How do you balance your work as a floral designer/business owner with your personal/family life?
Boy, did I ever struggle with balance in my life for the first five years of being in this business. I was raised by workaholic farmers and started working at the tender age of 5 on our family farm. Working has always been how I determined self worth and perceived “value”. So there’s always been that battle for me, no matter what job I’ve had.
Not only am I a full time florist, I’m also a full time farmer too so the demands on my time to keep the entire operation running smoothly always seemed overwhelming. I used to work 18+ hour days/7 days a week (no joke!), and my health and my relationships suffered severely. But I was so afraid that if I loosened my death grip on the steering wheel of the business even a little bit, it would all fall apart. Then last year my health really started to go downhill fast from stress and not taking care of myself, and I realized something had to change or I was going to end up in the hospital or worse. I also lost my grandfather in the height of the farming/wedding season and I suddenly was faced with the reality that I had to take a few days away to attend the funeral and I just had to “let go”. I remember driving away from the farm to go be with my family and feeling so dazed. I was aching physically, emotionally, and mentally. On the 3.5 hour drive to the funeral, I somehow sorted it all out in my brain. I don’t know exactly how, but I made some tough decisions for myself that day. I decided that my business had to work for me, instead of me working for it. If it couldn’t do that, then it wasn’t truly a “successful” business and it shouldn’t keep going.
I’m not saying I’m completely reformed, but I can say since last summer, my work-life balance has come into such better proportions because I made the mental switch to “let go” and to say “no” to projects/events/collaborations that I might have tackled in the past just because I was afraid of missing out. I also hired more staff and learned to delegate fully (versus before I would delegate but still linger and meddle instead of walking away and trusting my team). Yes, having the large overhead of a bigger team is daunting for a small business owner. But having that team has allowed me to grow the business because I have more time to think about where we are headed and also just more time to sleep and eat, which is amazing for increasing my own energy levels (duh!) and therefore helps me work harder/faster/better too. And instead of working at the farm until dark every night, I now force myself to shut the gate an hour earlier and go for a run instead. It can irk me sometimes to leave unfinished work behind, but I know that daily run is helping me manage the stress and keeping both me and the business on track. So I think part of my mental switch has been seeing things like eating lunch and going for a run each day as part of my business “to do” list instead of part of my personal life. It really stops me, rightly so, from feeling guilty about “not working” every single waking moment. Understanding how your own wellness is impacting the long-term success of the business can be a powerful tool for finding better balance if you’re a workaholic like me.
There’s so much more to be said about this topic, but it feels like that would be a book, not a quick Q&A. I can say that now my business does work for me, and it’s great! So it’s possible. Don’t give up!
Jennie Love (Love ‘n Fresh Flowers)
This is the question we all struggle with. My main business is not weddings so as far as possible, I try to keep “normal” office hours. Even if I’m working from home I “close” the computer or the photo studio approx at 4-5 pm. Of course I have to work late or weekends sometimes but then I try to make up for it after by finishing a little earlier the next day, making a nice trip/hiking/something with my fiancé. I don’t think this is the “right” way to keep the balance between work and family/personal time, but at least it works quite good for me…
This is the one thing that I have never quite managed! Many of us in this industry are truly passionate about what we do. For me there is very little separation between what I do and who I am. I live and breathe flowers every day and it is hard to balance that with a normal life. I am lucky in that my wife used to be a florist working in our business – she is now an artist so she understands the craziness of this industry as well as the creative process. This year as a family we are doing small things that make a big difference. For example, in spring I had a destination wedding 3 hours away. I was always going to stay overnight so my wife and kids travelled to the resort by train and we all stayed overnight together as a mini-vacation after I had set up the wedding. They also try to come to the studio to eat dinner with me once or twice a month if I am working late several nights in a row. We will continue to work on other things that will allow me to feed my creative soul as well as be an active member of my family!
Nick Priestly (Mood Flowers)
In all honestly because of the size of our studio I am not one who can honestly speak about balance. I am extremely driven and work 7 days a week. Because we are home based I do have opportunities for stolen moments or planned activities with the children. Because I am self employed we are always able to be present at activities at the school and for sports. When we were expecting our sixth child I did hire a nanny to be in the house with us each day. She sees to the children’s immediate needs. I am still in the house and present for emergencies or issues that come up but she is helping with the basics. Having a staff member assigned to the children and the laundry helped our studio grow significantly. Because the house and kids are under control I am able to focus on the business. In addition, my husband Evan is also a part of the studio and he works from home as well. Between the two of us the kids are tended to.
Holly Chapple (Holly Heider Chapple Flowers)
Well that might seem crazy, but I actually created my floral design business to balance my work/family life 🙂 I use to be an engineer and consultant in the medical devices industry. I use to work a lot, had my head full of technical projects, very intellectually stimulating, but that left no time nor energy for a family life. When I fell in love with flowers I did not think at once that I would one day live out of designing with them. In the beginning I was just doing it for fun. So when I decided to change my life and have a family, the flower project came together with my family project and both were thought as something going to evolve together. I therefore decided:
– Not to have a flower shop (opening hours not compatible with the family life I was looking for)
– Focus on weddings only (I do believe in high levels of specialization in all kinds of business not only flowers)
– Install my design studio and office in my personal house (I can work when I want, wake up and be in the studio 30 seconds later, this allows the highest level of flexibility and not to lose time in transportation)
– Plant specialty flowers (garden roses, peonies, dahlias, and beautiful annuals) in my garden as a plus for my customers. This might seem additional time taken from the family but this is in fact the opposite. We love taking time altogether in the garden and are very proud of our (tiny) achievement as growers.
– In general, think about family and business as a whole, and not as two separate worlds. They come together, they work good together, and I am not always trying to fight one or another, they are both my life, the one I chose for myself, and for now it works great.
Laetitia Mayor (Floresie)
Unfortunately, I don’t have any amazing helpful advice to give. I would love to answer this “Not very well at all” ..but that’s not very helpful. I struggle immensely with balancing all, there just is not enough hours in the day, especially with the (flower) growing, too. I envy those who have help of a business partner or a gardener or any help at all really. This job is not all sweet smelling roses (pardon the pun), it’s bloody hard work and tiring.
Jo Rodwell (Jo Flowers)
Flower images courtesy of Love ‘n Fresh Flowers