When your business starts to overtake your life, you can throw in the towel or, like Tim Leonard, founder of Mortgage Choice Bayside, you can re-evaluate your business process to rekindle your passion and rebalance your priorities.
Trying to balance work and life is difficult, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Mr Leonard shares his experience of reaching the point where his passion for business started to die, and how he breathed new life into his company and established a better work/life balance.
Going from solo to duo
For more than a decade, Mr Leonard slogged it out as a one-man band, doing everything in his business by himself.
“I’ve never had an employee, so those figures are done on my own back, and it’s been 11 years now running a business like that, which is pretty crazy when you think about it,” he says.
With the pressures of working alone finally getting to him, Mr Leonard decided to hire a personal assistant. But bringing a new person into his business was daunting.
“[My wife Karen and I] built a home for ourselves two and a half years ago, and it actually has a separate, self-contained office, which is two offices, a meeting area, a kitchen and a bathroom, and it’s completely separate access to the rest of the house. So it reads as a real office, but I’m going to share that space with another person now,” he says.
“There’s also the financial commitment to pay someone an income and their super and all their benefits. Then it’s also the scary part of having to change as well ... you think, ‘Well, I’m going to have to do things differently’ and that can be difficult for someone like myself who’s been set in their ways for so long.”
Bringing work/life balance back from the dead
Last year, Mr Leonard felt something every business owner dreads – a lack of passion for his business, which was affecting his personal life.
“Was I exercising towards the end of last year? No. I hadn’t exercised for about eight months, whereas exercise had been a big part of my life, and that was because of energy levels and the motivation to do those things had fallen away,” he says.
While Mr Leonard was confident managing his business by himself, going it alone was affecting both his work and his personal life.
“You find as a business matures you’re doing a lot more maintenance ... and that can really drag you down, so I got to that point where I thought, ‘Right, I’m not exercising, I’m losing the passion for the business,’” he says.
“I will say that it wasn’t getting to a critical level. It had certainly fallen away and I knew I couldn’t grow anymore so I just thought, ‘Bugger it. We’ve got to do it. We’ve got to go and employ someone and move toward the next step.’”
Working on work/life balance
“I don’t want to be in a position where my kids think I’m not so nice, and if I’m being a great support or a great father to them, that’s way more important to me than my business,” Mr Leonard says.
“My business is just a channel for me to financially support my family, give me something to do over the next few years of course, but in the end the most important thing to me is my kids and my wife and family.
“In the end, when my business is done and dusted, I would like to think that I have got a rich amount of kids and grandkids around me who think I’m pretty nice.”
While his children are important to him, equally as important is his relationship with his wife, which Mr Leonard admits is difficult to juggle with his business.
“You might have achieved a few things in regards to satisfying clients or doing what you need to do in the business, but then you’ve got someone on the outside who could be your wife or your kids and you’re thinking, ‘I probably really should have gone to that basketball game’ or ‘I really should have taken Karen out for lunch today as I planned’ but I turned around and said, ‘Look, I can’t go. I’ve got to get this deal finished.’”
One way Mr Leonard has tried to deal with his workload is to bring Mrs Leonard into the business to lend a helping hand, but only when it fits into her schedule.
“Karen’s role ... always has been first and foremost to be a mum … but Karen spends some time in the office and what she’ll do is she looks after the books, so she looks after all the tax, pays all the accounts, keeps that side of the business running while I do the client face-to-face and process loans,” he says.
However, delegating tasks was not always possible, resulting in an increase of Mr Leonard’s workload.
“In an ideal world … I can hand a file to Karen and say, ‘Right, now you process it, get all the data entered then bring it back to me. I’ll check it and submit it,’ but it just doesn’t work like that because sometimes you’ve got to get a deal in and she’s not around ... and you fall into that trap of doing it yourself all the time,” he says.
This is where having a full-time employee is valuable to the business.
“She’ll just be there and we’ll be able to get a really consistent consistency in the business and a consistent process, which I must say I’ve never really had,” Mr Leonard says.