Meet Galen Herbst de Cortina, the founder of Buff Your Finances. He’s a financial planner who works primarily professional video gamers. Many of his clients start gaming as a hobby (without ever expecting to make it into a business) so when they do, he steps in to help.
One of the most important pieces of advice that Galen gives his clients and other new entrepreneurs is this: treat learning and self-care as an investment in your business.
One analogy I like to use is this: ‘If your company printed T-shirts, you would do a lot to make sure your t-shirt printing machine stayed really well tuned and maintained. If there was a new, better printing machine coming out, you might figure out a way to acquire it, right? As an entrepreneur, it’s your brain that you’re working with. As far as I know, we are not able to acquire a new version of our brain so it’s important to care for the one you have.
This advice is especially important for entrepreneurs whose main product is their time, talent, and knowledge (like Galen and his clients) but it’s true for almost everyone. Read on for Galen’s take on why self-care and personal development are the best investments that you can make in your business.
- How investing in yourself can help your business financially
- How self-care and development can protect your business from failure
- Learning how to build self-care into your workday
- How to create an effective self-care regime
How investing in yourself can help your business financially
In addition to being a Certified Financial Planner, Galen also has an MBA and he’s got a strong understanding of how to get a business running successfully and profitably. So, let’s start with the economics: how can self-care and personal development help you make more money?
Many large and successful businesses have recognized that investing in their employees will pay off. This lines up with Galen’s experience:
My first employer out of college was Epic, who’s the largest manufacturer of electronic medical records in the U.S. When you start working at Epic, your first three months or so are all training—you aren’t doing any productive work for them. That’s because they want to make sure that once you do start producing, it’s high-quality and effective work.
Employers know that employees—their talents, skills, and energy—are vital to the long-term financial success of their business. As an entrepreneur, however, you’re exponentially more valuable to your own business.
Most of Galen’s clients build their business by constantly developing their skills (which allows them to build an audience), while he builds his business by gaining more knowledge (which allows him to get more clients and command higher rates). As a result of all his experiences, he’s confident saying that “As a business owner, one of the smartest long-term Investments you can make is in yourself.”
How self-care and development can protect your business from failure
Entrepreneurship is hard, and unfortunately, a lot of small businesses aren’t successful. Personal development isn’t a magic wand that will make all the challenges disappear, but there are a few specific pitfalls that you can avoid with education and self-care.
Self-care helps you manage stress and avoid burnout
“A lot of people think that running a business means constantly hustling, constantly driving yourself. Yeah, there are some rare individuals that can do that but I don’t think that works for most of us,” says Galen.
Research shows that working too much can hurt your productivity and creativity. It can also prevent you from spending time with friends and family, or investing in your own personal development. It’s all too easy to spend every waking hour thinking about your business, but in the long run, consciously setting aside time to not work will make you more effective and productive.
Being educated and informed helps you set realistic goals
Galen says that one of the things that helped him the most during the first year of starting his business was having realistic goals and expectations.
Most businesses fail within their first two years, and when they do, it’s often not because the business is an abject failure, but because the business owner can’t feed themselves and the business with the cash they’re bringing in.
I had a lot of information about what is a reasonable expectation for profit and growth and so on. So, going into my first year, I knew that if I broke even that would be awesome. I had the expectation in place that it would suck for a while and I wasn’t this weird, one-off failure who couldn’t hack it.
Because he had this expectation, he set realistic goals, and he’d budgeted for a year or so with very little income, he was able to stick it out and keep building the business.
Education and self-care help you deal with the stressors you’ll face
Running a business can be uniquely stressful. You might have clients, customers, and even employees all relying on you. All the decisions rest upon you.
As an entrepreneur, you’re going to inevitably face challenges and stressful decisions. When you do, Galen says, building your skills will help you handle each problem, and self-care will allow you to stay calm and focused as you do.
Learning how to build self-care into your workday
It’s one thing to recognize the value that self-care and learning can offer, but making time for it on a regular basis is an entirely different matter.
Galen, as a financial planner, earns money by billing clients for his time. That makes the old adage “time is money” especially apt for him, and a lot of entrepreneurs in his position struggle with the fact that time off the clock seems like it would equate to less revenue. Here are a few strategies that work for him and his clients.
One thing that’s helped Galen fit self-care and personal development into his day is simply recognizing that it’s productive even if it doesn’t feel like “work.”
Remember self-care counts as work
It took me a while to recognize that going on a walk and listening to a financial planning industry podcast was actually productive work.
It feels like it’s a break because I like walking, and I’m interested in boring things like financial planning, so I’m enjoying myself. But then I realized I wasn’t giving myself credit—it felt like I was goofing off, but I was getting exercise, sharpening my mind, and learning more about my industry.
Use your time as efficiently as possible
Galen uses a variety of strategies to get his day-to-day work as efficiently as possible so he can focus the rest of his workday on coaching his clients and building skills.
I block off time for each task, and when I’m not working on it I don’t worry about it. For example, if I’m writing something for a blog I’ll set up a specific time in the week for writing. If I didn’t put that task on my calendar, it would kind of be in the back of my head bugging me.
I also work remotely, so I use a lot of technology to streamline tasks. For example, I live near Los Angeles and driving to local clients takes at least a half hour … often over an hour. Even with local clients, I do almost all of my meetings virtually and we all save time.
Focus on long-term goals
One thing I learned during my MBA studies is that if you’re thinking like a smart business owner, you’re thinking over the long term. Yes, you need to survive the short term (which can be hard, especially if you’re a new business owner), but you have to make smart long-term investments.
In the short-term, spending your entire workday on producing the maximum volume of work can earn you more revenue. In the long-term, taking some time to pursue your passions or hone your skills or simply unwind can make you a more productive, effective worker and leader.
How to create an effective self-care regime
The difference between investing in self-care and investing in a better T-shirt press (to go back to that early analogy) is that self-care is different for everyone and each person has to find a balance that works for them.
Another challenge, Galen says, is that effective self-care often isn’t intuitive or instinctual.
A lot of people don’t recognize that self-care itself is hard. It’s not an easy thing to do, and self-care isn’t the same as self-soothing. For me, having a beer or two with friends is good—sitting at home having six beers is not, right? But frankly, if I’m in a bad mood from work, I’m less likely to call up a friend and say “let’s grab a beer.” I’m more likely to sit at home and watch something on Netflix even though time with friends does a lot more to get me in a better mood.
His top suggestions for developing an effective self-care regime?
- Start with the basics: Although the nuances of self-care are different for everyone, there are a few elements that are almost universal, like getting enough sleep, staying active, and eating a reasonably good diet. Galen also includes a support network and unaccompanied mental space in the short list of universal essentials.
- Experiment and stay aware: When you try different self-care and relaxation activities and pay attention to the results, you will slowly learn which techniques work best to relax you when you’re stressed or energize you when you’re tired.
Galen also stresses the importance of relationships for entrepreneurs and business owners.
I have a really great wife, and she’s been so helpful. She’s my sounding board when I’m super stressed. When I have an idea rattling around in my head, she’ll listen and bounce ideas around. Sometimes she’ll catch me in a negative loop and be like “hey, let’s go on a walk.” Finding a partner, romantic or otherwise, makes a huge difference.
I’m also a member of three different study groups, and I have people who are in similar positions that I check in with regularly … partly for accountability, and partly just to talk with someone else who is in the same spot with their business.
As an entrepreneur and business owner, there’s a lot riding on you. The business’s success or failure depends on your vision and hard work. This is an overwhelming responsibility, and many entrepreneurs deal with it by working constantly to get ahead.
If you’re tempted to do this, remember that resilience, adaptability, and creativity are essential to the survival of a new business. Investing in self-care and personal development can help you cultivate these traits, ultimately making your business stronger and more successful in the long run. And, as a bonus, it will make you personally happier and more fulfilled … which is likely why you became an entrepreneur in the first place.