How to run a business around your family

Nicola Semple, founder of the Mum's Business Academy, shares her three top tips for managing a start-up with a family in tow.

There is a quiet revolution taking place.

Up and down the country, more and more women (and increasingly men) are rejecting traditional forms of employment and are opting for an entrepreneurial lifestyle where they can build their business around their family.

Escalating childcare costs coupled with the desire to be around to raise their own children is driving women to reassess their options and to identify ways to build a business on their own terms.

Five years ago I was in this exact position. We lived far away from our family and I worked in a busy corporate job where long hours and frequent travel were the norm. I didn’t want my daughter brought up by a series of extended childcare. We would have needed a nanny to drop off at nursery, a ten-hour day at nursery followed by another childcare provider to pick up and do bath and bedtime.

What was the point? Why had we had a child in the first place if we weren’t going to spend any time with her and raise her ourselves?

In the end, for us, it was a straightforward decision. I would give up my corporate job, become the primary caregiver and pursue my career ambitions from home.

It all seemed so straightforward at the time. I had a baby who slept several hours a day and I had visions of being super productive and fitting a full day’s work into nap time.

Obviously the reality didn’t quite match up to this halcyon vision. As naps were dropped and another child arrived time became increasingly tight. The last five years has been a massive learning curve for me. An exercise in juggling and perseverance but I have learned a lot and I would like to share my top three tips for running a business around your family.

1. Don’t try to multitask

Pretty much every article about mums in business is accompanied by a stock photograph of a smiling lady with a bouncing baby sitting on her lap while she takes a phone call or works on her computer.

Sorry folks, life ain’t like that! The second I sit down at my laptop when the kids are around they gravitate to me like a moth to a flame, demanding drinks, snacks, a trip to the toilet and to play games on my computer.

Depending on your children you might be able to distract them with a TV programme while you crack on and get a short task completed. Sadly my vision of us all sitting round the table, me working, them colouring in or engaged in an absorbing craft activity will remain a figment of my imagination.

Working with young kids around is a hugely unsatisfying experience for all concerned. You will get frustrated because you are not achieving what you need to and they will get frustrated because they are not getting your time and attention.

It is far better to have allocated slots of time that you can devote 100 per cent to your business. This may involve getting childcare, working in evenings, nap times and weekends. Whatever works for you, your family and your business.

2. Organisation is key

Women who run their business from home around their family have to be organised, in fact most run their life with military precision.

They have to identify pockets of time that they can devote to their business and then ferociously guard this time to make sure it doesn’t get ‘lost’ to other commitments.

I run my life by a series of ‘to do’ lists. Lists for the house, lists for my business, lists of quick tasks that can be completed while the kids are around, lists of tasks for bigger projects that need my full concentration and my ‘bucket list’ of things I would love to do in my business when I have more time, more headspace and more funds to invest.

3. Be realistically ambitious

It is within the nature of an entrepreneur to be ambitious for their business. For a mother building a business around her family I think that it is her crucial that her ambitions match the time she wants to devote to building her business.

Somebody who is able to devote 40 hours a week to their company is more likely to move their business forward faster than somebody who only has ten hours a week to devote to their business.

When my daughter was born and I understood the reality of building a business around a family I had to scale back my ambitions hugely. I still knew my final destination. But I had to be realistic about how long it would take me to get there. When my son came along 2.5 years later, again I knew that if I was going to raise my family the way that I wanted to I would need to scale back my ambitions further.

Now that my daughter is in school and I can see pre-school on the horizon for my son and I have more time available I can start to ramp up my plans and put in more hours to help me realise my vision faster.

Running a business around your family is not easy. It requires huge amounts of determination, resilience, patience and organisation. But it can be done. And the satisfaction of knowing that you have managed to realise your own career ambitions, generate a steady income and still be there for your family really is second to none.

Further reading on business and family life


Nicola Semple

Nicola Semple is the founder of the Mum's Business Academy.

Related Topics

Women In Business

Leave a comment