Every day I balance multiple priorities. From managing my rapidly growing business ntegrity, to looking after a toddler at home, nurturing a strong marriage, investing in others in the start-up community and trying to be a great friend.
Yet the true super power behind my business growth, from one woman to 19 staff across the globe in four years, isn’t having the best idea or my ability to have big picture vision – it’s the ‘softer’ or ‘internal’ side of business that has fuelled and maintained this growth.
The balancing act takes relentless focus and hard work. It also takes a whole lot of self-awareness and self-care to make sure I don’t burn out. I know that if I don’t take time to rest, I won’t be able to invest back into the things I care about.
Here are my three life hacks for growing a sustainable business:
1. Know (and protect!) what makes you happy
Know what makes you happy and remind yourself of it every day. That way you know what to protect and fight for.
My marriage is the thing that energises, rejuvenates and fulfils me. Growing up I watched as my dad sacrificed everything for his business, including his marriage. So when I started my business I was terrified I’d do the same. From the beginning I made sure my husband was my priority and devoted my personal time to him (not my shiny new idea or business).
These days it’s also time with my daughter (every Thursday!) and monthly retreats. It means I have to fit leading a business into 24-32 hours each week, which is scary but also a great motivation to stay focused.
What makes you happy? If it’s not a partner, it can be many other things: your family, time to eat healthy, exercise or travel.
2. Consciously control your working hours.
Rising in your career is hard work, but it shouldn’t have to come at the expense of your mental health and wellbeing.
My industry thinks it’s crazy that I refuse to work nights and weekends. But I’ve found in controlling my work hours, I have been able to balance my health and secure the longevity of my career.
Once you set strong parameters for yourself, your business adapts. For instance, I only work between the hours of 8:30 – 6pm. Time spent outside of that needs to be an exception, not the norm. And we’ve never lost a client or staff because of this. In fact it sets healthy parameters for those around us. Conversely, if you set crazy working hours – your business adapts and works to those hours too.
Beware: a lack of balance and over-working is contagious, and can quickly escalate. And no business owner wants frazzled over-worked staff members that you need to invest time in replacing.
3. Work towards your strategy, not your day-to-day.
At ntegrity, our framework for long-term success includes a 2020 vision, annual goals, quarterly targets and KPIs, all of which my entire team are across.
Everyday in the office must be purposeful and work towards achieving these goals. That’s why I start every day reviewing my big picture goals and use my ‘to-do list’ to ensure each action I take works toward them. It’s very tempting to respond to the loudest voice or address an over-flooded inbox, but in time I’ve found we all gravitate to what we enjoy or find easy – rather than what has the most strategic significance to our business. For me, that’s building my team’s abilities, skills and authority to lead without me – taking me out of the everyday details and making for a much more sustainable business!
4. Remember: it’s ok to ask for help.
Since the beginning of ntegrity I have always sought help. This was especially important at the start.
My most valuable and constant support has been from my mindset coach, who has helped me tackle difficult business challenges and own all the lessons (good and bad): from understanding financials to managing difficult conversations to working through imposter syndrome. I am a different person now than I was four years ago; having evolved from an idealistic newbie hoping to build a dream into a confident business leader that understands where to best invest her time and energy.
But there are also times when I need a different kind of help. When something is bothering me that I can’t quite pinpoint or it hits me more personally than it usually does. These are times when I know I need to think “outside the work box” and speak to a counsellor.
Whether you are seeking professional help or personal guidance, outside counsel also ensures I am making wise decisions rather than insular ones.
Success in your career should never have to come at the expense of living a good, full and well-rounded life. This looks different for everyone, so it’s about finding what works for you, and sticking to it.