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Striking a Balance

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There is a fine line between business and personal life, especially when you are self-employed. For me, there was a time in my younger years while running my own shop that I wouldn’t leave for lunch because I thought that if I left, customers might miss me and be upset that I was not there to help them. Well, after a couple of years, I started leaving for short lunches at the recommendation of my wife, who noticed my stress and thought I needed to get away from the shop a little. She was right.

We all know that from the moment we walk through the door of our business we are consumed by it, so much so that at closing time we’re wondering where the last ten hours went, they flew by so fast. You hop in the car to drive home and within a few miles you’re thinking about the shop again; maybe a car problem, an employee problem, parts problem, or one of the many issues that come up within your day at the shop. You get home and your significant other can see the shop in your eyes and in your every move. “How did it go at the shop today,” he or she asks.

“Here we go again,” you say to yourself, as you relive the whole day, telling her about everything that went wrong… and some right.

After years of beating your head against the wall (hopefully sooner), you realize there has to be a better way. When you finally realize that if you run the business like a business, you should be able to enjoy a fabulous personal life. Just because you separate business and personal life doesn’t mean your customers will suffer or even be unhappy with you.

I will share with you a few things I have learned over the past three decades to help me develop a more balanced approach to my days: 


• Take a lunch break. You work hard, you deserve it, and you need a little time to relax, clear your head and refuel for your final hours at the shop. I had a hard time with this for a long time, but once you make a habit of it, you will wonder why it took so long for you to do it. I look forward to it every day.

• Do your very best to keep your business and personal life separate.

There will be times this will be hard, especially when you are self-employed. Get in a habit of turning the business off when you lock the door at closing time. The business will be there in the morning (I promise).

• When you get home, relax and enjoy your time with family. Clear your mind of the clutters of the day. This can be tough when your spouse wants to talk and share your day with you, but if you must, be brief and positive. (They just want to know everything is going to be OK). 

• Get organized (practice makes perfect). When you are organized, your day will run a lot smoother and you will be less stressed. If you look or feel out of control, you are out of control. Make a task list. When you are a shop owner, there are always things to do and you will always feel behind. I make a list, work on one or two items a day to stay on top of my tasks and hardly ever get behind with them.

• Make time for spirituality, reading, meditation, quiet time, etc. This has been especially helpful for me over the years as it helps to calm and relax the body.

I know it sounds easier said than done, but if you actually take the time to practice these few things, it will help you keep a more balanced approach to life and business, for the benefit of both.

B.J. Lee has worked in the automotive repair industry for more than 30 years. He is an industry consultant and trainer for and owner of Stellar Performance Inc. in 29 Palms, Calif.

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