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Four Work-Life Balance Tips from Rochester Small Business Owners

Work-life balance can often seem unattainable. If you’re feeling like balance is the new brass ring, you’re not alone. In a 2018 survey completed by ESL, 23.2% of small business owners noted work-life balance as a major challenge. Work-life balance looks and feels different for everyone, but three Rochester-based small business owners share their tips to achieving a better balance.

Build Trust

Although starting a small business can feel like going it alone, surrounding yourself with a solid team in and out of the workplace will set you up for success. When building a staff, “finding people that have the same goals, same drive and same work ethic” is essential to building a solid team, says Jenni Tuller, owner of Physical Therapy Services of Rochester PC. A few years back, Jenni had to make tough staffing decisions to cultivate a positive atmosphere for her staff and patients. She found that successfully “matching and meshing your belief system allows you to get things done.” She said she feels like she can walk away and not check in every five minutes.

Jenni Tuller, owner of Physical Therapy Services of Rochester PC

Trust goes both ways, according to Zack Phillips, owner of Kink BMX. He recently moved to open-book protocol, giving the staff a full line of sight into finances so his management and teams know exactly where the company stands. He says the transparency has made a significant difference in his day-to-day responsibilities and the bottom line, empowered his team with the ability to make business decisions along with him. In return, he says the team takes some of the pressure off his shoulders. “The team I have assembled helps me with my work-life balance,” he says. Small-business owners can’t do it all, and building trust amongst staff can help lighten the load of every day decision-making.

“The team I have assembled helps me with my work-life balance.”
– Zack Phillips, owner of Kink BMX

Your family and friends should also be on your team. “I’m married to my wife and my business,” says Matthew White of 4th Coast Productions, and he credits his partnership with his spouse as a key component of his success and happiness. When he’s on deadline with a video project, “she manages the kids and is very on top of it,” he says. “She’s an excellent mother.” His wife is also a professor and dedicated to her career, so they work actively to understand each other’s needs.

Know Your Boundaries

Not being all things to all people is essential for a work-life balance. All three business owners agreed that setting solid boundaries, such as work hours, allows them to best achieve balance. “I have daycare pick up and drop off almost every day; it makes me leave the office and make sure I can get to my kids,” says Zack. “If not, I'll stay at the office for a long time.”

Zack Phillips, owner of Kink BMX

Jenni and Matt, who have families as well, also set their hours to allow time with their children. Jenni, who has two boys in their preteens, still maintains the same hours she did when they were young. With or without children, carving out time for your personal life is a priority. “If you must do work at home, set a time to get it done and then turn it off. If you’re constantly thinking about work, you’re not focusing on other areas of your life,” she says. Her advice: Even if it costs the company money in the short term, hiring staff to assist you is worth gaining back your personal time.

“With or without children, carving out time for your personal life is a priority.”
–Jenni Tuller, owner of Physical Therapy Services of Rochester PC

Laying out specific time for you is the most important—and often most overlooked—aspect to achieving balance. Matt makes time for his wife, Jenni sees a show with girlfriends, and Zack runs trails to clear his head. Find your outlet, set a schedule, and stick to it.

Focus on Details (No Matter the Size)

Success lies in the details, both in and outside of work. “To run a business and a home life, you have to be organized—it's a key to success,” says Matt. “If you're not organized, it'll be chaotic and your stress levels will be high.” If time management and attention to detail are not your forte, understand your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your areas of improvement, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from your team. “Stay focused on what you need, and be realistic,” Matt says.

“Stay focused on what you need, and be realistic.”
– Matthew White, owner of 4th Coast Productions

In addition, appreciation of the micro moments—the minutiae of day-to-day life—will serve you well, encouraging gratitude and increasing happiness. For example, Matt strives to make the most of his limited downtime. “My daughter and I usually sing a song I made up before bed, so we have a whole song and dance routine called the Piggy Dance,” he says. Quality moments of time with loved ones, without interruption, lead to happiness and increase your productivity and quality of work.

Don’t Strive for Perfection

Like all that you do, work-life balance takes practice. Being prepared for bumps sets a realistic expectation, especially as you’re first starting out. “You have to let yourself worry, you have to let yourself have a little fear. It’s not always roses and peaches,” says Jenni, who worked at her practice for 10 years before she took the leap to own it. “Start small, don’t try to jump into the deep end of the pool and expect things to fall into place,” she adds.

Matthew White, owner of 4th Coast Productions

Zack understands the pressure to achieve for himself, his family and his team. “As the owner, I want to do the best I can for everyone. Their livelihood depends on it.” However, “there’s always one more thing” you can do for your business, and perfection is unrealistic. Not all his products succeed, he says, but his team revels in the wins.

“Start small, don’t try to jump into the deep end of the pool and expect things to fall into place,”
–Jenni Tuller, owner of Physical Therapy Services of Rochester PC

Assembling a team, setting boundaries, dedicating yourself to the details, and embracing imperfection are the keys to practicing work-life balance, but as Jenni says, start small. Find someone you trust—whether it’s a staff member, spouse or friend—who will help you set specific goals and keep you accountable. Remember, work-life balance isn’t an achievement, it’s a practice.

More Resources for Small Businesses

For more information on starting, running, and growing your business, check out these ESL resources: