Year-end Part 3: Does your business enhance your life?

The appointment was nearly over. The man had talked at length about his business but had also shared a lot about his personal life.

He lived a lifestyle that many people would consider enviable, with a lovely family and stature in the community. The owner of a successful and respected company, he earned substantial personal income, drove a luxury car and lived in a large home in one of the finest neighborhoods. But he was unhappy.

He had achieved just about everything in business that he had ever hoped for but his company consumed his life. He worked long, hard hours, seldom got to spend adequate time with his wife, and his kids were growing up with what amounted to an absentee dad. His family frequently complained that he was always at work.

“I’m going to ask you a very important question that I want you to ponder over the next few weeks,” Laddie said. “How would your business have to operate differently in order for you to get what you want in life?”

At his next appointment, the man said he hadn’t been able to get Laddie’s question out of his mind. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a list of changes he thought should be made in his business. That list became the foundation for changing his life for the better.

How about you? Is your business providing the lifestyle you envisioned when you started it? In our last two columns we dealt with doing a year-end assessment of your business — it’s overall and financial health. Now we want you to focus on assessing yourself and how your business impacts your personal life.

What were your personal goals when you started out in business? Maybe you wanted freedom to set your own hours. Or flexibility to spend more time with your family, take blocks of time for travel or build a house for Habitat for Humanity. Maybe you were hoping to fund your retirement, college for your kids, or both.

Whatever your goals, determining whether your business is helping to enhance your personal life is important in assessing how well your business is doing overall. This is because your business exists to serve you — not the other way around. If you take an honest look at your life and find that your business is controlling it or depriving you of happiness, then changes need to be made. Here are some questions we would ask if we were helping you with this assessment.

Is the business giving you the lifestyle you want? We understand that times have been tough and lots of people have had to work harder and longer just to stay afloat, but if you look ahead one or two years, do you realistically see yourself living a better life?

Do you have adequate family and personal time away from the business? If not, what do you foresee for the future? Do you need to restructure your company or learn to delegate so that you can spend more time doing what’s most important to you?

How about your health? Are you constantly stressed and worried about circumstances in your business? You definitely won’t reach your personal goals if perpetual fretting about the company makes you sick. Your business should enhance your life, not shorten it.

How’s your family life? Is worry or preoccupation with your business taking your focus away from having quality time with your spouse and children? Do you find that even when you’re physically present with your family, you’re mentally back at the office? Your business is supposed to make things better for your family, not be a constant distraction.

Does the business provide you with satisfactory personal income? Money certainly isn’t everything but as a business owner, you should expect to achieve things financially from your time and monetary investments. Are you meeting the goals you had envisioned for yourself? Can you realistically anticipate achieving them?

If your responses to any of these questions are negative, you need to figure out why. What changes need to be made? They may be relatively small changes, like learning to delegate some of your responsibilities to others so that you’ll have more personal time. They may be more complicated, like restructuring your entire business model. But if you can at least identify them, you can make a plan for how to implement changes to improve your life.

So as you’re looking ahead to 2012 and beyond, how would your business have to operate differently in order for you to get what you want in life? Only you can ensure that your business enhances your life and doesn’t consume it.

Laddie and Judy Blaskowski are partners in several businesses, including BusinessTruths Consulting. They are authors of The Step Dynamic: A Powerful Strategy for Successfully Growing Your Business. Connect with them on LinkedIn.