Make us your home page

Entrepreneurs see work-life balance as a bottom line

Boo Zamek was a mother of two young children when she started a business from her home two years ago publishing a community e-newsletter. She wanted the same things many of us want when we turn to self-employment — prosperity and a work life that is truly one's own. What she got was all of that and a few bags under her eyes that she calls her badge of honor.

Entrepreneurship — starting a business from your kitchen table and growing it into a money-making machine — has always looked glamorous. But as Zamek pointed out to an audience of wanna-be entrepreneurs last month, "It is so much harder than working for someone else. You make major sacrifices."

As moderator of a discussion on home-based businesses and entrepreneurship at the Miami Herald Small Business Forum on Feb. 25, I prodded Zamek, founder of Just Ask Boo, to share the highs and lows of being a business owner and super mom. I asked Bill Hansen, a more experienced entrepreneur with 30 years under his belt, to give us a look at what sacrifices he has made and which ones were worth it. I also implored Rafael Cruz, regional director with the Small Business Development Center, and Marta Sastre, regional sales coordinator for Aflac, to share their insights as advisers to small businesses and startups.

One of the biggest misnomers, the panelists revealed, is the belief that by owning your own business you can have a 9-to-5 day: go to the gym or have lunch with your child every day and shut down in time for dinner. It's just not realistic, Zamek said.

Starting a business means you need to be extremely focused in order to have some work-life balance. You also need to know when to hire and when to delegate.

Down markets create many opportunities

There is opportunity in small business. With startups reaching a four-year high, Cruz is convinced that the potential is huge: "Businesses born in a tough environment become stronger by necessity." However, being strong requires planning. Regardless of what stage your business is in, you must plan for the future — and keep planning — to avoid the land mines of entrepreneurship. "Business planning is not something you finish," Cruz said. "It is a way of thinking, a process."

Right now, business planning means seizing the opportunities this down market creates. For Hansen, owner of Bill Hansen Catering of Miami, one of those opportunities has been the chance to hire great people at a lower cost.

For those just starting out, hiring even one person can be tricky but often necessary for work-life balance. Start by knowing your strengths and bringing in help in the areas where you are weak, the experts say. Business owners tend to want to hire people like themselves or give their out-of-work cousin Vinnie a job. Don't do it, warned Cruz.

"You need to bring someone who can add to the business and help it grow. You don't want to be surrounded by people like you, but rather by people who are different from you."

Handing over reins when it makes sense

Another difficult area for business owners to navigate is when and how to give up some control. Once you hire staffers, use them and teach them how to take on tasks, Sastre said. She considers it crucial to work-life balance and business growth. "Your most valuable thing in business is your time. Most owners know how to do it and want to do it all. You need to delegate or you won't be able to grow because you cannot be in three or four places at the same time."

Hansen knows this from personal experience: "For my first 20 years, I did everything myself. I answered the telephone. I loaded the truck. I did it all. Then I reached a point in my mid-50s when I realized that I wasn't going to do it all anymore. I began to surround myself with people who did various jobs much better than I did."

Hiring is not the only option to bringing aboard additional expertise. Zamek said she built an advisory board for her business and stocked it with people in the community who know about publishing, networking and public relations. She uses them selectively to avoid requiring too much of their time. "If they feel you have good, solid questions and a good biz idea, they are going to want to help you."

Many have discovered that building a business requires sticking closely to your vision if you want to keep your family life.

"Don't drown in a sea of opportunity," Zamek said. "People tell me, 'You should do this or that.' I keep it in a folder, and maybe someday I will. But if you try to do too many things, you're not focusing. You have to keep your eye on the ball, or it's just not going to work."

Entrepreneurs see work-life balance as a bottom line 03/13/10 [Last modified: Saturday, March 13, 2010 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Carrollwood fitness center employs scientific protocol to help clients


    In 2005, Al Roach and Virginia Phillips, husband and wife, opened 20 Minutes to Fitness in Lakewood Ranch, and last month they opened the doors to their new location in Carrollwood.

    Preston Fisher, a personal fitness coach at 20 Minutes To Fitness, stands with an iPad while general manager/owner Angela Begin conducts an equipment demonstration. The iPad is used to track each client's information and progress. I also included one shot of just the equipment. The center recently opened in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  2. Olive Tree branches out to Wesley Chapel


    WESLEY CHAPEL — When it came time to open a second location of The Olive Tree, owners John and Donna Woelfel, decided that Wesley Chapel was the perfect place.

    The Olive Tree expands its offerings of "ultra premium?€ extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) to a second location in Wesley Chapel. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  3. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  4. New York town approves Legoland proposal


    GOSHEN, N.Y. — New York is one step closer to a Lego dreamland. Goshen, a small town about fifty miles northwest of the Big Apple, has approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park.

    A small New York town, Goshen approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven. [Times file  photo]
  5. Jordan Park to get $20 million makeover and new senior housing

    Real Estate


    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG —The St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which bought back the troubled Jordan Park public housing complex this year, plans to spend about $20 million to improve the 237-unit property and construct a new three-story building for …

    Jordan Park, the historic public housing complex, is back in the hands of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. The agency is working to improve the 237-unit complex. But the latest plan to build a new three-story building for seniors will mean 31 families have to find new homes. [LARA CERRI   |   Tampa Bay Times]