Balancing Act: Entrepreneurs hard to pull away from work

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There’s nothing more exciting than breaking free of a cubicle and starting your own business — until you discover the drawbacks.

While entrepreneurs make their own rules, set their own hours and decide how they want to do business, they almost inevitably discover they lack a safety net when their personal lives get challenging. Many tackle divorces, medical setbacks, childbirth and loss of loved ones while still handling deadlines, tackling customer issues and making payroll.

Earlier this month, Jackie Velazquez tried to keep her 13-year business operating while undergoing surgery to prevent breast cancer. “The first thing that goes across your mind is, ‘How can I accomplish this and not miss work?’ ”

Ms. Velazquez, owner of Miami-based SmartTarget Marketing, planned ahead for her business, which creates targeted direct marketing lists. She asked clients to place requests by a specific date and informed them that she would be hard to reach for four days. She will do the same for an upcoming surgery with a longer recovery.

Meanwhile, she tried to adjust client expectations and answer email as much as possible from her hospital bed. Still, she said, she worries that clients will go elsewhere, or tasks will go unnoticed. “There is never a good time to be gone from work when you are a business owner. If your phone is ringing and you’re not answering it, money is not coming in.”

Undoubtedly, running a business, especially in today’s economy, is not easy and comes with stress. Most entrepreneurs say that they work long hours — an average of 55 hours or more — and 97 percent work on weekends, according to a 2013 Small Business Pulse survey by The Alternative Board, a business consulting firm. Handling life’s upheavals can be a serious concern for entrepreneurs whose jobs extend well beyond 9-to-5 hours.

Lisa Cann said her team is the only reason that her Pembroke Pines, Fla., cupcake/​dessert business remains open. For the past few years, she has juggled marriage counseling, health issues and financial concerns. “It has been so stressful,” she said. Throughout, she has relied on her employees at Royal Treatz to handle the day-to-day tasks while she focuses on the higher level work.

“I had to get them to realize we’re a team. I don’t want clock-punchers. I want employees who are happy to be here and want the business to survive.”

Ms. Cann said she scaled back, closing a kiosk in the Pembroke Pines mall. She continues to operate her storefront/​party room with eight full-time staff, on whom she relies to handle sales, communicate about inventory and decorate cakes. “I’m one person wearing lots of hats. But if you hire well, train them right and build trust, your employees will run the business when you can’t.”


Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life; balancegal@gmail.com or worklifebalancingact.com.

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