In my last post, I talked about some of the challenges associated with being a woman in a small business environment. It can be difficult, as I mentioned. This is especially true when the SMB operates in typically male-dominated industries like technology or finance.
Here are some tips I have found help me while operating as a woman in the unique, stressful, exciting world of small business. I hope they're useful to you.
Draw a line between work and home
Juggling a hectic work schedule with demanding family life can be an enormous challenge, and the pressures of a small business environment can be particularly tricky. The nature of small businesses mean work time threatens to bleed into 'home time'. It's particularly important to be able to 'draw a line' between office and home life and minimise the crossover as much as possible.
Create clear boundaries in terms of where the work day finishes and family time begins. I work usually until late in the evening. Then I close my laptop. This allows for family time to be fully appreciated without distraction, and affords a complete break from work duties for a few hours.
Separate work and play
Holidays can also benefit from this strict compartmentalisation. Setting clear boundaries with colleagues allows you to switch off and dedicate yourself completely to family time. I have found it particularly helpful to have a 'phase out' period. The first three days of holiday, I still respond to some emails. After that, I switch off. I'm only available by emergency calls. This allows me to be there for my husband.
Don't separate yourself too much
Being connected is not necessarily a bad thing. On the occasion when I need to work from home (for instance, say my husband is really ill), I can do that through today's technology. Saving work on a company-approved cloud is helpful. Having an external email system and a go-to colleague who could forward you documents is also helpful. With small businesses, such connected flexibility is key.
Be organised but not inflexible
Women working within SMBs can't afford to be any disorganised when juggling work and home life. If you're working full-time, there's a good chance you'll need to rely on others to assist with children or housework. This requires scheduling and foresight.
That having been said, even the best-laid plans are prone to falling through. This is where flexibility becomes necessary, be it from your own working schedule, or from having family members who are willing to help in an emergency. A strong support network is a huge help and can help minimise a great deal of strain.
Allocate 'me' time
In the midst of balancing a demanding work schedule and family life, it's important to allocate 'me' time. Every Wednesday I have an hour slot in my calendar booked for this bit of sport. I think of it as 'booking a meeting with yourself'. Block out the time in your diary and honour it as you would a customer meeting.
The importance of setting aside personal time is particularly pronounced if working from home, which happens at a lot of smaller businesses. Here the distinction between home and office can become understandably blurred. Being able to take a step back from the stresses of the office and home life is incredibly important.
Take the lead and know the material
In the small business world, there are still lingering prejudices. To handle these, I have found it's very important to always be prepared. You have to be as strong as everyone else in the room. In presentations, I come prepared to compete. You need to know what you know, to speak up, to be bold. This is particularly challenging in tech start-ups, which tend to have a hierarchy of men and may not be used to strong females.
Finally, treat yourself like an athlete
At a small company, you have long hours. The stress is high and the risk intense. To keep your family running and your job happy, you must take care of yourself. Do all the things an athlete would: eat well, get enough sleep, limit caffeine, and dedicate time to sport.