By Kelly Ehlers, President of Ideas That Evoke.
Being your own boss isn't as simple as it seems on paper, and entrepreneurs often struggle to strike that elusive work-life balance. Today's C-suites recognize a shift in business operating standards. Millennials aren't settling for their grandparent's definition of work-life balance, and many entering the workforce envision entrepreneurship as the key to a flexible schedule. As a Gen-Xer and an entrepreneur, I know firsthand that the younger generation is simply inheriting a model that's been in the works for years: work-life integration.
Focus on Your Personal Best
I dare say, a few of us entrepreneurs are competitive. People may tell you that you can't have it all and, if you're anything like me, you'll take that as a challenge to overcome. But the notion of having it all isn't the issue. What I've learned is that you can't have it all at once. Imagine you're in a triathlon: You wouldn't lace up your running shoes and grab your bike to race the swimming portion. Trying to play every role by ourselves, all at once, is inefficient. When we're overwhelmed, we don't deliver our best results. It's that simple.
At the beginning, before you've established a business that others can compete with in the market, you're essentially in competition with yourself. As your business ventures grow, take a step back and reassess the needs of your growing company. Ask yourself, "Am I getting in the way of my own success?" If so, it's time to grow your team and delegate.
Trust Your Team
"Work-life balance" implies a division, but reality demands a more synergistic approach. That's where author Les McKeown's model of predictable success comes into play. It presents the secret ingredient to a sustainable entrepreneurial lifestyle: efficient delegation. While my company experienced rapid growth in a matter of only a few years, it took commitment to my career and more than a few sleepless nights navigating through whitewater to bring my agency to a state of predictable success.
Once you have an efficient delegation system in place, you can step into new roles and maximize your impact. When I didn't have to sit in on every client call, I started taking on out-of-office speaking engagements and meetings with more prospective clients. From hiring my in-office team to hiring a nanny for my two sons, building a team I can trust and delegating responsibilities was invaluable to the success of my business.
Back when I was still launching my agency, corporations like IBM were implementing work-life balance initiatives. These later served as a model for the standards that companies like mine have adopted, from flexible hours to remote working opportunities. To paraphrase Andrea D. Jackson, an IBM Corporate Manager from those early days: When you hire top talent, you already know their head is in the game--but everyone does their best work when their heart is in the game, too.
I apply those same rules to leading my company. Employees can come and go, but your business will likely backpedal within the cycle of predictable success if you lose momentum. Consider what drives you. For me, that same competitive edge that got me on flights to client meetings -- even when morning sickness was in full swing -- was a catalyst for the transformation of my Madison, Wisconsin-based agency into one of Inc.'s top 25 fastest-growing marketing companies in the U.S. When you love what you do, it shows. To date, 100 percent of our business has been referral-based; it's no coincidence that I'm leading a team that stays inspired and shares that passion with our clients.
Entrepreneurs are in the unique position to do what we love and to design a life we want to inhabit fully. Instead of counting down the days until vacation, I've invested in building a company that inspires me to get out of bed each morning. In the case of today's entrepreneurs, we're disrupting not just our industries, but also day-to-day operating standards. We're making the work day work for us.
Kelly Ehlers is the President of Ideas That Evoke, a social media and PR agency, the 24th Fastest Growing Agency in 2016, Inc Magazine.