We have only one life, but we live in three overlapping worlds—our business world, our family world, and our other social world. Imagine bringing your spouse and kids to a meeting with seven of your salespersonnel. Sitting off to your left, Miss Wright asks question on minds of all her fellow sales colleagues, “Why did you bring your family to our meeting today? Will they be playing any sort of role in our discussion?” You simply respond, “No, they’re just here so I can tend to their needs.”
Of course, this is a highly unlikely scenario. You don’t bring your family into work with you every day. However, Heather Howitt does. Howitt, CEO of Oregon Chai in Portland, Oregon, balances motherhood with her responsibility of running an eleven million dollar manufacturer of tea lattes. “Our office is a very casual place. We’ve got a family element going on here.”
Living in rain soaked city of Portland, 32-year-old Howitt often arrives at her office lightly splattered with mud. She often spends her lunch break taking her one-year-old son, Sawyer, to a nearby park, or to her nanny who takes him home. On other days, she simply places him in his crib in her office.
With growth of her company, Howitt hired some key executives including a chief operating officer to manage operations and finance. She also delegated sales calls that she used to make herself. “I used to come in at 6 a.m. and make calls nonstop,” she explained. “I don’t have to do that anymore.” Howitt positioned herself in a way so that she is no longer personally over-worked or over-challenged by her daily responsibilities at company. She balanced her business and private life. She not only recognized her strategic contribution to success of Oregon Chai, but she also appreciates her unique role in life of her young son.
As an entrepreneur or a business executive, you must give your best in two entirely different worlds. The needs of your business and needs of your family and friends compete for your time and attention. And both expect very best from you. Heather Howitt found one way to do it; you may have another way.
To enjoy both rewards of business success and family fulfillment, you need to constantly work to keep your balance. To successfully tackle challenges of a fast-growing company, you need all personal resources that come from a balanced life. “How do you develop a balanced business personality?”
Some entrepreneurial executives suffer from dangerous imbalance. Others achieve top excellence in maintaining optimal balance. “Early in my career, I use to think that entrepreneurship was more an art than a science, that it was a gift or something,” says Cherrill Farnsworth. “I don’t believe that anymore.” Entrepreneurial leadership is not some automatic personality trait or some artistic talent some people are just born with and others happen to lack. Instead, entrepreneurial effectiveness with a balanced life is a dynamic process that you must constantly work at. If you don’t keep developing and nurturing your entrepreneurial personality, it might just die. Then, only drastic action might revive that entrepreneurial spirit.
That’s exactly what happened to Sam T. Goodner. His software company, Austin-based Catapult Systems Corp., ranked 77th among fastest growing companies in America while Goodner served as founding CEO. At age 33, Goodner decided to step down as CEO of Catapult to take on new challenge of serving as CEO of Inquisite Inc., a Catapult subsidiary that sells software over Internet. But Goodner soon found his new digs to be “harsher, more spartan” than what he was accustomed to. “Half of it is actually under ground,” he explained, describing his much less attractive new office space.
But Goodner was not complaining. After all, it was his own idea to leave comfortable CEO position of Catapult with a staff of 115, to head Inquisite Inc., with only 20 employees. But now something was wrong. To be sure, there were plenty of challenges to attend to. The phone rang for his attention, paper kept filling “in” box, and email messages steadily came in from employees, venders, and customers. Every day, and every hour, urgent decisions had to be made, so much so that anyone in his shoes could have been overwhelmed by “tyranny of urgent.”
But increasingly, he felt like he was only reacting to demands and not taking a visionary proactive role any longer. And too often, long hours of work would crowd out what he’d prefer to do in his home and personal life. Even worse, he realized that even if he could experience any gratification in his personal world, it could not make up for what was missing in his business world.
“I had none of my entrepreneurial creativity left,” Goodner reflected. “I was falling back on what was easy. You know that’s happening when you start just going through your email all day long.” Recognizing that his former entrepreneurial spirit was gone, he resigned and hired a new CEO to head company.
Perhaps Goodner had already achieved financial independence and had other worthy goals to pursue in life. In that case, relinquishing his CEO position could be best decision to make. But could there have been another way to recover his entrepreneurial spirit with a healthy balance of attention to work, family, and friends?
Entrepreneurial functioning can range from low level, “You are personally over worked and over challenged”—to most desirable level, “You regularly implement action plans to improve every aspect of your life.”
The lowest level of functioning leaves your company endangered. Top management is personally over worked and over challenged. The unrelenting urgent matters of your business seem to demand so much of your time that you go to work earlier and earlier, and stay later and later into evening. You are like a runaway tire, rolling down a steep hill, turning faster and faster and faster until finally, you run out of control and then crash. “There must be a better way.” And you are right! There is.
“Over past three years, I’ve been able to identify gradually what things I can give to my CPA, or to my bookkeeper, or to my office manager. I read about people who work 60 or 90 hours a week and build multimillion-dollar businesses at expense of their health and family. Those aren’t success stories in my book. Success is having a multimillion-dollar business and other stuff, too,” says 40-year-old Tom Melaragno, founder of $7.6-million Compri Consulting, an IT consulting and staffing firm founded in 1992. Although he put in 12-hour days when he started business, today he works just 8 or 9 hours and makes sure he’s there to watch his two sons’ Little League baseball games in summer and coach older one’s football team in fall.
Taking a proactive stance means you take control to invest your life wisely. Scott Tinley is an extraordinary triathlete who has competed in more than 350 triathlons including 19 Hawaii Ironman triathlons. The triathlon is an endurance sport involving swimming, bicycling, and running. Amazingly, Tinley has won nearly 100 races. “This sport is about a combination of personal challenge, camaraderie, and achievement of self-knowledge,” Tinley explains.