Brokering a new lease on life and business

When your business starts to overtake the rest of your life, you can throw in the towel or, like Tim Leonard, principal and founder of Mortgage Choice Bayside, you can re-evaluate your business process to rekindle your passion and rebalance your life priorities.

Trying to balance work and life is a difficult task, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Tim shares his experience of reaching the point where his passion for business started to die, and how he approached breathing new life into his company while simultaneously finding a better work/life balance

Going from solo to duo

For 11 years, Tim says he slogged it out as a one-man-band, doing virtually everything in his business by himself.

“I've never had an employee, so those figures are done on my own back, and it's been 11 years now running a business like that — which is pretty crazy when you think about it,” he says.

With the pressures of working alone finally getting to him, Tim decided to hire a personal assistant.

Tim Leonard, Mortgage Choice BaysideEven though he had ample space to facilitate her, bringing a new person into his business was a daunting reality, admits Tim.

“[My wife Karen and I] built a home for ourselves two and a half years ago, and it actually has a separate, self-contained office, which is two offices, a meeting area, a kitchen, and a bathroom, and it's completely separate access to the rest of the house. So it reads as a real office, but I'm going to share that space with another person now,” he says.

“There's also the financial commitment to pay someone an income and their super and all their benefits. Then it's also the scary part of having to change as well ... you think, ‘Well, I'm going to have to do things differently,’ and that can be difficult for someone like myself who's been set in their ways for so long.”

Bringing the work/life balance back from the dead

Last year, Tim felt something that every business owner dreads – a lack of passion for his business, which bled through to his personal life.

“Was I exercising towards the end of last year? No. I hadn't exercised for about eight months, whereas exercise had been a big part of my life, and that was because of energy levels and the motivation to do those things had fallen away,” he says.

While Tim felt confident in directing his business by himself, going it alone was strangling both the work and leisure out of his life.

“You find as a business matures you're doing a lot more maintenance ... and that can really drag you down, so I got to that point where I thought, ‘Right, I'm not exercising, I'm losing the passion for the business,’” says Tim.

“I will say that it wasn't getting to a critical level; it had certainly fallen away and I knew I couldn't grow anymore so I just thought, ‘Bugger it. We've got to do it. We've got to go and employ someone and move toward the next step.’”

Working on the work/life balance

“I don't want to be in a position where my kids think I'm not so nice, and if I'm being a great support or a great father to them, that's way more important to me than my business,” Tim shares.

“My business is just a channel for me to financially support my family, give me something to do over the next few years of course, but in the end the most important thing to me is my kids and my wife and family.

“In the end when my business is done and dusted, I would like to think that I have got a rich amount of kids and grandkids around me who think I'm pretty nice.”

While his kids are important to him, equally as important is his relationship with his wife, which Tim admits is difficult to juggle with his business.

“You might have achieved a few things in regards to satisfying clients or doing what you need to do in the business, but then you've got someone on the outside who could be your wife or your kids and you're thinking, ‘I probably really should have gone to that basketball game,’ or ‘I really should have taken Karen out for lunch today as I planned,’ but I turned around and said, ‘Look, I can't go. I've got to get this deal finished’,” says Tim.

One way Tim has tried to combat against surmounting work was to bring Karen into the business to lend a helping hand, but only when it fits into her schedule of being a mum.

“Karen's role ... always has been first and foremost to be a mum, … but Karen spends some time in the office and what she'll do is she looks after the books, so she looks after all the tax, pays all the accounts, keeps that side of the business running while I do the client face-to-face and process loans,” he says.

However, with both Tim and Karen’s priorities set to being a parent first, trying to delegate tasks sometimes just did not happen, increasing Tim’s workload.

“In an ideal world … I can hand a file to Karen and say, ‘Right, now you process it, get all the data entered then bring it back to me. I'll check it and submit it,’ but it just doesn't work like that because sometimes you've got to get a deal in and she's not around ... and then you fall into that trap of then doing it yourself all the time,” he explains.

This is where Tim admits that having a full-time employee really proves valuable to the workflows of the business as well as to the stress levels of you as a business owner.

“She'll just be there and we'll be able to get a really consistent consistency in the business and a consistent process, which I must say I've never really had,” Tim says.

Fast facts

Business name: Mortgage Choice Bayside

Location: Melbourne, Vic

Established: 2005

Industry: Mortgage brokering

Employees: 2

Tim's original interview was conducted with My Business' sister publication, The Adviser.

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