How to Grow a Business and a Family at the Same Time

5 December 2018

Can an entrepreneur nurture a business and a family? Both demand time, energy and commitment. Succeeding at both can seem daunting, still, many entrepreneurs achieve a balance and do both well. How do they do it?

We asked Niran Iswar, Chief Director of NexGen, but more importantly dedicated husband and hands on father of nearly 2-year-old Shiv, to share his thoughts on work-life balance.

Q: Is work-life balance realistically achievable between the competing demands of a family and a business? 

Yes, it is. There is no denying it’s tough to manage the balance between business and family, and the demands will change week to week depending on the requirements of both. 

There are two critical parts to this, one, you must have a competent team who can effectively run the business without you, that way you can dedicate more time to family. And two, you must have a supportive partner, in my case my wife Niriksha is on my team.  If she wasn’t supportive of my commitments to growing a business, then it would be near impossible to succeed at both.  She too is a career driven person in a high-pressure role, so the structure needs to clear for us.  When at home, be present.  Try not to get drawn into technology or other distractions and focus on each other. 

The key is to plan, plan, plan; use a family calendar and share it with everybody at home and at work.  Customers are accepting of this and if they are not, reconsider having them as a customer. 

Q: How can a business owner ensure he/she is spending enough time in both areas?

The key is to get your business working for you and not the other way around.  Divide the family responsibilities up and make sure you are doing your half share. For example, you can do the morning drop offs and your partner could tackle the afternoons. There is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to have balance in both areas. If you are slaving over the business, then you haven’t got the right structure or people in you place.  Hiring middle management is expensive but an investment a SMB will eventually need to make to ensure work life balance. 

I think just understanding that everything is just as important as each task i.e. nothing is higher or lower priority is a good way to think about it.  Understand value of time.

Q: Does an entrepreneur always have to be present? Any tips on how to ensure the office runs effectively without you there?

No, you don’t.  The key here is to ensure you’ve hired the right talent that you can trust to run the business when you aren’t there. Everyone you hire should essentially have the same vision and goals for the business as you.

We have a big issue in our business now because of a historical industry problem.  Traditional partners stopped accountants growing.  They don’t teach them to talk to customers, in fact, they don’t allow any contact at all until they are at senior level.  I would have thought the best time to teach these skills was on Day 1, when they are at graduate level.  When we look for accountants this is the first thing we look for.  Further to this, they make them prepare tax returns for the IRD all day long.  What about giving them an opportunity to learn what the information means and how that impacts business?  These issues apply to so many services industries which means owners must spend more time training and empowering their team from day one.

NexGen spends the time heavily training staff in their first few months, which results in me being able to step back, lead from behind and dedicate more time to family; the team happy because they feel empowered too.

Q: What can an entrepreneur do to manage stress that having a business and family inevitably create?

Well there’s the obvious, exercise and good diet - people who are fitter and healthier need fewer sick days! I would also recommend getting a business coach. They act as your go-to, they generally have more experience than you and can help you halve your business stresses when it comes to decision making because they give you the added confidence you sometimes need. A great coach would not only understand your business goals, but also your family goals. This is a huge stress alleviator because you have someone to share the load, who looks at situations objectively without the emotion that can sometimes get in the way of your progress. Remember, your business should be working for you and not the other way around. If you’ve created yourself a job instead of the business, quit the business and get a job. 

Q: Would you run a family like you would a business? I.e. could you have family goals and visions, structures etc?

I should answer this one carefully because Niriksha and I have in the past had conflicting thoughts.  We are now aligned!  See, I said aligned; just like being align with the Directors in the business, we are aligned at home. This is so important!

100%, you should run your business and family life with structure.  Why should one be more important than the other?  I get massive amounts of pleasure helping people every day. If I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be a good person at home.  Niriksha and I now share a calendar, every Monday morning she will send me close to 5 calendar invites about things that need to be done in the week. We also have financial goals and visions for our family, just as a business would. It’s so important to get on the same page with your family members, share you personal and business goals and go get them as a family! 

Q: If a business is increasingly profitable does that mean more money should be saved for retirement? How would increasing profits affect a family decision making?

The New Zealand government offers a pension to all residents from the age of 65, but no one can predict how long this will continue for. Given that, saving more for retirement is a good decision. But the answer depends entirely on projected household income, life goals and work-life expectancy.

When I started NexGen I left full time employment and had no income for 12 months. This is the reality for most entrepreneurs. Niriksha paid our mortgage and everything else.  I chipped in where I could.  Where money goes needs to be a family decision that aligns with those goals that you’ve set out together. If I get a bonus and vice versa we chat about whether we need to put 100% in or if we can take 30% out for our own spending.  Most of the time its 100% as our savings targets are strong. 

The bottom line is that business owners and entrepreneurs should consult their accountants and legal experts, so retirement is better aligned with their life goals.

Don’t take your eye off the prize, that means knowing what you need tomorrow, next year and when retiring.  Choose how to invest together, we choose property investments for us to ensure our retirement is sorted. 

Q: If someone is considering starting a business, how would this affect a family unit, what should the entrepreneur be thinking about before that?

Firstly, you need to put a budget in place, for both the business and the home.  I would recommend saving up whatever it costs you to run the home for 3 months, income should start coming in around month 4 or 5 from the business. No doubt, you’ll have to cut costs and loss some luxuries.  This is typically just in the short term, but it needs to be strongly considered, can you cover yourself for the first. 

Consider having insurances in place to reduce stress as these can effectively mitigate risk.  Setup Trusts if you need to protect assets but talk to your accountant ensure your tax structure is right for you.  You may be entitled to home office deductions, working for families, rental losses could reduce tax etc.  Accountants are experts and know exactly how your structure should look, in the long run this could save you tens of thousands of dollars.

Q: How is retirement planning different for women entrepreneurs? Ie facts say that woman traditionally live longer than males, assets need to last longer.

The simplest thing to do is plan to both live to 100.  If you have enough money to get you to 100 you know there always going to be plenty there.  Everybody can make money, they just need to know how.  Talk to us, we’ll show you how to make money, so you can retire early, spend time with family and be fulfil in your everyday job or business.

Q: What can entrepreneurs take from their business lives to benefit their family lives?

Flexibility. Work life balance. Greater opportunities to grow and invest in the family, your kids might want to take over your business, or you might be able to teach your kids how to run a business.  They don’t teach you this stuff at school.  Make money faster whilst doing something you love!