Owning a small contracting business can consume your life. There are always customers to call back, quotes or invoices to send out, and supplies to order. Then on top of that, you also have friends and family who also would like a piece of your time. And since you need money to pay the bills, a lot of times the business comes before anyone or anything else – including yourself. It’s exhausting!
I know your work-life balance struggle because my husband, Pete, has owned and operated his own hardwood floor installation and refinishing business for more than 20 years. We’ve learned a few things through the years, and I’m happy to share them to help your work-life balance journey. Pete has had to work some weekends and some very long days, but he has only one big regret about his business: he wishes he’d taken more time off to spend at the family’s cabin. Since summer is the busy season for many field services and trades businesses, Pete has worked many weekends and missed out on time relaxing at the family cabin.
How many evenings and weekends have you had to work? To ensure you have balance between your small business and your life, there are three things you need to do: take care of yourself, set office hours, and ask for help when you need it.
It’s not an easy thing to eat right, sleep enough, exercise, and take time to just relax. Manual labor and the stress of running a business is very hard on your body. That’s why you need to make sure you’re getting the right fuel, enough movement, and enough rest to recover from the strain. If you are already taking care of yourself, great job!
Make sure to give your brain a break from the stress as well by taking the time to watch a movie or walk on a nature trail. Take time each day to breathe. As you practice taking care of yourself, you’ll become as good at it as you are at your trade.
Something you’re not told to do (but you should!) as you are starting your field services business is to set office or work hours. Take it from a wife of a longtime trades business owner: Set working hours so that your customers do not take advantage of your time. If a customer is requesting that you or your crew work weekends, say no. If the timeline to complete the project is too tight, walk away. Set working hours when you and your crew will work on projects and jobs. By setting good boundaries, you’re ensuring long-term job satisfaction for you and your employees.
Most business owners provide their personal mobile phone number for customers to contact them. This is extremely generous and can feel overwhelming during busy times. There is another option: Google Voice. The Starter plan for businesses is $10 a month, and allows you to set office times and forward calls to voicemail or another number when needed. For example, you could forward your Google Voice calls to your mobile phone during office hours and then to voicemail during off hours. Draw the line between your business and your life. You need time away from the business to unwind and recharge. In the 9-to-5 world, we call this work-life balance.
To take care of yourself and maintain office hours, there will be times when you will need to ask for help. Find some trusted friends that can help in a pinch. Maybe you just have a ton of customer calls to return. Is there someone close to you that knows your business well enough to help make those calls for you? My husband is lucky because his best friend also owns a wood flooring business. When either of them has a complicated job or just needs some extra help, they help each other out. On days like that, they typically end the day by grabbing a beer at a local bar, but that also means they’re taking time to relax and get their minds off their work.
Another source of help is having the right software to help you manage projects/jobs and payments. Think of how much time you spend a week sending out estimates and following up on payments that are due (or past due). Software like Project 2 Payment, which helps you manage and organize the project and payment aspects of your business, gives you time back for yourself and the things or people that are most important in your life.
Running a business is hard work. When you tell people that you own your own business, you feel a sense of pride, and the person does seem to respect you just a little bit more for the hard work you put in every day. But your business shouldn’t run your life. Make sure to take care of yourself, set work hours, and ask for help when you need it to ensure you get to play as hard as you work.
About the author: Shelly Wagner is married to Pete, The Wagner Wood Floor Doctor. Pete started his flooring business in 2000. While Pete is working hard in the field, Shelly works in marketing for Project 2 Payment and helps with Pete’s business’ paperwork. With nearly 23 years of experience managing paperwork behind the scenes for a small business, Shelly knows the struggles and stress that small contractor businesses face to organize information and receive timely payments.