Balancing Act

Some years ago I heard a pastor struggle to express his frustration with countless versions of the apology “I’d like to (help with the food bank/teach Sunday school/attend Bible study…), but I just don’t have the time.”

“Brothers and sisters,” he said finally, “you come into this world with nothing, you go out with nothing, and in between you have time. Time is the only thing you do have.”

And so it is, but there is no end to juggling the demands on it. Here is what “balance” might mean for your business:

Work-life balance. The Wikipedia entry for “Work-life balance” notes that “The work-leisure dichotomy was invented in the mid-1800s.” James Buchanan was president, or maybe Franklin Pierce, so it’s nothing new but it does impact you, your team, and your ability to retain talent. I don’t know how Jim and Frank handled it, but it’s arguably harder to leave it all at the office when you have a smartphone in your pocket. And many today can choose to work remotely (translation: you’re always at work). Now more than ever, work-life balance is a matter of choice and discipline. Set priorities for yourself and what you want to offer your team, then stick to them them … unless you shouldn’t. More on that later.

Job function balance. You don’t have to be around long before you notice that people in different disciplines (say marketing, finance, engineering, and operations) tend to view the world differently. I often use a hypothetical yogurt company as an example: If they offer 147 flavors, custard style, Greek style, low-fat, nonfat, fruit at the bottom, fruit at the top, granola add-ins, and it comes in 6 ounce, 8 ounce, 12 ounce, and 16 ounce sizes, the company is dominated by its marketing people. If it’s all one gallon tubs of vanilla, blame the accountants or operations people. Take a hard look at your company for signs of imbalance before it becomes dysfunction. Your perspective should be that of the business as a whole, not your personal professional discipline.

Balance between customers (clients) and employees. It is essential to be customer focused, and we make it a priority. But you also need good people and sometimes they can be harder to find. Are you burning your people out in the name of serving customer demands, even those that aren’t reasonable? Or disserving your customers by low expectations of your team or lack of direction? You can do both things well but as soon as you do you’re at risk for getting out of balance. Watch for the signs before trouble begins.

Balance can be overdone. That’s right, you have to balance your balance along with everything else. Most priorities should not be set in stone and there are seasons when you have to fudge them or even set them aside for a time. Sometimes you have to borrow more cash than you’d like, work longer hours, build up inventory, hold back good people, or push forward with newbies. Balance is a means to an end, not an end itself. Get out of balance if you have to, just do it on purpose rather than from lack of attention.

Morrison offers specialized service lines to help root out imbalance before it becomes dysfunction. Whether it’s interim/outsource assistance with planning, finance, accounting, or management; “people solutions” for recruiting and organizational development; or grant assistance for major projects, we can help. We also partner with firms in marketing and market research, processing engineering, information systems, and other fields to offer comprehensive services for your business as a whole. We can help with the “balancing act” that is your business.

About the Author
Brent Morrison is the founding principal at Morrison. To get in touch with Brent, please find contact information for Morrison here.


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