Work-life balance is defined by Business Daily News as “the state of equilibrium where a person equally prioritizes the demands of one’s career and the demands of one’s personal life.” There’s been a big emphasis on remote work arrangements as a way to improve work-life balance for employees, especially for those with children and responsibilities outside of work. For small business owners like me, it's more a matter of lifestyle than a balancing act. Here’s why.
Why lifestyle trumps balancing
Work-life balance strives to achieve fewer work hours to create more time available for personal pursuits. That’s not the goal of most small business owners I know. Being a small business owner is a lifestyle where personal time isn’t the priority (although there is personal time). There are other things that matter more.
The lifestyle of a small business owner focuses on the rewards of independence. This means great satisfaction, flexibility to set schedules and activities (within the confines of running a business), and potentially unlimited financial rewards. It doesn’t mean fewer hours. SCORE reported a few years ago that 39% of small business owners work over 60 hours a week. Vacations aren’t a regular thing. And most owners are really on the clock 24-7 because work-related matters are never out of mind.
Issues for lifestyle
Living the life of a small business owner isn’t always a walk in the park. There are a number of negative aspects that those in the “life” accept. These include:
- Uncertain income. Unlike salaried employees, small business owners only keep what they can after paying expenses (including employees), taxes, and hopefully setting aside funds for expansion or catastrophe.
- Responsibility. It’s all on the shoulders of the owner. Even if there are professionals to help (e.g., a CPA to advise on taxes), final decisions…and ultimate consequences…are the owner’s alone.
- Being always on. Many tout flexibility as an attribute of being a small business owner. But as mentioned earlier, long hours come with the lifestyle. What’s more, sacrifice for the business often means not attending a child’s school play or ball game, missing a family function, or canceling personal plans.
While many employees report they experience burnout, which was cited as the number one reason why they left their jobs during the Great Resignation, small business owners generally do not experience burnout, or at least not in the same way. They may be exhausted, discouraged (especially with today’s challenges of inflation, supply chain issues, and labor shortages), and stressed out. Some may call it quits, even though their business is still profitable. Still, those who continue to run their businesses do so because they love the lifestyle and continue to find inspiration and purpose that keeps them moving forward.