How I Run 3 Small Businesses Without Compromising My Life
Most entrepreneurs and small business owners are familiar with other people not understanding what the heck you do and why. Your friends ask, “You can make money doing that? ” Your parents pester, “Why don’t you just get a‘ real ’job?”
Well, I’ve experienced this threefold because I run three small businesses: boutique accounting firm Gratiam Consulting, content creation company The Empowered CPA, and blow dry bar GLAMbar. I get questions not only from friends and family, but also from other business owners, especially when they learn my consulting business is successful enough that I’m turning away clients. “Aren’t you leaving money on the table?” they ask. “Wouldn’t it be easier to focus on growing that one business?
Maybe it would be easier, but I wouldn’t have my work life any other way. I love getting to expand my impact through my businesses, helping different types of people in different capacities. Working on a variety of project types keeps me excited about my work by ensuring that no two days are the same, and makes it feel more fulfilling because I’m impacting so many people at different stages of their lives. Plus, I love knowing that I’ve taken a very rigid industry and molded it into something that suits me.
But this structure obviously doesn’t come without its challenges, especially since I’m not the type of entrepreneur who is willing to hustle for 80 hours a week. When I left corporate life, it was because I wanted to create more time for my family, my health, and my mental well-being. Even while running three businesses, keeping space for all of that is a priority.
I know there are others out there like me: multi-passionate entrepreneurs who have a wealth of business ideas and are determined to find a way to make them all work together. For those people, here are a few strategies that have helped me keep my three companies running (and growing!) Without sacrificing the other things I value in life.
I Thought Carefully About My Business “Portfolio”
I’ll start off by saying that I think the mix of different types of businesses I have — and what they each require from me — is part of what helps me succeed.
For one, I didn’t launch three businesses from the get-go. Instead, I worked on my consulting business for a few years and got it to the point where it was fairly stable, with new clients coming in 100 percent from referrals and a solid waitlist, before I turned my attention to another company. I think trying to do business development for three new ventures at once would have been challenging.
I also thought carefully about how much each business would need from me week to week. As a client services business in a highly regulated (and deadline-driven) industry, my consulting practice requires the most attention from me and is the least flexible on time. If I tried to take on another business with similar needs, I could see myself burning out fast. Instead, my content creation business leaves me with a lot of flexibility to adjust my schedule when urgent needs come up for my other companies. Similarly, I have a partner in the blow dry bar, which means all the responsibility isn’t on me.
I Regularly Remember That Saying No to Some Things Means Saying Yes to Others
It’s an unfortunate law of the universe that when you add on another business, you don’t get to add on more hours to your day. Instead, I have to constantly remind myself that everything I take is going to take time away from something else, and that means making hard choices about what I’m going to cut.
For instance, when I started my digital content company, I knew that I was going to need five to six hours per week to create this content. If I wanted to do that without sacrificing family or personal time (or sleep), those hours were going to have to come from somewhere else. So I made the tough decision to stop taking on any new consulting clients. That meant leaving money on the table, but I knew it was worth it to me to be able to help more people through digital content, build a more passive income stream, and do it all without working myself into the ground.
When considering running multiple businesses, you have to be really, really honest about your time commitments, not only with yourself, but with anyone else relying on you, like a spouse or business partner. Understand what you can and want to bring to the table, as well as what might need to change to make that possible.
I Make a Plan (With Plenty of Padding for When the Plan Goes Wrong)
It probably goes without saying, but good time management is the key to making all of this work. Each week, I sit down and look at what needs to get done, prioritizing things from least to most flexible.
Because they are so important to me, I always make sure I have time for my personal responsibilities first, planning out time for meals, activities with the kids, and time at the gym. Then, I’ll check if there are any tax deadlines coming up for my consulting clients or accounting deadlines for the blow dry bar and carve out the hours I’ll need to do that work. Finally, I’ll see how much time I have left to work on more flexible things, like developing my digital courses.
Of course, as every business owner knows, the best laid plans never work as we want them to. So I always build in a lot of padding with the assumption that things will go wrong. I plan with my consulting clients far in advance and set deadlines far before any federal due dates. I also try to always have a few tasks on my plate that can be shifted if an emergency comes up.
I Swear by Systems and Delegation
The other cornerstones of my time management are setting up systems to reduce the amount of work I need to do in the future and delegating anything I don’t really need to do myself.
For instance, creating an onboarding kit for my consulting clients drastically reduced the amount of time I need to spend on that process, while still giving them the high-touch experience I aim to provide. Also, bringing on an administrative assistant this year has opened up my time to tackle things more beneficial to the goals I’m trying to achieve. I made sure to find someone who was also excited about being involved in a variety of projects so they could help across all my different businesses.
Whenever I find myself spending a lot of hours each week doing something, I ask myself: Is there a system I could build to simplify this? Or training documents I could make to hand this off to someone else? Often, I find just a few hours of work operationalizing something that can open up tons of time to focus on more valuable things in the future.
I’m Constantly Revisiting My “Why”
Finally, I’m constantly revisiting my goals for each business and my motivation for building them.
Even though I’m proud of the consulting firm I’ve built and the financial stability it’s given me, I know I don’t want to keep growing it right now because I’m also passionate about helping as many entrepreneurs as I can by creating content and digital courses. At the blowdry bar, I get to work with great collaborators on a brilliant business concept — I’d feel foolish walking away from such an amazing opportunity. Thinking about this helps me figure out the right balance of energy to give each company based on what it’s giving back to me.
I also think that having a regular pulse on why I started each business will help me tap into the point at which my desires change. We all go through different seasons, and at some point I may decide one of my businesses isn’t for me. Or, I may decide to start yet another one!
Whatever decision I make in the future, I know that these tools will help me juggle everything, including the things outside of work that matter most.
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