How to Run a Business (And Be Home in Time For Dinner)

Just the other day I was thinking about a business owner that I had coached several years ago.  Since he may read this column, I will call him Terrance (not his real name).

Terrance owned a seasonal hospitality business in southern Utah and worked eighty plus hours a week, every year from May through October.

The rest of the year, he “only” had to put in a light fifty-to sixty-hours a week but come May this jumped to twelve to fourteen hours a day, seven days a week.

Now this schedule was hard enough on Terrance physically, but emotionally it was killing him.  Can you imagine – every day he got up and left the house before his kids were awake and didn’t get home until his kids were in bed asleep.

Every day… for six months out of the year… year after year after year…

When I first met Terrance and he told me his story, it broke my heart.

I’m a dad with three young sons myself. I’ve experienced how fast their childhood seems to disappear. There are personal milestones in your kids’ lives that you never rewind. I remember how it used to feel when my older two sons would reach for and hold my hand anywhere, we walked together–into a store, on a trail, or even down the stairs to breakfast.

It was one of the sweetest parts of being a dad for me, the feeling of their tiny hands in mine. Then the day arrived when they were about eight years old, and they stopped reaching for my hand. Just thinking about this makes me want to cry.

Of course, it’s normal and healthy–they’re growing up. But I miss it.

So, when Terrance told me about how for years, he sacrificed baseball games, family meals, and bedtime stories with his four kids to take care of his business responsibilities, I really felt for him.

There is good news at the end of his story, though so stay with me. 

While there were many ways that he could have worked on his business (much like in your own) I encouraged him to focus on one single idea, and that idea turned his business and his life around.

Question Everything

I challenged Terrance to question each and every task he did for his business.

  • Did he really need to do that report, or could someone else within the company put it together for him to review?

  • Did he need to be the one to sign the paychecks?

  • Did he need to handle every customer complaint, or could someone on his team be trained to handle it properly?

  • Did he need to be there for that sales meeting?

And the list went on and on….

What he quickly realized is that the majority of the tasks on his plate, where there simply because he had failed to create systems and controls and delegate tasks to his team. There was just a handful of tasks that should have been on his to-do list, and those where the items that created the most value for his company.

Focus on Fewer, Better

Once he was able to identify where he should be spending his time, he was then able to really create value while still making time for his family. (Which by the way was only around 20 hours a week in the off-season and 35 during the busy season.) He even took his first ever vacation in the middle of the busy season!

I’m hoping that Terrance’s story sparks, inspires, or shakes you up enough that you start to do this same work on your business.  The first step is to fundamentally change the way you structure your day, week, quarter, and business environment so that you can achieve incredible professional success and enjoy even richer personal and whole-life success, too.