[This article first appeared on “5 Ways To Stay Sane When Launching A New Business” on Forbes and is written by Raquel Baldelomar, Contributor.]
If you plan on launching a business, work is going to dominate your world for the next few years. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a personal life and maintain your health. The phrase “work-life balance” is misleading. If you think of a scale, it’s only in balance for a brief second. As you add and remove items, the scale shifts from one extreme to the other. The same is true in life. You are never going to achieve a perfectly balanced scale between your work and personal time. Your time will fluctuate between the two and will likely shift from one extreme to the other. The key for entrepreneurs and business leaders is to integrate their work and life in a manner that leads to success on both fronts. Here are five strategies to build a successful business while maintaining a healthy personal life.
1. Establish a support system. Launching a business can be a lonely endeavor. It’s crucial to have the support of close family and friends. There is a reason that studies have found that people with a supportive romantic partner tend to have higher job satisfaction, better pay and more promotions. That person enables you to focus on work because he or she is handling the home front. While a support network is important for everyone, it’s vital for entrepreneurs.
Tom Villante was 30 years old when he cofounded YapStone, an electronic payment services company. He went from having a fairly successful career in private equity and investment banking in New York to a 300-square-foot office in Los Angeles. At the same time most of his friends careers were starting to take off. “There were more bad days than good days in the beginning,” Villante says. “I began to isolate myself a bit from my friends, as I would compare my situation with theirs, and wanted to avoid asking myself, ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ My wife and parents really became my main source of support.”
Villante adds that starting the business also brought he and his wife closer together. “Previously, I would share my work experiences primarily with my work colleagues and to friends who had similar jobs. In the very beginning I had no one else to talk to. She helped keep things in perspective for me,” he says.
2. Be realistic about your time commitments. Work will take over your life for a period of time when you’re first launching your business as well as when your business goes through any major change. Allen Miller, CEO of Los Angeles-based COPE Health Solutions, says the most important lesson he ever learned was when his wife told him not to lie about when he’d be home. Rather than saying, “I’ll be home soon,” and then arriving four hours later, Miller advises fellow business leaders and entrepreneurs to “just be honest if you will be late.” Miller has led COPE since its inception in 1995 as an all-volunteer community health education group through its incorporation in 2002 to its current form as a healthcare consulting company. “That lesson has served me well and, overall, points to having a healthy, open and honest relationship with your partner and family about what you need to do for work and how they can best support you and vice versa.”
Villante, who had his first child six months prior to starting YapStone, agrees. “I didn’t have time to think about work-life harmony. I was just focused on survival,” he explains, adding that he worked 90- to 100-hour weeks for the first several years. “I would wake up in the middle of the night with ideas and scribble them down for hours,” says Villante. He emphasizes the importance of having a very honest, open line of communication with your partner. “It not only helped my wife understand what I was doing, but added value to my work.”
3. Plan ahead family time. Finding time for family and friends as well as all of your work commitments requires careful planning. Otherwise you risk scheduling a work meeting during an important family event or vice versa. You are going to have to carefully integrate your work and life together to be successful. Planning your work around important family events shows your loved ones that you care and will always be there for them when it matters, says Villante. Likewise, “you need to give your family a heads up when work is going to need more of your time, so that they can cut you some slack when things get busier,” he says.
Miller, who travels every week usually between New York and Los Angeles, stresses the importance of planning family time even when you are on the road. “When I’m traveling, usually from late Monday night until late Thursday night, I’m available pretty much all the time for clients,” he says. “Since I’m on Eastern Time Zone for my travel though, I can usually read to my kids before bedtime. I take their favorite books with me and use FaceTime to read to them most travel nights.”
When you are away for extended periods of time, it’s important to find ways to come together as a family. “My family frequently travels during school breaks and long weekends to spend time with me where I’m working,” he says. “This summer they’re going to live with me for a month in New York. The kids even have their gymnastics spot worked out. Of course this is all only possible through the amazing efforts and patience of my incredible wife.”
5. Create a business that supports a culture of work-life integration. It’s important to build a work environment and culture that values life outside of the office. “My family is as much a part of my work as work is a part of our family life. My kids are even going to be in the wedding for my amazing assistant,” says Miller. “Our firm values supporting our team members’ being able to be with their families and partners.” For instance, COPE will fly everyone’s immediate family and partners out to its annual holiday party or company retreat. Families are also welcome in our offices and at every company event, he says.
People want more than money from their job, says Villante. “They want to be valued, have job satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment and a quality working environment.” He says that promoting work-life integration helps show your employees that you care about them as people, not just what they can do for your company. This is one of the reasons that Quaintise provides 12-weeks of paid maternity leave for employees. It’s important the staff knows that the company supports and values their life and time outside of the office. “Emotionally investing in your employees is, first and foremost, the right thing to do, but it also has added benefits,” says Villante, “Happier employees are better at their jobs, which means that you, as the leader, will spend less time putting out fires.”
Work and life will never be completely balanced. Whether you are launching a new business or just going through a busy time at work, your success hinges on how well you blend your work and personal life.