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Is the great Australian lifestyle a great Australian myth?

Surprising results from the MYOB Business Monitor report this week, found that Kiwi business owners have a much more enviable lifestyle than their Australian counterparts, with a resounding 44% believing that they can maintain their ideal work/life balance, (compared with just 35% of Australian business owners) shattering the notion of a laid-back Australian workforce.

The survey also revealed that nearly half (48%) of NZ small businesses are run by an owner who is actively working to achieve a range of lifestyle goals, compared with only 40% of Aussie business owners. Our Kiwi counterparts were more likely to cite flexibility and freedom as key indicators of their business success, a refreshing change from the state of play being determined solely on profit and growth measures.

So why are we turning into a nation of work-a-holics?

Technology, for one. Thanks to iPhones, Blackberries, laptops, tablets, we’re moving rapidly towards a society that is connected 24/7. While technology might be making things easier for Australia’s two million small business owners, it’s also blurring the lines between work and personal life. Gone are the days when computers were turned off at 5pm every evening. Small business owners can sometime feel a duty to ‘just check that no urgent emails have come in’. It’s not uncommon to see laptops out at a café at lunchtime on Sunday, or from the sidelines as parents work through their children’s Saturday morning sports game. I’ve even received emails from a colleague, as they sat by the pool on holiday in Bali. While we’re becoming better at adopting technology and new processes, we’re losing our ability to set regular working hours, and more importantly, stick to them.

We’re also becoming more ambitious. People no longer embark on business ownership with the simple goal of setting up a comfortable lifestyle for their family. Most business owners, even the small ones have ruthless growth targets and grand plans for their company, no doubt spurred on from the start up success stories of the dot com era. It seems that we are a little blind to the reality of running a $200 million company – all we want to see is the gloss and glamour as the CEO swans around at conferences and events. Take a peek behind the doors and you’ll find 4am starts in the office and holidays spent away from family. A business turning over $1 million per year, if run well, can easily pump out earnings of 25%, giving you a comfortable $250,000 in profit to play with, while you still make it home in time for dinner with the family. How much money can you really spend? Building a comfortable, well-rounded lifestyle will far outweigh the benefits of working really hard and being really wealthy in the long run, a concept that seems to have fallen by the wayside.

Australia is known around the world as ‘the lucky country’ and hoards of migrants choose to make our fair land home every year. So let’s not disappoint them. Let’s start prioritizing work/life balance, time with family and friends, and embrace the notion that we don’t need great big wads of cash and a fancy suit to be ‘successful’. Let’s start thinking like our Kiwi cousins, and strive for flexibility and freedom. And let’s resurrect the long standing Australian tradition of knocking off early on Friday for a few beers down at our local. I’ll see you there.

Do you struggle to maintain a work/life balance? What other factors do you think are preventing Australian business owners from achieving their ideal lifestyle balance?

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Julian Smith

Julian Smith

Julian Smith is responsible for MYOB’s corporate affairs, government and public relations in Australia and New Zealand and is also New Zealand general manager. The qualified lawyer has spent much of his career at large multinationals in a range of senior legal, sales, marketing and customer management roles. Julian is a regular keynote speaker and business commentator and sits on a number of government and industry boards and advisory panels. Julian can be found on Twitter <a href="http://www.twitter.com/JulianTSmith">@JulianTSmith</a> or contacted via email Julian.smith@myob.com

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