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Running a business from home - balancing family and work

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ColetteSymanowitz.jpgIn today’s world, one of the biggest challenges that we women face is how to balance family and work without doing a “half-job” on either. Running a home-based business presents its own unique issues, as entrepreneur Collette Symanowitz knows only too well. With some experience under her belt, Collette explains how she manages this balancing act.

"As a workaholic who puts 120% into everything I do, I’m no expert at getting this 100% right. However, I’ve picked up a few tips along the way that I hope can help those of you who work from home to manage this.

Choose a business model that is conducive to working from home

If you can, choose a business model that can be run easily from home. Then within this framework, identify a business idea that you’re passionate about, that meets an unmet market need and that can make money. I run www.MBAconnect.net, a social networking website for MBA alumni and current students from all business schools.

I chose this for numerous reasons: Hubby and I wanted a flexi-time business that I could run from home while looking after our 2 toddlers; I was passionate about connecting people with positive opportunities; and after completing my MBA, I recognised an unmet, monetisable need for a social network to serve this attractive target market.

A website is easy to run from home because it doesn’t keep office hours and you can run it at any time of the day. This means you can work around your kids’ school routine, and you can work at night when they’re asleep. Other businesses that require a lot of office-hours face-to-face time with clients, e.g. consulting or sales, are harder to run from home.

Compartmentalise your work location and hours

Children need routine and structure to give them security. You help give them this by keeping set hours and a set location when you work on your business. After getting the kids off to nursery school in the morning, I work on my business and meet with clients. I then collect the kids from school at lunchtime and allocate the afternoon to them.

When my husband comes home in the evening, we spend time together with each other and the kids. Once they go to bed, Hubby and I both work on our businesses until our bedtime. Even if the kids are off sick or on holiday, we keep to this routine. We’ve also built a study at home, so I can close the door in the mornings to work on my business.

Establishing a work routine based on set times and location allows you to compartmentalise your business and your family like you would if you worked for an employer.

Training your children to respect this work routine is critical: our kids know in the mornings Mommy is off limits in the study, unless there is an emergency. This enables you to improve the quality of your family and work time during their respective time slots.

There will be times when you don’t manage to keep to the routine, in my case if a client can’t meet in the mornings or if I have an urgent task that must be done that afternoon. This is OK, provided it is the exception rather than the rule, otherwise you don’t really have a routine for your family or yourself.

Build strong support systems and have time off for you:

To make your business-family routine work, you need strong support systems and your own time to unwind. We have a fantastic helper who looks after our kids in the mornings if needed, e.g. during school holidays or if a client meeting can only be held in the afternoon. Their only-too-willing grandparents help too.

My incredibly supportive hubby takes over the kids when he comes home from work, so I can take off an hour to exercise and he’ll go to gym once they’re asleep.

There is no one routine that works for everyone - you have to find one that works best for you. Once you do find your routine, sticking to it helps your kids find structure and security, and gives you balance, while enhancing the quality of your family- and work-from-home time.

Colette Symanowitz runs www.MBAconnect.net, a niche community website for MBA alumni and current students from all business schools worldwide. She comes from a project management and sales background spanning close to 10 years in the pharmaceutical and clinical research industries. She completed her Wits BSc Honours in Pharmacology, and then followed this up with a PDBA and MBA from GIBS.

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