How do you find balance?

If you’re an entrepreneur and/or a small business owner, the answer is probably “erm….I don’t”. But it shouldn’t be! As an entrepreneur I’m acutely aware of the struggle to find that balance between business and pleasure. As a woman in regional Queensland, a mother, and business-owner, I’m even more aware of the extra barriers we face as women, trying to create this work/life utopia.

Because of this, and as a regional ambassador for Women’s Network Australia (WNA), I wanted to celebrate our barrier-breaking women and encourage other businesswomen to build community with like-minded lady-bosses.

How? Through food, of course!

Breaking Barriers in Regional Queensland

On Friday, April 21, one hundred incredible regional women (and a couple of men) gathered at Gips Restaurant for the Breaking Barriers: Regional Women in Business luncheon. This event encouraged women from Toowoomba and surrounding districts to enjoy a gorgeous meal while networking and being inspired by other amazing business-women. We were honoured to have Queensland Small Business Commissioner, Dominique Lamb and Queensland Chief Entrepreneur, Julia Spicer speaking, as well as Toowoomba’s own business and branding guru, Jessica Ritchie. What a panel, right?!

But it wasn’t just the panel that had me intrigued, our guests were a mix of intelligent and gutsy women, many of whom I know and admire. And yet, when asked what their biggest barriers in business were, their top four were struggles I myself have had or do have. This room of amazing women listed their number one barrier to business being Work/life balance.

What’s especially interesting about these issues is that they involve a high level of Emotional Intelligence and care. They also intrinsically link to frustrations often faced by entrepreneurs, particularly those relating to ‘worthiness’, public perception, and breaking down traditional social business barriers. Unsurprisingly they were all also issues our three panellists had faced throughout their careers. Fortunately, these three incredible women had some amazing talking points and tips for breaking these particular barriers to help create better balance, and I want to share them with you.

Community: Finding it and/or Creating it

As Dominique, Julia, and Jessica spoke, I realised each woman reinforcing a few very clear focuses, but the most significant was the importance of support. This was such a great reminder to everyone in the room because I know, as an entrepreneur, it’s so easy to accidentally also become a solopreneur, even when you don’t need to be.

As Dominique quipped, “don’t be an island”. Instead, take the time to engage in networking and other events. Not only is this a great way to get your brand out there, you get to speak to others doing what you’re doing and likely facing similar obstacles and frustrations.

Go where you are celebrated, not tolerated.

Use your connections and friends to build yourself a community—a tribe—of supporters.

Julia quoted that old adage, “go where you’re celebrated, not tolerated”. These are your people, reach out to them with news, both good and bad, or ask for advice. Better yet, if you need advice on something specific, go to someone who specialises in that area of business.

Seek Advice, Accept Help, Know Your Worth

Interestingly, Julia noted that people are often more comfortable to take advice from traditional “advisory industries” like accountants, doctors, and lawyers, but tend to shy away from more…artistic…professions. Jessica backed this up with the story about a client who, on receiving her invoice, guffawed “what are you—a brain surgeon?” to which she replied that yes, for business branding, she absolutely was.

Jessica’s response to the obnoxious client speaks volumes about her confidence in her own mastery and worthiness. This was something each one of our speakers touched on from varying angles, but Julia was very honest about the existence of “gender deafness” and the difficulty in feeling “worthy” as a young, regional woman in business, especially in more traditionally male-dominated fields.

Here is where Jessica, Julia, and Dominique all resoundingly agreed: you are worthy. No matter your age, gender, location, or any multitude of other reasons you may be doubting yourself. Turn to your tribe, again, they will remind you of your worth.

However, contemplating this notion of worth, Jessica noted that many small businesses have an interesting habit of trying to “save face” when it comes to reaching out for help…or even taking help that is offered. We worry what people will think of us if we need support in our business, as if somehow this makes us lesser. However, asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, but acknowledgement that others may simply make you stronger.

Lean into your support systems, ask or pay for advice, and remember that you are not just worthy of the support, but of the recognition you receive.

The Power of Storytelling

There was yet another resounding point our three speakers all made: tell each other’s stories and you will see change.

This is, again, all about being celebrated, not just tolerated. Why? Because, we’re often not great at selling ourselves. If you are, that’s amazing! But I’m definitely in the “better at selling someone else” club, and so many of us are, which is totally normal. We’re taught from very young not to self-aggrandise, and that’s kinda what it feels like when you’re talking up your brand—because your brand is you, right?

But if you were to talk about a friend’s business, you’d be able to rave about it, right? And I bet they do the same about yours. And the more you do this, the more people hear how amazing both your brands are, and the more customers you can build…together.

Balance and Barrier Breaking

Sooo…how does all this lead to better balance? you’re thinking.

Individually, they really don’t. But by creating a community or tribe for yourself, you likely developed a community of like-minded people who help you accomplish many of the other points discussed.

Your community or tribe will be:

  •     your biggest supporters
  •     people you can rely on for help—both asked for and willingly offered
  •     a team of advisors or contacts for advice
  •     your storyteller, who rave about your brand every chance they get
  •     your cheer squad, who will remind you of your worth when you forget
  •     other local business women and men who you can collaborate with and build even more community through networking and events

These people will often become more than just business contacts. In fact, they may already be friends or family. By accepting their support and help, you not only build your business with less time, stress, and cost, you’ll also likely find you free up time for priorities outside of work as well…but you may also find you enjoy some of your work activities so much more, like (ahem) networking luncheons.

More Balance

While I love all these amazing talking points from Dominique, Julia, and Jessica, there’s always room for more ways to help balance work and life.

I want to know yours! What do you do to ensure better balance in your week, or even day? What’s the best tip you’ve been given?