When your MSP business is growing it’s only natural that, most weeks, you’ll work more hours than you realize. If you started as a one-man shop, then you are doing more jobs than you’re probably aware of. But you need to do what it takes to keep your clients happy, and gaining more clients makes you happy so you put in those extra hours.
Talk to any MSP owner who has been in business for seven years or more, and there’s a pretty good chance that they are on, at least, their second marriage. This industry is littered with stories about MSP owners neglecting their family life while devoting all their time to the needs of clients. Hopefully, it’s not too late for you! Read the tips below and get started on your new Work/Life balance.
TRACK YOUR TIME
The first step in becoming aware of the amount of time you’re spending at work is keeping track of your time. As a one-man shop you usually don’t track your time because every task goes into the same pool of to-dos, and you’re the only one doing them. You might also think that there’s no need to track how much time you spend with each client, but you do need to know for billing purposes.
Keeping track of how and when you spend your time dealing with clients will open your eyes to scheduling issues and inefficiencies. You’ll also become aware of your needs of hiring someone to take some of the less important work off your shoulders. See our blog on When and Who to Hire for more detailed information.
DON’T ALWAYS PUT WORK FIRST
FOMO is an acronym that means: Fear of Missing Out. Work-related FOMO is the fear of losing a client, or the fear of not doing your job to it’s fullest, even if it means putting in extra hours. This is where your work-life interferes with your personal life. You’ve built your company by working hard and putting in extra time. There’s nothing wrong with that. But when things snowball into a much larger workload than you started with, it’s time to reevaluate your situation and get comfortable with taking things off your plate.
HAVE THE COURAGE TO SAY “NO”
In the early years, you grew used to taking on any job, anytime, anywhere. But as you grow it gets harder and harder to keep loading up your daily task list with new clients to manage. You’ll eventually reach a point where you’ll have to push back a bit. Don’t get yourself into a situation where you’re overpromising and underdelivering. That’s not good for business. You want to be the company that over-delivers on your promises. Don’t be afraid to say “No” when you’re already overbooked. It’s better for both you and your client if you’re up-front about your busy schedule rather than possibly creating a situation where you’re missing deadlines you shouldn’t have promised in the first place.
YOUR CLIENTS ARE MORE FLEXIBLE THAN YOU THINK
One MSP Owner I know told me a story about the first time he was in a situation where he had to tell a new client “No.” He was in his second marriage and had made a promise to himself that he wouldn’t always put his clients before his family. His kids were at the ages where they were playing local sports, and he had promised his wife he would take them to baseball practice that night. Then he got a call from a new client who was in a panic. He listened as the client begged him to come over, right away, and fix the problem. He was in a tough spot, but he swallowed hard, said “No” to the client, and held his breath in anticipation of the client’s response. He was both relieved and surprised when the client said, “Okay, when can you come over?”
That was the day he learned that he had the power to get his life back. He shared with me this revelation: “So I asked myself, what just happened? Something had changed but it took me a while to figure out what it was. Did the work change? No. Did the client change? No. Then it hit me – I had changed!”
From that day on he knew it was up to him to create his Work/Life balance.
TAKE A VACATION
It’s ironic that you’re working hard to build your business because you want to create a good life for your family, yet your family life suffers because you’re not there. You need to realize that work is constant; it will always be there. You, however, are the variable. You are the only one who has control over your life. Don’t hide from that, embrace it. Sure, if your business is the most important thing in your life then, by all means, devote yourself fully to it. But if your family is the most important thing to you, then make them your priority.
Family vacations are not only good for sharing experiences and bonding with your spouse and kids, but they also allow you to clear your head, relax a little, and recharge your batteries. Vacations give you something to look forward to, they let you focus on things you enjoy doing, and they give you another perspective on life. Enjoy the fruits of your labor. Reward yourself. And, don’t worry, there will be plenty of work when you get back.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
When your business is growing and you’re bringing new employees on board, make sure you monitor how they utilize their free time. Some of them may want to show you how hard they work by not taking time off. Even vacation time they’ve accrued may go unused for years. Don’t let them fall into the same trap you did. Make it a policy to let employees know the value of taking earned time off and spending time with their families. Happy employees are valuable employees.
Work is important, but it doesn’t have to be all-consuming. Give yourself time off to decompress. Say “No” when you need to. And, most importantly of all, make sure you take the time to share the life you’ve created with your family. After all, isn’t that what all your hard work was for in the first place?