Balancing your business and your life

By Bob Clements

With the season coming to its peak, many of you are discovering that you can finally find a little time to catch your breath and actually have lunch without being interrupted. It is a great time for you, as an owner, to spend a little time reflecting on your dealership and the impact it is having on your personal life.

I recently worked with a young man who was in the process of taking over the dealership that was started by his father. The father had contacted our company and asked us to help put together a process to assist with the transition. As I spent time talking to the son, it became apparent that he was not as excited about being involved in the dealership as his father was to have him involved. During the time we talked about the business and how he saw his role playing out, he said that he was not looking forward to “being married” to the business like his father was.

As we talked more and I asked about his involvement in the business while he was growing up, he looked down and told me that he spent every summer he could remember working in the business trying to help his dad and mom “make a go” of it. As we continued our conversation, I couldn’t help but think how sad it must have been to be a young man who felt like he was trapped into taking control of a business that had consumed both of his parents’ lives. I had lunch with his father, told him about my conversation with his son, and expressed my concern about how his son felt. He told me how hard it had been for both he and his wife to try and run the business and to also have family time and that he did the best he could. I assured him that I knew everything he had done had been to give his family the best he could offer, but also let him know that his passion for the business was not his son’s passion and that once the son took over the business, it would be on its way to failure unless some drastic changes were made.

As we continued our lunch and our conversation, the father talked about the challenges he had faced as a small business owner — the constant struggle with capital and cash flow, the battle with finding and keeping good employees, the early mornings and the late nights trying to keep up, and the lack of balance between his business life and his personal life. Sound familiar? When we finished our lunch, I asked the father if he would be satisfied if his son followed the same path in business as he did. He looked down, shook his head “no,” and said that was last thing that he wanted for his son. When we got back to the dealership, I sat down with both the father and son, and laid out a plan to help them seize control of their dealership and balance in their lives.

Get honest with yourself

I know for a fact that most dealers have struggled or are currently struggling with these same or similar issues, especially that of finding the balance between the dealership and their personal life. In talking with dealers and their spouses, they all give me reasons for the lack of balance and low satisfaction they have from their business. Whether it’s too much work to do, too many bills to pay, needing more income for the family, or not enough employees, there is always a legitimate reason to continue with the insanity that they live in every day.

Keep in mind that any or all of these reasons may be true, which leads dealers to find it difficult to manage the two sides of small business — balance and success. Think about yourself. How often do you struggle with working longer hours than you know you should? How many times did your family try to pull you away from the business the past month? Take a moment and count up the actual hours you have spent working in your dealership in just the past week. As a small business owner myself, I understand that there is always the temptation to do a little more — work a little harder, talk to one more person in hopes of solving one more problem — but at some point we all have to get ourselves back in balance.

Don’t tear yourself apart

As you look at balance in your dealership, you know that you have three specific profit centers — service, parts and wholegoods — that all have to work together like a finely tuned engine. If one part is out of balance, then the rest is thrown off and the engine not only doesn’t run properly, but it will eventually tear itself apart.

Just as you have to work on your dealership to keep it in balance, you have to spend some time working on your personal life to get it back in balance. What value is there in having a business, if in the process of working to make it successful, you destroy your family, your health, your spiritual life and your finances?

Many owners overlook these vital areas of life in search of success, yet these areas are full of potential for sparking the creative, outside-of-the-box thinking that leads dealers like you to achieve even more. 

Assess your personal life

Before I ever try to help dealers improve their business, I have to spend time at the dealership making an assessment of where they currently are. The same holds true for your personal life. Before you go any further, grab a pen and rate how you are doing in each of the following areas on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being completely dissatisfied and 5 being completely satisfied.

Personal Growth
Spiritual Growth

Take a moment and look how you scored each area. Do you see any pattern in how you responded? What areas are you the least satisfied? What areas are you most satisfied?

If you look at the areas and feel like it’s time to make a change in your business life so that you can work on your personal life, following are four simple steps that will help you start moving toward a more balanced work life that will lead to the success you are working hard to achieve.

1. Start with an area that you would like to see some immediate improvement.  Take a couple of minutes and think about what would have to happen to have the score move up just one point. For example, if you scored yourself a “3” on “family,” what would you have to see happen in your family life to feel you could move the rating to a “4?” Don’t beat yourself up here. The purpose of this exercise is not to put you on a guilt trip, but to help you take a moment and focus on just one area of your life.

2. Write down just a couple of your thoughts on what you could do to move the rating up just one point. Choose one area that you are dissatisfied with and would like to see some immediate improvement in. On my Web site (, you can download a simple planner to help you with this process. In the planner, you can start working week by week on each area you want to improve on. The keys are to organize and focus on what really matters. By writing out a plan, you start to establish priorities for what you need to do and want to do daily. Your balance is found in tending to the parts of your life, but not always focusing on everything at the same time.

3. Tell someone about your goal and ask them to hold you accountable. Whether it’s a spouse or significant other, one of your children, a friend or your pastor, it’s important to let someone know you are working on getting your life in balance and ask them to hold you accountable for reaching your goal. It’s easy to make a promise to yourself, but more difficult to follow through unless you know someone is holding you accountable to reach your goal.

4. Repeat the first three steps in another area. Like most worthwhile things in life, creating balance between your business and your personal life is a process that will always have room for improvement. The key is that you can get your life in balance by taking small steps every week and committing yourself to success in your personal life.

Keep in mind that it’s only natural when you run your own business to be passionate and want to spend a lot of time on it. And that’s okay. But if you live an unbalanced life, you will eventually experience feelings of guilt, failure and emptiness. Just remember to take a step back once in a while and remind yourself that there is more to life than work. 

 Bob Clements is the president of Bob Clements International, Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in the development of high-performance dealerships. His organization works hands on with dealerships throughout North America, helping them attain the personal freedom and financial wealth all owners strive to achieve. For more information, contact Bob Clements at (800) 480-0737 or or visit his Web site at

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