A big part of starting, owning and running a business is devoting much of both your personal and professional time to company operations. Because of this, one of the biggest challenges for small business owners is achieving a healthy balance between their work and personal lives. In fact, according to Bank of America’s 2013 Small Business Owner Report, entrepreneurs say their top source of stress is achieving a work-life balance.

We’ve all heard of startups attracting top employees with incentives that keep them happy both professionally and personally, but how do business owners maintain their own happiness in such a demanding role?

Ownership Contributing to Happiness?

A recent Yodle study found that an overwhelming majority of small business owners are happy with their decision to launch their own business:

  • 91% of small business owners say they are at least “somewhat happy,” with 55% saying they are “extremely happy” with their choice to start their own business.

In addition to happiness, small business owners equate entrepreneurship with improved health. According to Bank of America’s study, 53% of respondent owners say their personal health is better as a result of running their business. The survey asked the owners to highlight aspects of their health that have improved “as a result of running their small business.” These aspects include:

  • 49% get between seven and eight hours of sleep every night.
  • 35% are exercising more frequently.
  • 29% are eating more healthily.

This improved health and happiness, however, doesn’t mean a good balance between personal and professional lives for entrepreneurs. While the study found that 72% of owners work more than 40 hours per week, another found that only 8% of small business owners say there’s no need to change or lessen the hours they work; in other words, 92% are not happy with their work hours. The study asked how the owners would spend their time if they worked less:

  • 31% say they’d spend more time with family and friends.
  • 23% would travel more.
  • 10% would pursue growth opportunities for their business.

Trust as Key to Work-Life Balance

Devotion and passion for your business is key to success for an entrepreneur. But another big factor is having trust in others to execute tasks. On top of being demoralizing for employees, micromanaging is likewise deterrent to a rewarding balance for small business owners. While 65% of respondents to a TAB survey say they’re at least “good” at delegating, the study found that 70% of entrepreneurs could benefit from spreading the amount of work to employees more evenly. Reasons for not delegating include:

  • Feeling like owners are “the most capable option” (30%).
  • Feeling their employees “do not have the right skills” (20%).
  • Owners are “in a hurry to get it done” (20%).

The TAB study also found that owners could benefit from outsourcing specialized tasks. However, 44% of the study’s respondents say they’re either “somewhat” or “very unlikely” to outsource work to independent contractors. When asked to provide the main reason for not outsourcing, the study found that:

  • 19% say they can’t afford to outsource.
  • 18% are afraid an outsider can’t do the work properly.
  • 13% are concerned the quality of work would be sacrificed.
  • 12% prefer not to lose control over the work.


The last three reasons for not outsourcing are further indicators of entrepreneurs’ reluctance to delegate. The first reason, however, shows a lack of understanding of the outsourcing market.

There is a large number of sites that cater to outsourcing, including auction-style sites that have users compete for the lowest bid, testing sites that allow you to see work before you pay for it, and others that feature entry-level or beginning contractors that can be had for cheap. The first step to productive delegation is knowing these and other outsourcing options.

The second is trusting your team and outsourcers to perform the job. Employees want to succeed and contribute to the growth of a business, and entry-level workers and interns are lower-cost options that are more than eager to jump into a career and help a small business. The training phases of these workers are also good opportunities for owners to develop trust, as they can witness their employees develop skills to handle tasks entrepreneurs were once reluctant to delegate.

If you find yourself swamped and overwhelmed with the responsibilities of entrepreneurship, the key to finding balance may be to lessen your role and place your business in the hands of your workers.


Bank of America: “Small Business Owner Report”

Yodle: “Small Business Sentiment Survey”

TAB: “New Survey Shows Work-Life Balance Is Possible but Not Likely for Entrepreneurs”