Building a Business Without Breaking your Family
The balancing act between business and family can be tough. However, it is manageable.
One of the nice things about working with small businesses is you hear a lot of encouraging stories about ordinary people who do extraordinary things. I started my company 17 years ago, and my wife and I have stumbled our way through the process of raising a family, so I am aware of some of the hardships, which is why Helen Beer’s tale struck a chord.
In 2003, Helen came to the conclusion that balancing the demands of the school run, with her London-based accountancy job, wasn’t working. However, instead of throwing in the towel, she bought a copy of our e-commerce software, and set up an online store called QualitySilver selling silver, titanium, tungsten and zirconia jewellery.
She had some help from her husband, who has worked in the trade all his career and has lots of supplier contacts, but Helen has had to apply some business know-how to achieve her success. In particular, she recognised the potential of specialisation and expanded by developing two sister websites, Quality Titanium and Titan Jewellery. She has also been able to buy a 50% stake in The Jewellery Shop in Maidstone.
Getting the balance
When Helen reflects on her decision, she sees many positives:
“Ecommerce works for me – it makes it possible to earn a living on my own terms that isn’t possible via paid employment. It allows me to be at home with my child after school and in the holidays. On a normal day I work during school hours, but then may work again between six and ten in the evening. The stop-start routine can make it feel like I work longer hours, but it’s not true in fact.”
But, there have also been costs:
“Admittedly when my son was younger it was tricky in the holidays; I had to call on family and friends to look after him, but now he can occupy himself happily or go to his own friends to play for a few hours.”
With this kind of experience, Helen’s top tips for family-friendly entrepreneurs are definitely worth noting:
- Be organised and plan when you will run the business and stick to that routine
- Find a niche in the marketplace so you stand out from the crowd
- Sell what you know about, or what you have experience in
- Good customer service is a must
- Keep an eye on your competitors.
I would also add that that it’s worth discussing with your partner, from the outset, what kind of outcomes you are willing to accept from your venture. The task of growing a business and a family has four possible outcomes. One of them is creating a successful company at the cost of your family – how would you feel about that?
For me, there was never any doubt; my family is always going to be more important than the company (although I’ve had to be reminded of that from time to time). Fortunately, I work with people who shared these values and are willing to stand by them, even when it isn’t great for business. I recommend you do the same.
By Chris Barling, chairman and co-founder of ecommerce software and EPOS systems supplier, SellerDeck.