8 Activewear
“Balancing business and family commitments is inevitably a juggling act we all face. For me, there are three pillars to address to be effective in keeping the balls in the air.
“Have a plan – Structure is incredibly helpful. Creating a routine allows you, or your employees, to schedule time you, or they, need based on the priorities of the day and allows you to set expectations at home. There are many tools available now to make this planning process simple. I use Asana to manage daily tasks and the progress of projects and the app Evernote for to do lists and as place to quickly record thoughts for later reference.
“Be present – Once you have defined your plan and set time aside for work or home commit to it 100%. Be prepared to ask for help or support you need to ensure you can keep your routine. Feelings of guilt can quickly undermine and challenge our routines. Stay focussed on the present and on the bigger goals you are working towards. I need the constant reminder that technology is a tool to help so aeroplane mode is my friend.
“Prioritise self-care – The emotional wellbeing of your family relies on the seamless integration of everyone’s needs, including yours. We all need balance and time to find space, to think and to connect. Self-care doesn’t need to be daunting; it can be as simple as a walk with a friend or a coffee with your thoughts. Again, for me scheduling is key I give myself an hour most days which I schedule on a Sunday evening, and I work commitments around those times.”
Jodie Baker, Founder and Managing Director, Homepeel
“I was in my early 30s when I founded Homepeel in 2005 and family commitments were nowhere near the top of my agenda. Fast forward to today and I’m managing a thriving business, parenting three daughters under eight, caring for elderly parents – and working on getting another new business off the ground.
“It’s a constant juggle but my attitude to making it all work completely changed when I realised that having it all didn’t mean I had to do it all.
“Asking for help is my number one tip for small business owners – at work and at home. I’m sure I’m similar to many business founders who struggle to delegate. But over the last few years, I’ve engaged a design company to undertake a complete rebrand of Homepeel and a social media agency to run our Facebook and Instagram pages. It’s been a game changer that has allowed me to focus on my strengths: corporate strategy and new product development.
“At the same time, I use a lot of help and time saving hacks at home. If you are struggling to justify spending money on ‘home help’, work out what your personal hourly rate is, because that’s what it is currently costing you to clean the bathroom.
“While technology has given us the flexibility to work from ‘wherever’ we want, often the reality is that we work from anywhere all the time. So ultimately, meeting family commitments while running a business means setting clear boundaries and having the courage and strength to stick to them.
Tammy Hewitt, Life Coach | Mental Health Advocate | Keynote Speaker, Mumma Life is Now
“Being a ‘parentpreneur’ presents many challenges, not the least of which is ensuring both the business and your family is getting enough love, and then there’s your own self care.
- Ensure you have a level of flexibility so you can be present at important times in work and home. Also build flexibility into your deadlines.
- Take time for yourself regularly to do what you love away from both.
- Enlist deputies at home and work or outsource stuff. You can’t do everything, it’s an entrepreneurial misconception.
- Talk to your family about commitments, and make a plan together to work together so everyone’s happy and deciding what works.
- Use technology to enhance what you do, and how you do it – wherever you can.
- Be mindful and be present – if you’re with family and friends – be with them – don’t answer work calls. And vice versa.
“There aren’t any golden rules for being the best you can be at both – you need to find what works for you. No matter how equipped and prepared you are – be ready to roll with the punches – that’s life, and business.”