Shop Life Columnists

Prioritizing Family Time

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A thought occurred to me recently. 

Looking back on the last 20 years or so, I know that one decision made a world of difference in my life: if I hadn’t forced myself to create more family time, I’m guessing my life would probably be a lot less fulfilling than it is now.  

In the first few years of my career, I worked seven days a week. It was so bad back then that, even during times when my shop wasn’t open, I’d have customer calls forwarded to my cell phone. Every night, in the middle of dinner, I’d inevitably have to answer a phone call from a customer. I would often meet customers on Saturdays to provide estimates. The list goes on. 

Now, my work ethic is one reason why I’ve gotten where I have in this industry. But, I also had a 1-year-old son at that time, and my endless work weeks were taking a toll on my personal life. 

Fortunately, my family ended up going camping one weekend near that time, and we stumbled upon a little piece of property on a lake that was for sale. We ended up buying that. And, now that I look back, that purchase probably saved my marriage early on, based on the way it was heading. Because, at that time, cell phones didn’t work in that remote area around the lake. And, we made it a priority to go visit that property, and I wasn’t allowed to work during those visits.  

In the years since, I’ve certainly learned the value of family time. These days, these are the steps I take to ensure that I have quality time with my loved ones. 

End work days by a set time.
I have an agreement with my wife that I’ll be home by a drop-dead time of 7 p.m. So, my wife knows that, no matter what’s going on, I’ll be home no later than that. Don’t get me wrong, there are rare occasions where I break this rule, like if my shop staff has training, for example. 

But, in the past, all too often I’d get stuck talking to employees about their problems, and the next thing you know I’m coming home around 9 at night and I couldn’t even give my wife a heads-up. Nowadays, I no longer waste time like that, because everyone around me knows I need to be home by at least 7.  

Schedule vacation time well in advance. 

My loved ones now know that we’ll have at least two weeks a year dedicated to family time—around Thanksgiving and around the Fourth of July. During those times, it’s understood that I’m not going to be dealing with work (with a few very rare, and brief, exceptions). For the most part, family members have my undivided attention during those times.

Also, when I work on weekends now, I tend to let my kids—who are currently teenagers—sleep in. So, I tend to go to work early on a Saturday or Sunday and quickly get done what I need to address. But there’s an agreement between my wife and I that I’ll be home by 10 a.m. That way, if she’s making breakfast, she knows I’ll be home by that time at the very least. That preserves valuable family time each weekend. 

Remember your No. 1 commitment. 

It’s important to keep in mind, and stick to, what are truly your most important commitments in life. And can you think of any entity more important than your family? Of course not. 

I know there’s a lot of stress involved in operating a body shop, and the nature of collision repair makes it difficult to work a 9-to-5 schedule. But you have to figure out how to set aside dedicated family time. And, sometimes that can start with just a couple days a week, where you decide that, on Tuesdays and Thursdays you’ll be home by 5:30 p.m., and then build off that. 

You have to realize that, what’s going on in your work life is largely irrelevant to your family members. Yes, they want you to succeed professionally, but they also don’t really care that your painter just quit, or that an insurance company needs you to reply to an email soon. 

Ultimately, shop operators need to always be mindful of our personal commitments, and place those as high as any other commitments in our lives. 

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How I Did It: Creating Time for Both Family and Work

Budgeting for Family Time as a Shop Operator

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