Opinion

Being driven and focused is a blessing, but entrepreneurs need to learn to switch off

4 min read

08 May 2018

We’ve just had the first of two long weekends this month after yesterday’s Bank Holiday. But I am certain that, while the extra day might have provided some much-needed downtime for many of the country’s workers, for many entrepreneurs it’s not so easy to switch off.

Entrepreneurs are hard-wired to be focused on their businesses. Whether they come from a background like mine, where a skill is turned into the foundation for a business, or they have an aptitude for starting and growing a range of companies, making an enterprise a success can be all consuming.

For some that won’t sound attractive, but that’s what sets entrepreneurs apart from employees. In private enterprise one group can’t exist without the other and entrepreneurs are needed to create the opportunities for employment.

In the drive to be successful, though, entrepreneurs can neglect important aspects of their life that can be detrimentally affected, whether that’s family life or their own mental health. While the ability to not switch off can be an important part of the entrepreneurs’ toolbox, it can also be a negative attribute.

Research from the 2018 International Business Festival found UK entrepreneurs are highly-committed to their companies, but struggle to find the right work-life balance.

While that’s about a surprising piece of research as discovering that Jeremy Corbyn owns a copy of the Communist Manifesto, it should make entrepreneurs consider how they are going about their business.

It also was no shock to hear from the survey that business owners struggle to switch off from their “always on” work culture. As I said, that’s inherent in all good entrepreneurs.

However, it also revealed that more than half of those questioned stayed at work past 10pm and a similar amount have sent work emails after midnight. In addition, 41% didn’t have time to sleep properly, over a quarter don’t have time for lunch and 31% don’t have time for exercise.

Now, I’m all for hard graft and putting the hours in to make a business a success, but there has to a line drawn. And I also know from experience, that business success doesn’t just land in your lap and sometimes going that extra mile has to be done, even just to keep your head above water.

But this is no longer the 1980s when as Gordon Gekko told us in the movie Wall Street, “lunch is for wimps”. We now have a better understanding of getting the right balance.

Drilling down to why entrepreneurs want to be successful, it is always worth going back to the very beginning. Many will have set up in business to help provide for their families. And, as the business grows, entrepreneurs are not only providing “bread and shoes” for their relatives, but also for their employees and their families.

But that original purpose should also remain throughout the journey. And that includes looking after themselves as they build the business. Spending time with family, especially children, reminds entrepreneurs why they are in this game and will also provide a fresh impetus to make their enterprise a success.

Exercise is also so important. As a former boxer I have always found a good workout is great for both mind and body. That’s one of the reasons why I installed a 24-hour gymnasium for my team at Pimlico Plumbers.

Being driven, focused and business orientated is a blessing for entrepreneurs, but it can also be a curse. After all, if an entrepreneur is burnt out and becomes seriously ill, or God forbid, even worse, there won’t be much of a business to run anyway.

We have to look after ourselves, so we can look after our families and our businesses!