How MSPs can achieve a successful work life balance

| By:
Laurie Sorensen

People with an entrepreneurial spirit will go to great lengths to see their businesses succeed. But they are often left wondering if it’ll cost them their personal lives. 

Chasing work life balance is a familiar endeavor for much of the workforce, but is it a pipe dream? Can it actually be achieved? 

And when business owners aim to grow and scale their businesses, how do their lives outside of work fit into the equation?

Let’s explore what work life balance means for the managed service provider (MSP). 

The truth about work life balance

Here’s a secret: there’s no such thing as work life balance. More realistically, it comes down to managing the tension between the two.

Work is a fundamental part of our lives and what we spend a majority of our time doing, but it does not solely define us. 

Instead of striving for having both this elusive work life balance and MSP, focus on what you can do to manage tension. How are you prioritizing parts of your life that have significance to you, both from a professional and a personal perspective? 

Do you set daily boundaries so that work doesn’t completely take over your life?

Do you feel that you are successful in the way you’re managing your time and your energy?

How are you managing the use of your resources at work? 

What are you doing to rest and recharge outside of work? How do you carve out time for fun? 

These are questions that any business owner with a scaling strategy needs to be actively asking themselves and answering honestly. 

Prioritizing according to HABU

Successful entrepreneurs and fellow MSPs have learned many effective ways to manage their own tensions. One important strategy is prioritizing according to HABU.

HABU means “Highest And Best Use”. In the leadership realm, it refers to dedicating your time to activities that fall within your strengths and areas of expertise.  What is something that only you can do?  For example, your bookkeeper can bill clients; as the owner, only you wake up caring every day about building value into your company.  If we think about our HABU on the personal side, perhaps it brings up thoughts of parenting or of our marriage.  There are roles that are uniquely filled by us.

Basically, MSP and other business owners need to use their time wisely. If precious time spent does not result in driving your business or your life forward, is it worth spending time on? 

If you learn to prioritize things that are your HABU, you will begin to manage the tension between your work and your life. 

Being strategic about the things you lend your time and your expertise to is a powerful way to progress towards your goals. 

Without limitations, the boundaries between work and play become blurred. You’ll end up stifling your creativity and productivity and will be more prone to becoming burnt out because you’ll leave little room for necessary rest and recharge time.  

There will always be people, meetings, events, and activities clamoring for your attention.  Part of growing as a leader is learning to discern the important from the urgent.

One of the greatest benefits of our IT Nation Evolve peer groups is that it forces business leaders to spend two days a quarter devoting themselves to their HABU.  They get away from the urgent daily fires to spend time with other leaders working “on” their business and lives rather than working/living “in” them.

Set clear goals

Another important aspect of managing your time and the tension between your work and life is to be clear and intentional about what you want to achieve. Setting goals can help you stay on track and determine what actually falls into your HABU. 

This is especially important to do when constructing your strategy for scaling. If you aren’t sure why you want to scale or what your desired outcome is, you’re probably going to find that your time is devoured by your work. The reality is that our work will expand to fill whatever time we will give it. We are never “done.” 

As a business owner, you want to think about your end goal. What is the purpose behind your desire to start a business? What type of business are you trying to build? What do you envision your family, career, and future to look like? What is the legacy you want to leave behind

Putting together a strategy to grow and scale your business just because it seems like the right thing to do might work, but it’ll be mostly by accident and because of luck. 

If you are strategic about leading your life with your legacy in mind, that will also help you stay on the right path and will dictate what you say yes and no to. 

Of course, deciding what you want to leave as your legacy is challenging. Peer groups like those found in IT Nation Evolve can introduce you to like-minded MSP owners who are also working to build a legacy. Consulting with others and being coached on how to take your business and life to the next level can make a significant difference in your profitability and your ability to scale. 

Being an entrepreneur and business owner is challenging. There’s no linear path to success or magic formula that allows you a 40-hour work week plus plenty of freedom. You have to learn to rely on processes rather than people. Implementing really effective habits such as knowing your HABU and strategically saying no can help you be a happier and more productive business owner and person in general (and can help you avoid 100-hour work weeks that many MSP owners are all too familiar with). 

Learning to be strategic and setting a clear plan are essential before anyone can grow or scale their business. Even moreso, they will help you to manage the tension so you can look back from retirement someday and feel satisfied that you were intentional in building the legacy you desired in both your work and your life.