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Sports artist Robb Scott shares some drawing time with his sons Griffin, 4, and Turner, 2, at his home in Greenfield, N.S. (PAUL DARROW FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
Sports artist Robb Scott shares some drawing time with his sons Griffin, 4, and Turner, 2, at his home in Greenfield, N.S. (PAUL DARROW FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

THE CHALLENGE

'I don't know how to stop working' after years of struggling Add to ...

Each week, we seek out expert advice to help a small or medium-sized company overcome a key issue.

After 10 years as a starving artist, Robb Scott is finally making a good living doing what he loves: drawing famous sports figures.

But the success of his business, Greenfield, N.S.-based Robb Scott Drawings, has come at a cost. He works around the clock and barely spends any time with his wife and two children.

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Mr. Scott does pencil drawings – sanctioned and autographed by each sports star — of icons such as Sidney Crosby, Michael Jordan and Bobby Orr. He’s about to get started on a portrait of Wayne Gretzky.

It takes him about two months to finish a drawing, and he then sells the limited-edition pictures – usually producing less than 100 for each star – for $400 to $1,700 apiece. He generated about $200,000 in revenue in 2012.

Mr. Scott is often away at events, such as sports memorabilia shows, where he tries to promote his products. When he’s home, he’s holed up in his office drawing, selling or pitching new business.

“I don’t know how to stop working,” he says. “I’m losing time with my children and my wife. Work has become the most important thing.”

Like a lot of business owners, Mr. Scott is always checking his smartphone or answering e-mail, even when he’s supposed to be off. His only vacation in the past two years took place in July, and it was a working one – he and his wife visited Bobby Orr on Cape Cod. He did take Christmas and Boxing Day off, but he was back to work the next day.

He has considered outsourcing some of his work, but he isn’t sure what to give up. He knows he could turn projects down, but after struggling for so long, he’s worried about slowing the momentum. Mr. Scott wants to know how he can be more efficient with his time. He now works from 9 to 5, and again from 7:30 to midnight. He’d like to put in eight hours and that’s it.

His problem is a common one among small-business owners: He can’t simply shut off, and his work-life balance is suffering. “I love what I do,” he says. “And I don’t know how to cut back.”

THE CHALLENGE: How can he spend less time working and more time with his family?

THE EXPERTS WEIGH IN

Barry Sharp, president of Vancouver-based AMA Management Consulting

In today’s world, you need to have a cellphone, but it’s important he get away from e-mail. I would recommend he get another cellphone, so he’ll have one for work and one for personal. Carry the personal phone in the evening and shut the other one off. When I started turning my phone off at 6:30, things got a whole lot better. It’s one of the best things you can do, to get away from the constant e-mail.

He should also hire a virtual assistant when he wants to go on vacation. It costs about $200 for the week – this person can take any phone calls or answer e-mail while he’s away. If it’s a new lead, then you can make an appointment with them. If it’s an existing client, the assistant can say you are away on vacation and will be in touch when you’re back. If I take my phone with me and answer calls, then how am I on holidays? This virtual assistant helps with that.

Charmaine Denton, owner and founder of Toronto-based Take Back My Time

He needs to delegate some of his responsibilities to other people. To find out what tasks to delegate, he needs to think about things he lacks the time to do, the things he lacks the expertise to do, and the things he lacks the desire to do. Those are the things that have to come off his plate.

He also needs to schedule time with his family. That might seem strange, but he needs to put it into a calendar, just like he would a business-development day. Spending time with family, that’s non-negotiable. Put it in the calendar and book everything around there. If it’s scheduled, he’s more likely to stick to it.

Steve Izen, co-founder of Vancouver-based Orderbot Software Inc.

I would work 24/7 if I could, but I have a business partner who tells me that I should take a break. I think Mr. Scott could find that type of person in an agent. He should get an agent for other reasons, too. The most important thing he can be doing is drawing. An agent can take care of the business side. He might make less per unit, but he’ll be able to get more work. The agent can also help him book more work in advance. Get booked out for the next five years and then chill out a little bit.

He also needs to network and collaborate with other artists more. That way his business won’t solely be driven by how much he can output. Networking will also allow him to see new ways that he might be able to approach what he does.

THREE THINGS TO DO NOW

Schedule family time

Put aside time in your calendar for your family. Stick to it, just as you would a business meeting.

Hire a virtual assistant

Pay someone to answer your calls and e-mails so you can take a work-free vacation with the family.

Find an agent

Let an agent take care of the business side, including drumming up more work with longer lead times.

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