How do you balance business and family?

Start your own business, on your own kitchen table!

My business started out with a desire to spend more time with my husband. It was never about making piles of cash – it was always about adding value, both to our own lives and to the lives of our customers. As we grew, we braided that value into the company. Our company motto is “Family First.”

This means that we extend this flexibility to our employees – if they want to take a day off to go and watch a sports day, we encourage it. We finish our working day at 4 pm, so that parents can get home and spend time with their kids. Committed, happy family people make better employees – this is really one of those areas when you can do well by doing good.

Realistically, for me, this “family first” motto means that my little boy Benji will come marching into the office, firmly shut my laptop, and say, “Mum – Family first!” It also means that I’ve committed to working a 4-day week, and spending the fifth day tending to home and family.

Now, I’m not going to say that isn’t sometimes infuriating. Because honestly? I’m a kinda-recovering workaholic. There’s nothing that I enjoy more than WORKING. My business truly is that intoxicating intersection of what I love, what I’m good at, what I get paid for and what the world needs – and there’s just nothing so delicious.

If I happen to pass my laptop on a “day off,” it’s unbearably tempting to slope over, just have to have a quick look – just one little email – and before you know it, there I am hours later, still happily working away.

AND YET….

No on ever laid on their deathbed and wished that they had spent more time at the office. I remind myself of this as I take a deep sigh (one more email…I just need to finish the…) paste a smile on my face, get up out of my office chair and go outside to play a round of four-square outside with my son.

This is, I know, the right decision for me. Even if it’s tough in the moment. And once I’m out there, laughing and batting the ball back across the line, I’m so glad that I’ve made that call!

We have also been very fortunate in being able to bring members of our family into our business. Our beautiful second daughter, Elly, runs our office and her fiance Josh is our production manager. We would have loved Josh in any case, since Elly brought him home – but luckily, we adore him for his own sake, and he is truly brilliant at his job! We’ve been so lucky in that respect…

Rich’s brother Rhys divides his time between running the math and physics department of a nearby secondary school, and working on the farm as our groundsman. The two brothers spend two days per week together, working on the farm, and still chat on the phone every night! Family is woven into the very fabric of what we do, every day.

So if you are starting your own business, I encourage you to start with your family in mind. How will this benefit them? How can you include them into the equation?

Quite simply, I relied on my children as a work force – and it’s been nothing but good for them.

Our daughter Joli, now age 19, was milking goats and making soap when she was 14. Our youngest, Benji, has his own Chuckling Goat kit, and works every summer, from 8 am to lunchtime. He earned £1 an hour when he was 11, and £2 an hour now that he’s 12. He’ll earn an extra pound every year, until he’s up to the minimum wage. This year he’s excited to be old enough to open his own bank account, where he will deposit his wages. He can’t wait!

This has made both Joli and Benj strong, resilient, and practical. The practice of getting up, putting on kit and going to work with the rest of the family, has been invaluable for both of them. They work to earn the money that they’re given. It’s value for the kids, and value for the business.

The beauty of mums (or dads) running their own business, is that the business can be designed from the ground up, with family in mind. When you’re the boss, you decide when and where you work. Working from your kitchen table is a beautiful thing, because it allows you the flexibility to include your family in everything you do.

Remember – your life is your business! And all parts of it need to be nurtured, so that you can live a life you will be happy to look back on, at the end of the day.

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