BY Neil Kirby, Founder of The Red Rubber Ball Company

It’s often thought that if you run a successful business, this has to be at the expense of your personal life. “You can’t run a growing business without some sacrifices”, we tell ourselves. But surely the point is to have a business that gives you the life you want?. Yet many entrepreneurs and self-employed people lose sight of this and find their health, relationships, wealth and happiness suffer. I believe that it is possible to have both a life and a successful business. It’s all about how you think about your life and your business - choice and responsibility; passion; vision; action; and accountability. So here’s a ten-point plan to get you running your business, not the business running you.

Choice and Responsibility

The current life you have (and the business you have) is a result of the decisions YOU MAKE. That’s how you got to where you are today. Your decisions created your life. It’s the same with your business; how you lead, think, behave, all has an effect. You set the tone for everyone else from your staff and customers, to your suppliers.

So the first point you need to understand is that if your business is to grow and change, you must change first. The way you behave sets what is and isn’t acceptable. How you think and feel is not random, but nor is it fixed. Start to be specific about how you will behave, the things YOU WILL and will not do - and make this clear to everyone. That way you’ll really know whether you’re keeping to it and whether you’re leading by example.

Secondly, (and this is one that most people who run their own businesses fail to recognise), it’s not your job to do everything! Just because YOU CAN, doesn’t mean you should, or have to. Just because you think you can do it better, doesn’t mean that you have to either. Write down which of the things you currently do can be done by someone else, so you have time for more important things. Pick one and delegate. Remember to brief and encourage them so that they can do it as well as they can, and check how they’re doing. You must also want them to succeed... So help them to get good at it, because you’re the one who’ll benefit the most.


Passion is the energy that drives any successful business or venture. So make sure you have passion for what you do. And just because you start to not spend every waking moment thinking about your business, it doesn’t mean you are any less passionate about it. In fact, freeing up time to think more clearly and reflectively about your life and business can result in those Eureka moments and better decision-making. So do you want to be passive in your life and in your business or have real passion for your life and your business? You decide. And remember if you start to do more of the things you enjoy, you’ll do them even better!

Are you a slave to your business at the expense of your personal happiness or relationships?

So thirdly, think about your life and how you spend your time. When are you the happiest, most excited? Make a list. Are you doing these things as often as you’d like? A simple “yes” or “no”. Do they form part of your business life in any way? If not, how can you bring your passion to work? How can you find ways of doing things that interest and excite you?

Number four: what about the things you’d love to do, but don’t currently have time for? More time with family, with friends, maybe sport or just to read and relax? And what about the things you’ve never done, places you’d like to visit or see? Decide first on the lifestyle, then gear your business around it. Too often we sacrifice our life, our time, to build a business so that one day we’ll do the things we want to do. Remember your business is there to give you the lifestyle you want.


Build your business around your life, rather than compromise your life for your business.

Vision gives you direction, so you can prioritise and decide what you want to do next. It makes sure that you do the things that will make the biggest difference to your life and your business. So step five, take a blank sheet of paper and write down how you want YOUR LIFE to be - a “bucket list” effectively. What you want to be doing, who with. Just jot down your thoughts as they come to you then ask your partner/children to do the same. Compare the lists, what do they have in common? What’s most important to you and your family? Some may be personal, some together. Decide which you can do this year and set timescales for others.

Six; think what your business would have to look like for you to have the life you want? What will it be doing, how will it generate the profits you want, where will it operate, who will be doing what? In the age of technology and travel, we now have the freedom to operate businesses in a multitude of ways.


Dreams will just stay as dreams unless you take consistent action and do whatever it takes. Seven, is to start living it now. Not living beyond your means (that’s how we had a worldwide recession), but start thinking and behaving the way you want to be — now. If there are things that you hate doing, get in the way, or cause a problem, get someone else to do them!

Point eight, “failure” is essential for success. It’s from experimenting, taking a risk, that we learn, do things differently and ultimately succeed. We find out what works and what doesn’t. We find out how far we can take things. Prepare as well as you can to give ourself the best chance of success, and if things don’t work out, learn from it and keep going.


If you’re accountable you will do the things that you say you’ll do. By being consistent, you’ll get different and better results. So number nine is, make a public commitment to something on your bucket list. Once you start telling people you’re going to do something, it raises the stakes and your commitment.

And last but not least, ten, get an accountability buddy — a friend, colleague or mentor who you check in with regularly to see if you’ve done the things you’ve said you’ll do. Remember it’s your responsibility and they’re helping you.

These are 10 things you can do to start having a life, not just a business. So go on, make a start today.

About The Author

Neil Kirby is a founder of The Red Rubber Ball Company, a professional coaching company built around the life he wanted to live. Working with owners and directors, has personally coached over 500 business people.

At the same time he seeks to develop our future leaders through business and schools programmes. And he set up The Red Rubber Ball Foundation to encourage and educate young people in the UK and across the world to take a lead in their own lives.

Prior to becoming a professional coach, Neil gained a degree in Economics at Manchester University and qualified as an accountant. He also worked abroad extensively, primarily in West Africa on projects for Shell, Guinness, national Governments and the World Bank.

Living his mantra to have a life not just a business, Neil loves sport, is a keen traveller and enjoys skiing and scuba-diving. In 2010 he climbed Mont Blanc for the challenge and to raise funds.

You can find out more about Neil Kirby, Coach/Speaker/Author/Humanitarian at www.RedRubberBall.co.uk neil@redrubberball.co.uk http://twitter.com/redrubberballco