I was in Jose’s office one morning recently and he asked why I hadn’t brought up the business at hand when we were at the ball game a couple nights before.
“I didn’t want to bother you with my problem in your off time,” I said. “I figured I would see you at our next appointment and then we could discuss your professional services.”
“That’s just like my Dad,” Jose said. “When I was a kid at home and I asked Dad about the retail store we had, he wouldn’t talk about it. He said to ask him at work the next day and he would explain. He had a great business-life balance.”
It’s difficult to balance work life and home life when you work for someone else. And when you own your own business, it’s so much more challenging. Throw in a home office, family members who are involved in the business or financial challenges that squeeze family resources, and the separation can become almost nonexistent.
When we know that we’re being paid from 9 to 5 or that someone is taking over our job for the night shift, we can rest easier. When it’s someone else’s business, we’re more likely to leave work at work at work, heading home to be with our family and friends. We take holidays knowing that our job will be there when we get back.
Owning a business is different. The work never seems to go away. Nobody takes care of the big picture when we’re not focused. Our business problems are difficult to leave behind, especially when the business is tied to us personally, financially or emotionally. The weight of the business makes us feel that we are trapped in our own little world that no one else understands.
I remember clearly a day in the late 1980s. I was involved in the startup of one of my ventures. I had just put in a 12-or-14-hour day and was meeting friends for a drink at their house.
I went in enthusiastically talking about the new business and all that was happening that I found so exciting. I hadn’t been talking for more than a couple minutes when I looked in their eyes and noticed that they didn’t care. Their eyes were glazing over. They wanted to talk about their lives, their work, their challenges, not mine.
More importantly, they didn’t comprehend what it took to make a business run successfully. It was as if I was speaking a different language.
I fully realized at that moment that I had to leave my business at the shop. I couldn’t bring it into my social life except at a superficial level. From that day, I’ve tried hard not to talk about my business ventures unless someone specifically asks about them.
This is the challenge of every business owner and it creates a lonely space.
It isn’t surprising that you’ll find business owners meeting together, joining business groups or developing family friendships. They share a common bond that goes beyond their individual businesses. They know what it takes to own and run businesses, and the struggles, challenges and opportunities that entails. There’s a common language and understanding.
We need the social context to discuss business. However, we also need to know that there are times when we need to leave business issues alone. Even our fellow business owners don’t always want to talk shop.
Creating balance in our lives makes us healthier, as Jose’s father wisely knew. If we can find ways to shut our business brains down and focus on other aspects of life, our businesses will be better, our relationships will be better and we’ll be happier.
Troy Media columnist David Fuller, MBA, is a certified professional business coach and author who helps business leaders ensure that their companies are successful. David is author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy. Dave loves to hear about your business day or night by email firstname.lastname@example.org. However, he will only reply during certain hours away from family time.