Telling the truth about SME life today

How to stay sane

Find a balance For most entrepreneurs the gung-ho, pre-recession years were about measuring success and personal achievement in financial terms. Today, I believe entrepreneurs consider work-life balance to be just as important.

When I left the cosy world of big business more than ten years ago and started my own business, it was in search of a way of working that was more personal, recognising innovation, creativity and originality: qualities which seemed increasingly undervalued in day-to-day business. For me, creating the right environment and finding ways to add real value were essential platforms for success, both personally and in business. 

Give yourself room to think At the end of most weeks, are you left feeling as though you have just been reacting to a constantly growing inbox” That there has been little time to really think about what you are doing and how you want to do it”

Take some “you-only” time each day. It doesn’t have to be long. It’s a period to focus on your own list of important things. Ignore the telephone and emails and tell colleagues you’ll get back to them.

Alternatively, set aside a day out of the office with some blank sheets of paper. List the events of the past few months and what you really want to achieve in the next year. Keep this list close and every time you feel your vision is becoming impaired, get it out and read it over. 

Do the important things firstThe highly successful corporate maestro Luke Johnson said to me once: “In busy modern lives, all these competing calls on one’s time mean you need to be well organised and disciplined. It means you need to set priorities and use technology. The challenge is to remain captains of our souls”.

When I jumped ship from big business to start my own business, I needed to change my outlook and learn to see balance as a friend. Part of this for me was about focusing on productivity and not just action. The important things needed to get done first and a large part of this was attracting good ideas and motivating individuals to push themselves.  

Set yourself strict business hours  One good friend of mine works as a director of a European logistics business and was struggling with the feeling of being continually on-call. He woke up one morning and decided to tell colleagues and clients he wouldn’t take calls after 6pm. They should leave a message if it was important and he would get back to them. This small change in his daily routine dramatically affected his ability to switch off and recharge, knowing he doesn’t have to constantly react to situations during his entire waking existence. It has also given him time to reflect on what is important and where he should channel his efforts. List your most important business relationships The impact of key business relationships, whether they are in the same company, or with customers, clients or suppliers, have a major impact on our level of success and balance. The level of effectiveness and fulfilment I achieve is often a reflection of how well these critical relationships are working.

A close colleague told me to list the ten to 12 most important business relationships and find ways to improve all of them. It sounds simple but was anything but straightforward in practise. But the results were quickly felt and several months later, I realised these relationships were higher up my priority list and day-to-day problems were getting sorted out more quickly.

Jim Banting is author of Get A Dog, Don’t Work Like One, published by Marshall Cavendish, out on 28 January 2010 and available from 

Picture: source

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