The key to a work-life balance: identify your priorities

One of the first things startups need to figure out is a legal structure. Serial entrepreneur and founder of Nellie Akalp is helping startups and small business owners protect, manage and keep business in compliance with all their legal requirements.

Akalp started her incorporation filing service with her business partner of 16 years and husband Phil. In 1997 the couple started their first business, an online legal document filing service, in their apartment after purchasing a $100 domain name. They worked tirelessly to grow that venture, and soon it started bringing in $1 million a month in sales. In 2005, Intuit acquired the company for $20 million.

But they only retired for a short while before they decided that they were ready to start a new venture in 2009.

“We looked at the marketplace for incorporation filing services at the time and no one was offering a service that really benefitted their clients in the way I would want to engage with small business owners,” says Akalp. “That’s when we decided to create a niche for ourselves and started during the height of the recession.”

Here’s what she shared with us:

I was born in Tehran, Iran, and I immigrated here in 1976. I met my husband Phil Akalp in college in 1994. We were in our last year at Cal State University of Northridge and we realized that we both wanted to apply to law schools. Unfortunately we didn’t make it to the same school but we moved in together. During his last year of law school, he came up with the idea of incorporating businesses online that eventually became our first company.

After we were acquired by Intuit in 2005, we decided to step down as entrepreneurs and focus on our three children at the time. As we were raising our family, we realized that retirement wasn’t really in the cards of us. In 2009 we came up with to assist new and existing business owner protect and manage their businesses.

Starting a business during the height of the recession wasn’t easy, but the reason why we stayed afloat during that time was because were very reactive. When we started, social media was really growing so we decided to create some awesome content and share across various platforms. We created a niche for ourselves through social media to establish our brand as experts on small businesses.

If your business wants to be successful, social media has to be a part of your marketing strategy. Without an effective social media plan these days, you might as well close your business. It’s not just enough to have it to run a business, but you have to use it in a way that engages with current and potential customers.

The key to having a work-life balance is making sure you know your priorities. One of my top priorities is having a healthy marriage with my husband, especially when it comes to running a business and co-parenting with him. Another one is making sure I’m happy and healthy, so I can be an effective leader, mother, business partner, and wife.  It boils down to being organized, planning ahead, and making sure I take time for myself as an individual.

I get to work with my best friend every single day, which is the most amazing thing I could ask for. Running a business with a spouse isn’t for everybody, but it works for us. We’re able to leave our egos off the table. If we disagree about a business decision, we’ll turn to mentors and other colleagues to get their advice. Even if they suggest something that goes against Team Phil or Team Nellie, we’ll always settle on the answer that is in the best interest of our business.

If you want to be successful, you cannot make success your goal. The key for anybody who is just starting out with a new business is to not worry about being successful, but to work towards being significant. If you have the vision, drive and determination, you can and will accomplish your goals. Even if you’re facing obstacles and challenges, you can overcome them. 

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