When I was in sports broadcasting, it was not unheard of for me (or my peers) to put in 16- to 18-hour workdays. When you are in the sports industry, long hours are part of the package. Football coaches do it; baseball general managers do it; your top-level players (like quarterbacks) do it; even the interns do it. We would eat at the ballpark. Exercise at the sports complex. Sometimes we would shower or take a power nap at the facilities. So, I’d show up at the ballpark at 8 a.m. and work until well past midnight. I never thought it was right or wrong, it was just expected.
When I switched over to pest control, it was tough for me to adjust. My wife would get upset with me because I would leave for the office at 5 a.m. and not come home until 6:30 or 7 p.m. When I started my own company, I worked whatever hours were needed. Now that I am settling into the position of “owner” and letting others do a lot of my work, I’m starting to ask the question, “What is the proper amount of hours an owner should work each week?”
Clearly, there is no perfect answer. I know a business owner in Arizona who works six to seven hours a day, Monday-Friday. There’s another owner I know from California who travels … a lot. I have a Facebook friend in New York who is crushing rat jobs for 12 hours daily.
I’ve actually been cutting back my hours a little. These days, I usually wake up at 5 a.m., show up at the office at 6:15 a.m., and try to leave at 4:30 p.m. (Funny side note: The reason I’m leaving each day at 4:30 p.m. is so I can hit the gym before dinner. I’m going on a cruise soon, and I want to look good — as good as a 49-year-old, Taco Bell-loving dude can look.)
Figuring it out
Just as there is no clear answer to this question of how many hours an owner should work each week, there also is no correct answer. Only you, your family and your company can decide what is right. To help me evaluate my situation, I broke up this topic into two categories. Just like a SWOT analysis — see my column “Develop a plan to be successful” — I’ve listed the most important aspects for each argument:
Reasons for reducing WORK hours
- You have a trustworthy person helping you run operations. Having a good “right-hand-man” is like waking up to Christmas morning, every morning. Not only does this person shoulder some of the responsibility, but he or she can run the operations for you when you’re not there.
- The time is right for your family. Because our son Trey attends The College of Wooster in Ohio (aka The Fighting Scots), my wife and I like to travel to visit him. I recently pulled out my kilt and wore it at his swim meet. Our high school son, Caleb, also is involved in sports, so I try to leave work early to watch his games. We went on a family vacation to the Florida Keys last year. This year, we are taking a cruise to Belize.
- You’re getting closer to retirement. I don’t fall into this category yet, but for some of you out there, maybe you’ve put in your 30 to 40 years and you want to retire — or at least pull back a bit.
- You need to reduce your stress level. Deadlines, emergency jobs, upset customers, crawling in attics or on roofs — we work in an industry that can age you fast. If you are stressed at work, take some time off and evaluate your situation.
- You’ve reached your goals. Some people are lifers and want to work until they die. I want to retire or sell some day. I’m not there yet.
Reasons against reducing WORK hours
- Your company isn’t in a good place yet. Your company still desperately needs your leadership.
- You love what you do. If you’re happy working 12 to 14 hours per day, then do it. Some people thrive because of their jobs.
- Your job is your hobby. Some people like scrapbooking or stamp collecting or counting the pieces of gum stuck to the underside of the tables at a mall’s food court. You like running your company. Good for you.
- Finances. You have to work because you can’t afford to add an employee.
- You don’t have a right-hand person helping you. This is a big problem for me. I’ve got some really good employees, but nobody who can step into my shoes yet.
- You have not reached your goals. When I started my business, I sat down and came up with goals for my little bug empire. Once I hit those goals, I would love to step down. But as noted before, I’m not there yet.
At the end of the day, I love my company, my clients and my staff. Working 10 to 12 hours per weekday or Saturdays (no Sundays at Schopen Pest Solutions) doesn’t seem like a burden to me. I hope you feel the same, but if your company runs smoothly with you working fewer hours, it’s your business — literally.
Schopen is owner and founder of Schopen Pest Solutions, McHenry, Ill. You can email him at email@example.com or reach him via Twitter: @schopenpest; Instagram: @peteschopen; or Facebook: Schopen Pest Solutions, Inc.