Is it possible to grow a business even when your personal life is in chaos? Every business owner has to resolve this question at some point. We all experience periodic personal challenges—moving house, being ill, maybe even chairing your church’s capital campaign. It can be difficult to continue to grow a business during these times, but the good news is that they’re of finite duration. Moving may seem to be an endless process, but within a couple of weeks (in most cases) you’ll be settled enough to turn your attention back to business.
But how do you manage when you confront a personal challenge that doesn’t have an end point?
You may find your focus shattered by a family member’s protracted illness, a child’s special needs, or ongoing litigation. Keeping body and soul together during those times is difficult, but how do you maintain and even grow your business when your attention and energy are drawn elsewhere?
Jory Fisher recently interviewed me on Heart & Soul for Women of Faith about how to manage when your personal and professional lives collide. If you’re looking to maintain your business (and your sanity) you may find that conversation enlightening.
I have served as caregiver for my father, who is now in the severe stage of Alzheimer’s Disease, for the last three years, during which time I’ve grown my business by 120%. Here’s what I’ve learned.
Growing your business when your personal life is in chaos requires these five resources:
- Designated times for business. You must find a way to block out certain hours when, absent a true emergency, you’re unavailable to your personal circumstances. If you’re operating a home-based business, you may even need to set up an office outside your home for a few hours each day.
- Ruthless focus on your top business priorities. You must be clear about which activities will generate the most return on your investment of time or money. Choose no more than three such activities that will deliver immediate yield, mid-term yield, and long-term growth. Anything outside those activities must be deferred unless the opportunity is so substantial that its priority unseats one of the others. (This is another reason to track your results on an ongoing basis: without data, you’ll have a tough time making rational decisions about where to focus.)
- Business support. You must have an assistant or team in place to help with the administrative and technological tasks that would otherwise require your time. If your budget doesn’t allow for ongoing contractors, use Fiverr, Elance, and other similar services to find assistance for specific projects. When your business time is limited, you must have support.
- Personal support. You will come to a day when you will want to set aside your prearranged schedule because it’s just too hard and you’re too tired. Be clear on why you’re choosing to build your business now: are you financially driven, or do you need something outside your personal situation to give you some serenity within the storm? Have a friend or colleague who can remind you of your “why.” Consider whether you need a caregiver or someone else to provide support within your personal situation. And don’t forget to pray for guidance and discernment on how to proceed in a difficult circumstance.
- Mentorship. A mentor can help you clarify your objectives and guide you on the best way to reach them. Choose a mentor who understands your situation and who can hold you accountable without buying into your story. Choosing to grow your business when your time and energy are pulled elsewhere isn’t an easy decision, and you will benefit from an advisor who understands both the personal pull and the business necessity.
Growing a business is rarely easy, and doing so when your personal life is in chaos adds an extra layer of hardship.
However, with the proper resources in place, you can grow your business and thrive despite your personal storm.
About Julie Fleming
Julie A. Fleming, JD, ACC, principal of Lex Innova Consulting, teaches lawyers to use innovative and effective measures to build a strong book of business and a lucrative practice. A former patent litigator, she is the author of The Reluctant Rainmaker: A Guide for Lawyers Who Hate Selling, Seven Foundations of Time Mastery for Attorneys, and the forthcoming Legal Rainmaking Myths: What You Think You Know About Business Development Can Kill Your Practice,as well as numerous articles focusing on topics such as business development, practice management, work/life balance, and leadership development. Before launching her consulting business, Julie practiced law for over a decade in firms of 3 to more than 2100 attorneys, specializing in patent litigation. A graduate of the Emory University School of Law, Vanderbilt University (B.A.) and Georgia State University (B.S.), Julie is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and currently serves as Vice Chair of the ABA Section of Science and Technology Law.
Jory has invited me to write on how to grow a solid business, and I’d love to hear your questions! What frustrates you? What challenges would you like to transform into opportunity? What are you curious about? Comment on this post and/or send your questions directly to Julie@LexInnovaConsulting.com. Please let me know you’re a friend of Jory’s. Can’t wait to hear from you!