Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with @AmyWalkerCoach. Amy Walker is a Business Family Balance expert – with a husband, 5 little boys and 2 companies to run, she has to be. Amy is passionate about assisting women to create strong businesses that bless and benefit their families. Her mission is to teach women the specific skills they need to play full out in business and rock the Mommy role. She has trained organizations including; Utah State office of Education, Utah Women’s Realtor’s Council, Mary Kay Cosmetics, State Farm Insurance, Keller Williams, and Lifetime Products. For more information amywalkerconsulting.com
SmallBizLady: What are the biggest benefits you see in creating balance between work and family?
Amy Walker: When we put our family on hold to push forward in our business, we end up having to take time out of our business to put out family fires down the road, and vice versa. I find that success flows the best when you are running at a maintainable pace. So often we try to run too fast in one or both areas and then we end up burnt out and stressed out. That is not a recipe for financial success or a happy family! Having that work and family balance allows you to enjoy the journey and feel fulfilled at every level.
SmallBizLady: What do you see as the biggest challenge your clients face in establishing this business-family balance?
Amy Walker: Most of my clients are women, and most of my clients are within their first 5 years of business. Many of them start up a business but haven’t put down any of their previous responsibilities. They are working full time jobs, raising kids, managing the household, being the soccer/dance mom and still holding onto old definitions of their roles. They are trying to “do it all” and as a result, aren’t doing anything great. They are spread so thin that their productivity is low. I would say the second big challenge is that as a business owner, your business has a tendency to take over your life! It is challenging to put boundaries on your time and mental energy and still have faith that the business will thrive.
SmallBizLady: Do you find that business owners have better results when they are more balanced with their time?
Amy Walker: Absolutely! I have 5 kids and a husband who is very busy. I work every day from 8:30-3:30. Because I have such defined parameters, I HAVE to be 100% productive during the day. I don’t waste time, I don’t feel guilty about not being with my kids, I don’t worry about what is happening on the home front, and I don’t over work myself to exhaustion on a daily basis. Many business owners are not maximizing their work time and never turn off their brains. So they feel like they are working 24/7, but are not even functioning at capacity.
SmallBizLady: What balance myths do you see?
Amy Walker: I see three balance myths. The first is that balance means equal amounts of time. It doesn’t! I can have a week where I am gone a lot working and be in balance and I can have a week on vacation with my family and be in balance. Balance is about being in the right place at the right time, doing the right things. Myth number 2 would be that a balanced life means “Having it All.” People who try to have it all tend to be very unbalanced. People who have great business family balance tend to do less things, but spend more time doing them. The third myth and I think the most dangerous is that balance looks the same for everyone. There is no “one-size fits all” schedule. And if I am trying to make my definition of balance look like someone else’s, I am setting myself up for failure!
SmallBizLady: What do you see as the four core areas where small business owners need to balance?
Amy Walker: As my clients are working on growing their businesses, I also have them work on strengthening the core areas of their life. It starts with Self. I find far too often we treat ourselves worse than anyone else. How is your self talk? Are you taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually? You are the Most Valuable Person in your life. If you take yourself out of the game, things look scary! Next is your marriage/core relationship. If you are struggling in that area, it affects all three of the other areas including business.
The third focus is on parenting. One of my mantras is that I want to be extremely successful, but not at the cost of my family. That cost is too high. I find with my female clients, they hold back because of their children. I find my male clients lose enjoyment in their careers when they are struggling with their kids. In either case, those relationships take effort. You need to understand who your kids are and respect them as individuals. Fourth is business. The challenge is that business is so often the squeaky wheel and we feel like it takes over our lives. That’s where systems and skills need to be implemented. Your business by itself needs to be in balance. When all of those areas in your life are good, you are more productive, your sales are higher, and your enjoyment is higher.
SmallBizLady: Do you find that growing a business can put a strain on marriage?
Amy Walker: Business can definitely put a strain on marriage for several reasons. Business is less predictable than a job, so any lean times can increase financial stress. Our time is very occupied. We are never done working, there is always more we could do and sometimes that spills into old routines and patterns. Personal growth can actually be a big cause of strain in the marriage. We grow SO much in business. We expect our spouses to grow with us, but that doesn’t always happen. Then we feel a strain because it seems like we either have to slow our growth, or we will grow apart. And it feels like it is business that caused it. There can be resentment towards the business from our partner. That isn’t true. Business can be a catalyst for growth, but that person you are growing into has always been a part of you. There are so many other situations in life that can cause growth, but when things aren’t working, we like to have something to point our fingers at.
SmallBizLady: Do you have any tips for keeping your marriage strong while you are growing your small business?
Amy Walker: Stop expecting your spouse’s personal growth to look like yours. It isn’t meant to. Recognize that they are growing in other ways. Show them that you appreciate it.
- Don’t wait for their permission to grow your business. I will ask for my husband’s support, but I don’t need his permission. He is not involved in my business, so asking for his permission doesn’t make sense. When I do that, I make poor business decisions.
- Meet your partner’s emotional needs before they meet yours. Too often when spouses are struggling it is because we want our needs to be met before we meet our partners. Someone needs to go first! It almost always comes back around.
- Your marriage requires time and effort. Make it! Go on dates, hold weekly marriage masterminds, and keep your sex life strong. It’s worth it.
SmallBizLady: How do you balance kids and business?
Amy Walker: The most important thing here is to let go of your previous definition of being a parent and create a new definition. I was the first girl in my family to graduate from college. I come from a long line of stay at home moms. I have so much respect for stay at home moms. But that wasn’t my path, my family has always depended on me for income, and I have always been very driven to succeed. I am a mompreneur. I have to be very clear on what my priorities are as a parent and let go of the pressure to do the things other stay at home moms are doing. I also have 3 check points during the day when I meet the emotional needs of all of my children. With 5 kids, I can’t be aware of everyone’s needs all the time. But I can remember to check in with them in the morning, after school, and before bed. It is my reminder to plug in.
SmallBizLady: What are you favorite tools to help you manage being a mompreneur?
Amy Walker: I have a Nanny/personal assistant. In a few hours she can do laundry and housework so I can really be present with my kids. Google calendar keeps me sane. If someone forgets to put their activities on the calendar, they take responsibility for the outcome. I have Friday date nights. I take all 5 boys out or we have a movie pizza night. That quality time is huge. Having solid family management systems. I wouldn’t run my business without systems and I need them at home, too.
SmallBizLady: What keeps you going on the tough days, How do you recharge?
Amy Walker: My faith and spiritual connection keep me going. If I can keep the big picture in mind, I can navigate all the bumps. I also managing my self talk. When the conversation in my head is good, I can handle the bad days. Vacations and time off matter! When I don’t take them, I get burnt out and the challenges seem overwhelming. Spending time in nature away from people helps me recharge and stay plugged in. Go on a hike, go to a park, or just go on a drive.
SmallBizLady: How do you determine if your business is balanced?
Amy Walker: We start with business analysis. We review the processes and success rates in marketing, sales, administration, product fulfillment, customer service and finance. All of those areas need to be healthy for your business to be in balance. Most of us enter business because we are good at something. And usually it is our product. Being a business owner requires so much more. If you really only want to do that one thing that you love, it would be better to work inside someone else’s business and just get paid for doing that one thing. I LOVE speaking and coaching. I do so many other things to support me in speaking and coaching. In the beginning we wear all the hats in our business. If you want to spend most of your time doing what you love, hire a great team!
If you are running your business right now feeling totally overwhelmed, what should you do?
Amy Walker: Take a deep breath! Then decide what balance would look like for YOU. Get clear on what you want or you will never find it. Then focus on learning the skills you lack.
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.