Successfully Building a Business Means No Personal Life. Truth or Myth?

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Most of us know that to build a business the entrepreneur must devote 18 hour days, 7 days a week and ignore health, family, friends, lets face it – give up having a life outside of the start up.  Right? Well, not neccesarily says Michelle Goodman and the many entreprenuers (‘treps) she interviewed.  Ms. Goodman  wrote “Entrepreneurial Zen”,  a paradigm challenging article for the September 2013 edition of Entreprenuer magazine.  Anyone thinking of starting up a new venture, be it business or nonprofit, would do well to read through the insightful points and real life examples given. Here are few:

Julie Fredrickson, jokes that she’s running her startup wrong. By not compulsively working every waking hour, the 29-year-old knows she’s defying some sort of macho entrepreneurial code. “But I just haven’t found that to be the path to success,” says the co-founder and CEO of playAPI, an enterprise software company in New York. Instead, Fredrickson accomplishes what she needs to in 10 hours or less each day and rarely works weekends. She eats well, runs triathlons, powerlifts and sleeps at least nine hours a night. She regularly spends time with friends and frequently travels to visit her parents in Colorado and brother in Georgia. “I am strongly in favor of a balanced life,” Fredrickson says. “I think I am a better entrepreneur for this decision.” She’s also a successful one. Since its launch in March 2012, playAPI has reeled in more than $1 million in revenue. Clients include big brands such as Gap, American Express and Kate Spade.”

So, exactly do these successful business owners do it? Well, tips vary, but one thing is clear – it takes a commitment AND being extremely focuse as well as organized. Here are two examples of how varied the methods can be:

“Joshua Weiss, 38, is the first to admit that working longer and harder doesn’t always translate into accomplishing more. In his 20s, Weiss founded 1-800-Tow-Truck, a national roadside-assistance company. At the time, the Linden, N.J., entrepreneur didn’t think twice about putting in 18-hour days, six days a week, despite the flagging energy and dwindling attention span that plagued him most evenings. “Your brain’s just not going to work as well, and you’re going to miss things,” says Weiss, who embraced a more manageable schedule in 2010 when he started Edison, N.J.-based TeliApp Corporation, a mobile app company. “It doesn’t matter how many cups of coffee you have. It doesn’t matter how many donuts you eat.” That means staying laser-focused at the office, no matter how enticing the Game of Thrones conversation his colleagues are having. “For me the hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. are 99 percent work-related,” Weiss says.”

Karen Macumber, a single mom of two teenagers, takes a different tack. Rather than clocking out at the same time each day, the CEO of Lifeables, a Boston-based online scrapbooking service, “clocks in” when unexpected pockets of free time arise outside the office. An organization ninja, the 50-yearold always travels with extra work on hand and relies heavily on mobile tools like Dropbox and Google Docs. When it’s her turn to drive her kids’ lacrosse carpool, she plans a conference call or drafts an e-mail while waiting in the car. “It’s setting yourself up so you can be flexible,” she says. “But that also requires you to be incredibly well-organized.”

Don’t want your business to wreak havoc on your health and well-being? By planning ahead and working smarter, you can avoid short-circuiting.

  1. Weigh the payoff of every task. Make sure each hour you work aligns with your business goals, says time-management expert Laura Vanderkam. Finishing that new customer proposal trumps achieving inbox zero.
  2. Learn to delegate. If you’re not using trusted
    interns, contractors and employees to lighten your load, start. As Lifeables
    CEO Karen Macumber puts it, “You can’t control everything.”
  3. Rein in after-hours messaging. Lay some ground rules. Joshua Weiss, CEO of TeliApp Corporation, doesn’t respond to weekend e-mails until Sunday night. “It’s a tremendous thing for me to resist,” he says. “But you don’t get too many days where you can spend all day with your family.”
  4. Make time off non-negotiable. Plan that long-overdue vacation, sure. But reserve at least part of each weekend to unwind, too. Upon doctor’s orders, Darren Gallop, CEO of Marcato Digital Solutions, stopped working weekends two years ago—no calls, no texts, no e-mails. “With the exception of a few major critical deadlines, I have never gone back to my old habits,” he says.
  5. Leave some work on the table. The world won’t slip off its axis if you fail to finish that low-priority task before calling it a day. Really. “You can either have a business that’s complete every day or you can have a business that’s growing,” says Jon Sterling, CEO of Agent Finder. “I choose to have a business that’s growing.”

Thoughts? Comments?

(Read Michelle Goodman’s complete Entrepreneur Magazine article here)


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