Recently I was talking to a new contact who said his diary was available “24/7” to his customers, and I asked him when he had time for himself. He said he didn’t have much time to himself, but he wanted new customers and he wanted to provide a great service to his existing customers. This got me thinking, why didn’t I work 24/7?
I think at one level any business owner works on their business 24/7 because they have ideas about their business whether they are working or not. I find that ideas, solutions, plans often drop into my brain when I am exercising. Now that could be because I’m focussing on something other than work, usually that focus is of the “I must be doing it right ‘cos that hurts” type. Suddenly I’ll see how something could be done or have an idea for something new or a new way of doing something. That is normal apparently.
My work thinking can happen at any time, but I do not work 24/7. Why is this? I think there are three reasons:
My age. I am now thinking about retiring and having some other new adventures. When I was younger, I had more energy, that is a reality. I can still get excited by a new project and use lots of energy implementing it. When I compare my now self with my younger self I can see the difference. I can see the difference between my now self and younger contacts, as I say they are “young and thrusting” and it is fantastic to watch but I just don’t have that level of energy anymore.
My business history. I have been self-employed for over 25 years. I’ve had different businesses throughout that time, sometimes they overlapped but mainly they were the only business I had. The business I had for the longest was a catering business, which I had for 18 years. We had snack bars, units that were on building sites, we did outside catering, and I did some consultancy. I was busy. I had a good team, but I seemed to spend lots of my time firefighting: staff not turning up, regular customers booking at the last moment, and we had lots of customers, so the firefighting was against a backdrop of 24/7 work. Our shops opened at 7 am so staff started at 6.30, and we often had events in the afternoon and others that went on till the early hours. I had lots of teams to manage and lots of projects on the go at any one time. It was fantastic, but eventually, as I got older, I began to realise it was time to sell, which I did.
My type of businesses. As I developed my current business, I vowed that, whatever happened and however I developed it, I would not work 24/7 again. I would work Monday to Friday, no evenings, and no weekends. It is true that I have a business now that rarely requires firefighting. This is partly because of the nature of my business: it is almost unknown that anyone contacts me and says, “I need to network now!” in the same way customers would ring me and say “I forgot to order lunch for today! Can you help please?” In addition, I have an amazing team of Group Directors who run their meetings and arrange all the admin relating to their meetings. I’m not involved. My job is to build the business, implement strategy, support Group Directors and members.
I am very protective of my personal time. I worry about people who say they work 24/7 because we all need down time, time to spend time with our beloveds, time to relax and rejuvenate. So, if you do work 24/7 my questions are: “How long can you keep going and what will happen when you reach your breaking point?”
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