Being a successful small business owner and an active parent don’t have to be mutually exclusive. It’s true that growing a business while raising kids is no easy feat, but with some smart scheduling and a little help from people you trust — including your children — you can make it happen without losing your mind.
Ann Kaplan, CEO and President of iFinance Canada Inc., and mother of eight, shared her tips on how she manages the balancing act.
Forget multitasking — focus on one role at a time
It’s important to focus on your children and their needs. “It is also imperative that one focuses completely on business to be successful,” said Kaplan. Just don’t try to do both at the same time.
“It would be a mistake to think of balancing diaper duty while you are concentrating on a meeting with a venture capital firm or a bank for financing a new business — you will never win,” said Kaplan.
“Multitasking can lead to error, and changing hats throughout the day takes more work than carving out set times to concentrate on business. If you can’t find the time to focus, you will not succeed — the same goes for being a parent.”
Set a schedule and stick with it
Setting aside time for both your work and your kids is key to fulfilling your roles as business owner and parent.
Kaplan recommended scheduling times when you’ll be with your children, and sticking to that schedule as best you can. Of course events will sometimes conspire to wreck those plans. “It’s key to know your schedule and where you can be flexible if need be.”
It’s critical, said Kaplan, to have someone to call for backup when it comes to caring for your children. But ration your requests for help wisely. “You will get enough interruptions with real life issues that you will need to address — don’t use those cards on smaller things.”
Get your children involved
“Children need to be part of the whole process of making the household function, and that includes you working,” said Kaplan. “If you teach your children to be independent, then they will be confident and empowered as members of your family — and family is the main priority.”
Kaplan’s tips include having your kids pick up after themselves, make their own beds, assemble their school lunches and fill out forms.
“Make them part of the solution,” she said. “You will not only find that you have more free time, but you will teach your children to take care of themselves, which is a great life lesson at a young age.”
Establish a support system
Having a support system is vitally important. Your network of helpers could include your spouse, neighbors, friends or colleagues. Use it to lighten your load at work or home when a conflict comes up.
“Reliable assistance, whether it’s family support or hiring someone, is necessary to manage the home front so that you can concentrate on business,” said Kaplan. Likewise, business colleagues can support you at work when the home front needs you.
When it comes to hiring staff, Kaplan suggested bringing on employees “with the same values as you and the skill sets that your business requires” so your employees can become trusted partners and cover you in a pinch.
Learn to say “no” when it makes sense
You love to work and want to grow your business. But parenthood brings a shift in priorities, and that may mean taking a pass on certain new deals or endeavors.
“It’s better to listen to these opportunities and advise that you need time to consider the possibilities and evaluate your involvement, without making a commitment,” Kaplan said. Remember that saying no to one opportunity doesn’t mean your business won’t ultimately succeed.
“I believe in slow success and long term sustainability — it helps me make decisions,” Kaplan said.
The bottom line: You can have it all, if you define it right.
“We should change the meaning of ‘having it all’ to address what is really important, said Kaplan. “The outcome of success is your overall happiness. If you make time for what’s important to you and the things that make you happy, then yes, you can have it all.”