Boundaries are definitely one of the magic ingredients of sustainable success in business.
After more than a decade of hospitality entrepreneurship, I know too well the importance of setting some boundaries. I know too well how it feels like when there are none. And certainly I might still be work in progress.
There are two types of boundaries. Firstly, there are the ones coordinating your relationship with others (team, customers, partners etc). And secondly, there are the ones that are coordinating your relationship with yourself when running your business.
The second kind of boundaries is what I want to talk about because it is these boundaries that guarantee your wellbeing, which ultimately is the base for the wellbeing of others (your people and your clients) and for the overall sustainability of your business.
When you start a business and are passionate about it, you want to be working on it all the time. You are full of ideas, you are full of energy, you are full of will. You keep going day and night, you keep being part of every little and big happening. You identify yourself with your business as if it was a real solid part of you.
All this is so exciting and I do wish everybody could have the experience to start a business because it is almost like birthing a baby, but with the little difference that you are allowed to get really creative and test different ideas and change your mind and make mistakes. It is that exciting.
Said all that.. while there is enormous amount of power in passion and it surely is for some time auto-sufficient (passion gives energy), there comes time when you need to stop for a refill. When the first excitement wears off, or the first roadblock appears, you need to know how to respond.
And this is where the story of boundaries starts making difference. Creating for yourself intentionally some smart boundaries is all about self-care and protection.
1. You have to take time to create yourself healthy habits — exercise, sleep, food etc. While it is the most obvious, it is also the the one we let go the fastest when in excitement or stress. It is worth to be highlighted, because it just is that important.
This one is certainly not my strongest one also, but I am working on it. I have not had for quite few years now any processed microwave meals, which was way too often my quick go-to lunch in the kitchen of our first B&B. We live, we learn, we know and do better!
2. You have to create for yourself proper systems (plans, habits, delegating) — it is just so easy to get carried away when you have all the freedom to decide what to do and when to do. And as big part of entrepreneurs are these visionary-dreamer types, the volume of ideas is always much higher than one can ever put into action. Only that getting things done is actually what really takes things further. Getting things done is literally what is needed to turn your ideas into reality.
I didn't have much proper working experience before embarking on the entrepreneurial journey, which means I did not have proper systems and working routines in place. Adding here way too much curiosity and dreaming and you can imagine the rest. So yes, create proper systems from early on!
3. You have to delegate, trust and create yourself moments of “time off”. To avoid that your “well” runs dry, you do have to occasionally step out of it all. It is much easier to bring along fresh energy, new solutions, ideas and creativity if you allow yourself some space for getting new experiences and reconnecting with yourself. Disconnect to reconnect could be a good slogan here!
And of course when family and kids come along, it will become necessity to be able to switch off. I am sure my kids will say that as long as they can remember I have always been working too much. I have no doubt I have become better at this, but the struggle is real..
4. You have to consciously distance your business from your identity. You have to allow both of them to grow separately, even if side by side. Why is this important?
Firstly, to guarantee sustainability for you as an entrepreneur, you have to be able to separate problems and challenges of the business from your self-worth. Business is a separate entity with its own life, you are part of it, but you are not it.
And secondly, life is full of changes and businesses are a lot about changes. It is way easier to change things in your business and adapt to the demands of ongoing BANI world when you do not need to change your identity with it. Trust me, it is way faster to change your business than to change your identity!
Covid19 had a strong impact on our family business. Closing our 11-year old B&B was the hardest part for me. It was my “first baby”, for many years I treated it as such, no surprise that closing it made me feel as if I had lost an important part of me. I had to coach myself through this process, re-framing the story for myself, moving from sense of failure into celebration of a decade long success, which actually happens to be the truth.
It is important to note that while part of me was gone, then new fresh parts emerged! What I know for sure is that once you have that true entrepreneurial spirit and passion in you, you will naturally find new ways of starting something new.
When a seed is planted in favourable conditions, it will grow.
Setting yourself some boundaries when running a business is not about limiting yourself, it is exactly the opposite, it is about expanding yourself. It is about allowing yourself to feel healthier, happier and more balanced throughout this exciting journey!