Innovation and enterprise blog

04 June 2014

For the female entrepreneur who wants it all: Mistakes to avoid when building your business

Caroline Flanagan, founder of Babyproof Your Life shares her top tips for having it all.

There’s never been a better time for women to start their own business. There’s no shortage of advice about how to turn a good idea into a thriving cash cow. But in your enthusiasm to turn your passion into pounds, are you forgetting the reasons you became an entrepreneur in the first place?

One of the biggest motivators for women setting up on their own is the desire for a healthy work-life balance. But what starts off as a passion-led endeavour can quickly turn to frustration and disillusionment when the magnitude of the work involved comes to light.                        

Mistake 1 - You are your business

Starting a business doing something you love and are passionate about is great from a motivational Rba1_49point, but bad news for work-life balance. When our business is our passion, we are so emotionally attached and involved we find it hard to separate the business from ourselves. If you are your business, the line between work and life becomes increasingly blurred. You think of work when you should be with your family or out having fun, and/or your work day is constantly interrupted by the things you need to do around the house or organise for school. It’s an easy trap to fall into. After all, it’s the flexibility of being able to juggle work and family life together that was a key factor in starting your business in the first place.


If you want to have it all, there are two solutions you can start implementing today:

Set up boundaries you respect

Not checking work emails after 6pm; keeping home admin and work admin in separate places; only doing home admin between 2 and 3pm or after 8pm when I am less productive and creative - these are just some of the boundaries I’ve established to reduce the risk of overwhelm and avoid confusion between work and family.

Create systems you (and anyone else) can follow

I have a manual for how I run my business. It’s a work in progress that’s taking time to build, but I’m already reaping the rewards. When you act as if you are your business, it means your business can’t survive without you and you spend a lot of time making things up as you go along and reinventing the wheel. The key to having it all is efficiency, and one way of achieving this is to have a consistent approach to how you do what you do. Procedures such as this not only allow me to delegate more effectively it also saves me time and helps me to view the business objectively.


Mistake 2 - You separate business goals and life goals

459044991Time and time again I hear coaches and consultants advising business owners to set goals and targets for their business. And that’s all very well. But what use is a financial goal or target client base if considered in isolation? Setting a goal to reach a turnover of 50k a year after your 3rd year in business may be easy if you’ve got 12 hours a day 5 days a week 365 days a year. But if you’ve got young kids, or are planning to have them anytime soon, chances are you aren’t going to be putting in 10 hour days when your baby is just born or the kids are on holidays.


If you want to have it all you’ve got to know what having it all means to you. Not just “how much do I want to earn in five years?”, but also “how many days holiday do I want?” or “how many full days do I want to work, and how many half days?”

Mistake 3 - You think networking is a numbers game       

Well it is and it isn’t. Obviously the more people you know the bigger your network and, arguably, the more effective it has the potential to be (though this is not always the case). But this only works if you’ve got infinite days and hours to spend attending networking lunches and following up 121s with every member of your networking group. Now I know the results of networking take time to realise and that it’s all about relationships etc. etc. But when it’s just you and your business and you’re the accountant, business planner, creative director and admin assistant there’s an awful lot to do and in most cases there’s only one you.

If you are spending 10+ hours a week attending generic networking lunches and having 121s with anyone who asks, this is not time well spent (the true number may differ depending on your business). You’ll be busy and exhausted and have little to show for the many hours you put in, not to mention the money you invest in membership fees.

As I’ve mentioned above, the key to having it all is efficiency. This means saying no and being selective. In my case it means saying no to kind invitations to 121s from people whose work ethic and vision were clearly different to mine. It meant giving up memberships to networking groups that were full of lovely people who had no connection or real means of connecting me to my target market or my ideal partnership.

When it comes to allocating the precious resource that is your time, networking is not a numbers game. It’s easy to spend too much time networking with anybody and everybody in the belief that it will one day produce the right results. Be strategic: where are your clients? Be focused - what do you want to achieve from your networking?  Be ruthlessly selective. You’ll be more efficient and more productive while you work, leaving you more time at the end of the day for family and play.


You can find out more about how to have it all at our special Open Evening, Having it all: Women in Business. Book your place now before they all go!

You can find Caroline's full blog post here: 



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