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The Power of Balance
 

Four Inc. 500 CEOs profiled have managed to balance the scales of work and life -- to the benefit of both themselves and their companies.
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Though all work and no play may make Johnny a dull boy, they can also make him rich. The single-minded drive that brings about that monetary success, however, can take its toll on future business growth. "There's a certain kind of creative generativity that I believe requires getting away from the everyday work," says psychologist James Waldroop, cofounder of Peregrine Partners, an executive development and retention firm in Brookline, Mass. To pull off that great escape, says Waldroop, entrepreneurs must learn how to delegate -- something that runs counter to the very definition of the breed. The four Inc. 500 CEOs profiled below have nevertheless managed to balance the scales of work and life -- to the benefit of both themselves and their companies.


The Family Hour

Heather Howitt
Oregon Chai (#18) Portland, Oreg.
Most afternoons, Heather Howitt, CEO of Oregon Chai, arrives at her office in the rain-soaked city of Portland, Oreg., covered in mud. Her lunchtime two-hour run in nearby Forest Park complete, she blots her feet and gets down to business -- sometimes passing along the stroller holding her napping one-year-old son, Sawyer, to the nanny, who will take him home, other times handing Sawyer over to her sister-in-law, who's an intern at the company. And sometimes she just settles the baby in a crib that she's set up in her office, along with a changing table, a swing, and a bouncy seat. "We've got a family element going on here," says Howitt, 32, explaining how she balances motherhood and the responsibilities of running an $11-million manufacturer and marketer of tea lattes. "Our office is a very casual place."


"We've got a family element going on here."

--Heather Howitt, CEO of Oregon Chai

Howitt is quick to acknowledge that she's achieved her equilibrium by making some key hires during the past year. Those have included her chief operating officer (also a runner), who's taken over managing operations and finance. And she's given up making sales calls. "I used to come in at 6 a.m. and make calls nonstop," she says. "I don't have to do that anymore."

Howitt has eased up on business travel, too; she now mostly just attends trade shows. And whenever possible, she brings Sawyer along, provided that she can fly first class. "It means Sawyer will be six inches farther away from grabbing someone's hair," Howitt says. "Once, when we were in coach, he tried to chew on this head of gorgeous blow-dried hair in the seat in front of us, and then he dumped a glass of ice water on the poor woman. I'm so stingy -- I hate flying first class. But now it just makes so much more sense."


A Life Plan

Mark Holland
Ascend HR Solutions (#17) Salt Lake City
Every Monday morning, before his workweek begins, Mark Holland, 40, pulls out his Visor and reads: "Wendi is the most important person in my life. My family comes before work and other activities. I live my religion. I provide the financial security for my family. Our home is a retreat from the challenges of the world. I have a positive attitude, looking for and developing the strength in others. I help people develop and grow, including, when appropriate, holding them accountable. The outdoors provide a needed sanctuary and retreat for me."

That is Holland's personal mission statement, which he drafted in 1998, following a crisis in his business, $11-million Ascend HR Solutions, which provides off-site human-resources services. That year the company experienced an $800,000 loss, which sparked a bitter partnership battle and was so stressful that the six-foot Holland lost nearly 20 pounds. The CEO wrote his mission statement, which was inspired by a Stephen Covey seminar, out of a determination never to sacrifice his family and his health for work again. "The Covey training gave me a good smack upside the head," says Holland.


"Wendi is the most important person in my life."

--Mark Holland, Ascend HR Solutions

Over the past two years, the statement has grown into a life plan for Holland and his wife, Wendi. So far the "plan" consists of a 30-year itinerary on Lotus spreadsheets that covers the couple's finances (including retirement and college savings), vacations (planned a year and a half out), exercise regimens (four times a week on the stationary bike for Mark), spiritual activities, work goals, personal relationships (including Mark's reconciliation with a sibling), and personal growth. "We asked, 'What are the important things? What do we want to have happen before we die?' " says Holland.

The two review the plan thoroughly at least once a month and discuss their progress in specific areas on long walks that they take twice a week in a nearby park, their two-year-old daughter on Mark's shoulders and their five-month-old son in Wendi's Baby Bjorn front pack. "The plan is dynamic -- it changes," says Holland. "It's been really good for getting our relationship and our lives back to where they needed to be."

Daily Workouts

Will Smith III
Enscicon (#300) Denver
Three years ago, when Hunter Smith was only 10, he started donning a suit and accompanying his father, Enscicon CEO Will Smith III, to the office. Sometimes he'd man the stapler or hang out with the teenagers -- other employees' kids -- who were covering the phones for the day. Other times he'd sit in on board meetings or travel with his dad to the Denver-based company's remote offices, in Phoenix and Austin. "People have this myth that they have three different lives -- a work life, a home life, and a social life," says the elder Smith. "But we have only one life. And companies make the mistake of not integrating families into the work community so that they understand the stresses and can lend support."


"It alleviates stress and builds camaraderie."

--Will Smith III, Enscicon

Smith has been careful not to be so shortsighted in running Enscicon, a $12-million IT and engineering consultancy, which he launched six years ago. At the time he was a 27-year-old single father with full-time custody of his son. Putting his philosophy into practice, Smith takes his 30 corporate staffers and their spouses on a five-day houseboat excursion on Lake Powell in Utah every other year. He welcomes children in the workplace and endorses flextime. And perhaps most important, he encourages his employees to work out at a local gym by offering a 90-minute lunch hour and paying not just the workers' initiation fees but also half their dues -- if they stick with the exercise program for a year. "At any given lunch hour, about a third of the corporate staff will work out together," says Smith, who has been lifting weights and doing aerobics for 10 years. "It alleviates stress and builds capacity."

It also builds camaraderie. Nobody in the company works fewer than 50 hours a week, and Smith puts in a good 60 to 70 hours himself. Yet he believes that the emphasis on socializing, during trips and especially during workouts, helps narrow the divide between life and work. "It creates an atmosphere that says, 'Yes, we're working together, but we're also having fun,' " says Smith. " 'Live, love, laugh, and have the time of our lives' -- those words are part of our mission statement."


Evening Gig

Tom Melaragno
Compri Consulting (#124) Denver
Rollin' up our sleeves/lettin' down our hair/We got our attitude/We got our nose in the air." No, those aren't the words from a track wafting out of your teenage son's boom box. They're lyrics to a song written and recorded by Orphan Boy, a classic-rock band based in Denver, whose drummer, Tom Melaragno, 40, also heads $7.6-million Compri Consulting (#124), an IT consulting and staffing firm founded in 1992. Four of Orphan Boy's five members started playing music together when they were students at Colorado State University. The band, which rehearses every other Wednesday night in a member's garage, gets monthly gigs at private parties and occasionally at Josephina's, an Italian restaurant in downtown Denver. Once a year Orphan Boy holds a big benefit bash at Sunset Beach swimming pool. "My priorities are family, business, then the hobbies," says Melaragno. "My wife would like family to be even higher. But I think that taking care of myself makes me a better father and husband."


"Taking care of myself makes me a better father and husband."

--Tom Melaragnon, Compri Consulting

Although Melaragno put in 12-hour days when he started the business, he now works just 8 or 9 and makes sure that he's available to catch his two sons' baseball games in the summer and to coach the older one's football team in the fall. He also exercises three or four times a week at a nearby health club. "It's a great escape -- better than having martinis at lunch," he says. "I lift some weights, grunt, and come back with a fresh attitude."

It's Melaragno's ability to delegate that has enabled him to, well, rock and roll. "Over the 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," he says. "I read about people who work 60 or 90 hours a week and build multimillion-dollar businesses at the expense of their health and family. Those aren't success stories in my book. Success is having a multimillion-dollar business and the other stuff, too."

Thea Singer is an associate editor at Inc.


Please e-mail your comments to editors@inc.com.

To learn more about the Inc. 500, visit the Inc. 500 area.

Last updated: Oct 15, 2000




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