Small-business owners find ways to enjoy life away from work


September 04, 1994|By Susan Hipsley | Susan Hipsley,Special to The Sun

Those who own and successfully operate small businesses -- and still have a personal life -- are good time managers. They have to be.

A study titled "Small Business in America" conducted by business academicians for Independent Business magazine concisely summarized how small-business owners allocate their time: "They do everything from financial management to sweeping up."

Then they go home, and like the rest of us, have to balance their checkbooks and do the wash.

As a result of managing so much, many of them have gained valuable insights into how to lead a relatively balanced life -- insights all busy people can learn from.

Lee Whitehead and Steve Appel have owned and run Nouveau Contemporary Goods, a furniture and specialty-gift store on Charles Street in Baltimore, for seven years. They doubled their floor space in July 1993 and opened another showroom in their store just last week.

"Business is up 112 percent over last year," says Mr. Appel. "And we are still the owners, administrators, salespeople and delivery men. We do it all with the help of one full-time person we hired just four weeks ago." Mr. Appel also worked a full-time job nights as a waiter until March and squeezed in getting married along the way.

When the store first opened, Mr. Appel says, he and Mr. Whitehead had no free time. They were crazed and dazed -- a natural state of affairs, according to Robert Brockhaus, director of the Jefferson Smurfit Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at St. Louis University in Missouri. "New business owners many times have limited financial resources available, and the owner is forced to do everything. That means long hours. There's not much they can do to avoid that."

The result is that small-business owners feel overwhelmed. "That's a common complaint, but it's brought on by the typical entrepreneurial personality," says Mr. Brockhaus. "They tend to want to have a great deal of control over things."

But smart business owners, once over the hump of start-up, channel that need to control into enhancing their personal lives. Says Mr. Appel, "We decided to open [the store] at 11 a.m. so we'd have time for ourselves. Now I use the morning to work out, play tennis, have coffee with a friend. My wife and I take day trips on Sundays sometimes. They make me feel like I've been away for a week." Mr. Appel has learned not only to make free time, but to make it work for him.

Sascha Wolhandler, owner for 14 years of Sascha's Catering in Baltimore, says, "It's important to be aware of time, how precious it is."

Ms. Wolhandler is known as Baltimore's caterer to the stars. She's served the stars and crews of films such as "Serial Mom," "He Said, She Said" and "Men Don't Leave," and fashioned the food presentations that moviegoers see on the tables in some of those films as well. She employs a staff of six, works erratic, long hours and is married. But she still finds down time.

She walks to work ("It's very pleasant along the harbor"), does not have a car phone ("I listen to Vivaldi in the car") or a home answering machine ("I'd just have to return calls"). Her walk to work is her combination exercise and meditation time. Ms. Wolhandler also takes piano lessons and monitors a course occasionally at Johns Hopkins University.

Rudy Lewis, chief executive officer of the Small Business Network, a provider of management and marketing services for small-business owners in Baltimore, says his successful clients learn a critical lesson early on. "Most of them come from the work world where somebody else has always managed their time." In other words, work time and personal time were clearly separate. "Then they become business owners and have to learn how to structure their own time."

Those who are happiest, says Mr. Lewis, are those who stop reacting to situations and take command of their own time -- which is a good course of action for anyone who wants a balanced life.


Have you developed a time-saving technique you think could help others? We'd like to hear about it. We will share reader tips and offer some solutions to your professional, home or leisure time-management problems. Please leave your name, city of residence and daytime phone number when you call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call (410) 268-7736; in Harford County, (410) 836-5028; in Carroll County, (410) 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6220 after you hear the greeting.

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