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Farida Yahya: How to Separate Yourself from Your Business

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As startup founders, we tend to blur the lines between our personal and professional life. While this stems from the need to make the business work at all costs, it could create a conflict of interest.

Your business is not you, and you are not the business – they are both separate entities and should be treated as such. You own and control the business, but you are not the business itself. You are just like an employee who plays a role in the business.

Separating yourself from your business simplifies the business operations and makes it easier to manage your finances. It also helps you to create a healthy work-life balance.

Here are four ways you can separate yourself from your business.

Avoid naming the business after yourself

When you sit to brainstorm name options for your business, the first thought that naturally comes to mind is to use a blend of your name(s), and understandably so – it’s your brainchild, and you may feel the need to be territorial.

However, naming your business after yourself isn’t such a great idea. When you do such, you unconsciously create an impression that you are one with the business. With that single identity, it becomes difficult to isolate the business owner from the business. When things go wrong, aggrieved customers attack the business owner, instead of the business because there is no clear distinction.

Unless you’re running a personal brand, it’s best to play safe by giving your business a neutral name.

Don’t mix personal and business money

In business, certain things don’t mix well. One of such is your personal and business finances. If you don’t separate your finances, it becomes increasingly difficult to account for the cash flow in your business. It creates room for indiscipline and mismanagement of funds.

Believe me when I say your business has a better chance of growing and scaling when you separate your business money from your personal money. Open a separate bank account for your business. Pay yourself a fixed salary like every other staff of the business. Once the money runs out, wait till the next payday. This will help keep you in check, so you don’t dip your hands into your business funds at will. Managing your financial records and taxes will become easy. You may not know it now, but it also protects your personal assets in the event of liquidation.

Set up a time structure

While most employees work 9-5, most business owners work round the clock. It’s more common among remote businesses. While this may paint the picture of a hardworking entrepreneur, it is the perfect recipe for burnout. You need to make out time to live a little.

For the sake of your sanity, create specific work hours for your business which includes a fixed start and close time. Whether you work from home or have a physical office, do all you can to adhere to the schedule. That means no work calls or tasks after work hours.

You can create a realistic to-do list and time audit to help you keep track of time. This way, you are not just busy but productive. Sometimes, it’s okay to work extra hours, even employees do that, but it shouldn’t become a norm. You need to know when to take a break.

Create a dedicated workspace

When starting your business, you may not have the funds to rent office space. Thus, your home becomes your workspace, but it doesn’t help if you litter the entire house with work stuff. Create a dedicated workspace where you can get down to business. A dedicated workspace eliminates distractions and helps you stay organised. You can convert a spare room, empty corner, closet, or garage into your home office.

At first, it may not seem like a big deal. But over time, your inability to create a distinction between yourself and your business may impede your business growth. Owning and operating a business is hard enough. You can make the journey easier by compartmentalising your work life and creating necessary boundaries.

Farida Yahya is a 2021 Mandela Washington fellow, an author, Start-up coach, and social entrepreneur with over 10 years working experience in the media and development sector.  Farida Yahya is the 11th President of MWFAAN (Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni Association of Nigeria), a leading network of over 500 young leaders across Nigeria's 36 states and the FCT who are Alumni of the US state department's Mandela Washington Fellowship across the business, civic and public management tracks. She also founded the Brief Academy, a learning hub dedicated to developing and supporting female-owned startups to achieve wealth and scalability.  Farida is also the author of Redefining Beautiful, a book that discusses the realities of starting a natural hair business. You can connect with Farida Yahya on Instagram via her personal page @thefaridayahya