The Biggest Mistake Small Business Owners Make: Check Your Boundaries

April 3, 2023

As a small business owner, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that service means self-sacrifice. But in reality, prioritizing your own needs is essential to creating a sustainable business and providing the best possible service to your clients. In this blog post, I explore the importance of setting healthy boundaries, practicing self-care, and building a support system to prevent business burnout.

Confusing the ideal of service with self-sacrifice

Many ethical, conscious, compassionate entrepreneurs, including myself and my clients, are motivated by the ideal of service and making a positive impact in the world. We believe that by sharing our unique strengths and talents, creating excellent resources and going above and beyond with customer service, we are contributing to the greater good. This can take many different forms, from innovative, intuitive offerings that enhance people’s wellbeing, to teaching people new ways of seeing their existence and achieving their goals.

The problem is, we often forget to use our tools on ourselves! We get caught up in the misconception that service requires us to sacrifice our own needs and wants in order to prioritize the needs of others. This misconception can be especially prevalent among people who identify as healers or rescuers and those who are naturally caring and empathetic. However, losing sight of our own needs and boundaries can lead to exhaustion, resentment, and burnout, ultimately harming our businesses and limiting our ability to serve others.

To avoid this trap, it’s important to recognize that true service comes from a place of strength and empowerment, not self-sacrifice. By prioritizing our own needs, we have more energy and resources to give to our clients, which ultimately benefits everyone involved. This is why self-care is not selfish; it’s an essential part of being an effective service provider. When we take care of ourselves, we’re better equipped to serve others and make a positive impact in the world.

Setting and enforcing healthy boundaries allows us to protect our time, energy, and resources, enabling us to be fully present and engaged when we are serving others. This includes being clear about what we will and won’t do for clients, consciously choosing who we want to work with, as well as setting limits on our availability and workload. It also means being willing to say no to requests that don’t align with our values or goals. By ensuring we have strong boundaries that are aligned with our values and vision, we can prevent burnout, create a sustainable business, and provide better service to our clients.

The importance of boundaries & self care

Every business owner deserves to be taken care of – just as much as their client do. If you are the business owner, this is one of your professional responsibilities and part of your duty of care. You can’t give proper attention and advice to your clients if your own energy is depleted and you do not have a healthy work-life balance. Your ability to make confident, conscious decisions can be compromised and this is dangerous where clients are relying on you.

Prioritizing our own needs does not make us selfish. In fact, it makes us more effective as business owners. Taking care of ourselves first allows us to be more present, creative, and productive, ultimately enhancing our ability to serve others. This means setting aside time for self-care activities, such as exercise, meditation, or spending time with loved ones. It also means being willing to invest in our own personal and professional development, such as attending conferences or hiring a coach. By investing in ourselves, we can become better equipped to serve others and create a positive impact in the world.

This includes setting limits on the time and energy you are willing to invest in your business as well as learning to say “no” to unreasonable demands and expectations wherever they arise – and that includes any unrealistic demands and expectations you place on yourself. One way to do this is to establish clear boundaries around your work hours and workload. This might mean setting specific hours during which you’re available to clients or limiting the number of clients you take on at any given time. It might also mean being selective about the types of projects or clients you take on, so that you’re working on projects that align with your values and strengths.

Setting boundaries is no use unless you communicate them. This means being transparent about your limits and being upfront about any issues that may arise. Manage expectations in your marketing and legals so communication of your boundaries is automated. This also gives clients the confidence of knowing what you need – as well as knowing how and when it is reasonable for them to ask you about their needs. Even little things like setting office hours and communication turnaround times can make a big difference – especially if YOU respect your boundaries as well. If you say you don’t answer emails after 6pm, then turn off your notifications and do something to relax – don’t be tempted to cheat on yourself. By believing in your boundaries and communicating them clearly and consistently, you can ensure that you’re able to provide the best possible service to your clients, and avoid the kinds of misunderstanding that can escalate into conflict.

It’s important to remember that boundaries are not set in stone. As your business grows and evolves, your needs and priorities may change, and it’s important to be flexible and adaptable in response. This might mean rethinking your approach to self-care and personal development, or revisiting your workload and client base to ensure that you’re aligned with your values and vision. By regularly reassessing and adjusting your boundaries, you can ensure that you’re creating a sustainable business that supports both your own needs and the needs of your clients. It’s also an opportunity to check in with yourself and your business goals, and to make sure that you’re on track to create the kind of business and life that you want.

Lean on others. You are not alone.

Building a support system is essential to prevent business burnout. When you’re running your own business, it’s easy to feel like you have to do everything alone. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Having people who can cheer you on and give you a reality check when needed can make a world of difference. Whether it’s friends, family, or a business coach, make sure you have someone in your corner who can provide emotional support and help you stay accountable.

Delegating tasks is another important step in preventing burnout. It can be a big leap to trust someone else with important business tasks, but once you do, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without the extra help. If hiring an assistant isn’t feasible, look for ways to outsource or automate tasks that drain your energy and take away from your core strengths. Technology and systems can help streamline your workflow and free up more time for self-care and other important activities.

Making time for self-care is crucial for business owners who want to prevent burnout. This means setting aside regular breaks to recharge and connect with loved ones. It’s important to establish non-negotiable boundaries around your time off to ensure that you’re able to fully disconnect from work and focus on yourself. Whether it’s taking a day off each week, scheduling a weekend getaway, or planning a longer vacation, make sure you have regular, reliable breaks to look forward to. This will help release the build-up of stress, leading to improved health, positivity, and dedication to serve your clients in the best way possible. Remember, taking care of yourself is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.

I personally stop work early on Wednesday afternoons and play board games with my kids. Sundays are MY days – you will always find me in my hammock or easy chair with a book in my hand – and I don’t go near my desk or listen to anyone else’s demands on me for the whole day. I take two weeks off, twice a year, to either go on a mini-retreat or take the kids away on a road trip. I have learned to make this time off non-negotiable, because if I make a habit of neglecting it, I inevitably get sick the moment I do take the pressure off. Making sure I have regular, reliable breaks to look forward to releases the build up of stress so that I can be healthier, stronger, more positive and better able to serve my clients with the dedication that they deserve and I desire to give.

How I can help

Even the most proactive approach to setting and maintaining strong, healthy boundaries cannot eliminate all risks. Just as neglecting self-care can harm your business, neglecting risk management can leave your business vulnerable to a variety of threats. Castle Quest is an imaginative and intuitive program that provides positive, proactive risk management solutions tailored to the needs of ethical entrepreneurs. By investing in risk management, you can protect your business and ensure that you’re able to continue making a positive impact in the world. So, if you need help setting and maintaining boundaries, or you are ready to take your business to the next level of safety, I invite you to check out Castle Quest and discover how it can help you achieve your goals.

If you are looking for a DIY solution to building better boundaries, you might like to explore my free mini course – Setting Intentions with Integrity.

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