It's no secret that in recent years the San Francisco 49ers have been an underachieving NFL team. After a short stint at the top of the league hierarchy and a trip to the Super Bowl, the franchise has been struggling just to win games in recent seasons.
There are signs this may be changing though. After CEO Jed York hired a new General Manager and Head Coach, many experts are now saying the team is headed in a better direction. The winning performance of new GM John Lynch in the most recent NFL Draft for example may be a sign of positive things to come.
This all speaks to a CEO who is working hard to put the organization back on track through productivity as well as an infusion of new talent. I recently caught up with York in San Francisco and talked to him about his own entrepreneurial experience. He rang the closing bell of the Nasdaq Stock Exchange, along the second graduating class of entrepreneurs from the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center's Milestone Makers program. We talked about his advice for young entrepreneurs, how he personally stays productive, as well as how he's helping create a healthier environment for 49ers employees.
Start Your Day With Physical Activity
York starts each day with a good workout. He says it's a habit he picked up from his grandfather, legendary businessman Edward DeBartolo Sr., whose Ohio-based real estate company rose to become one of the most successful in the U.S. back in the 70s. He's the one who originally bought the team in 1977.
Debartolo Sr. would apparently "throw his breakfast away" if he hadn't done 100 pushups and 100 sit-ups soon after waking.
York says he's continuing the family exercise tradition each morning because it helps him achieve balance in his day. He mixes in physical activity and meditation in small increments early on because it helps him maintain stamina for later in the afternoons.
"There's five-minute meditation, 15-minute meditation, depending on the day," York says. "It's amazing how much clearer you think throughout the day if that's how you start."
Keeping a high level of performance, working in family time, as well as building and maintaining physical and mental fitness can be a challenge for any professional. But York says meditation and exercise are secret weapons that help him greatly.
Try Unorthodox Email Strategies
On any given day, an entrepreneur may find hundreds if not thousands of unread messages cluttering their email inboxes. By setting time aside to clear out that inbox, busy professionals can spend the rest of their time dealing with other issues. York designates Tuesday as "email day," dedicating two to three hours of his time on that day to respond to all the non-urgent emails he received in the preceding days.
"You'll get thousands of emails from me on a Tuesday, where I try not to let that bog me down the rest of the time when I'm at the office because I want to get work done," York says. "It's amazing how much clearer your schedule is when your inbox doesn't have thousands of unread messages."
Be 'In the Moment'
Too often, people spend their time thinking about things they aren't working on at that moment. When they're with family for instance, many people are focused on their business, which doesn't let them be fully present. Then when they're at work, they may wonder what they're missing at home.
York says the key thing is to be focused on what you're doing when you're actually doing it. If you arrange in advance exactly how much time you need to spend at work and home to be fully present in each place, you'll free yourself up to make the most of each part of your day.
"My wife and I have developed a schedule where my days are never the same," York says. "Usually on a Monday night, I'll stay late at work. I'll leave a little bit later in the morning so I'll get to see the kids in the morning for breakfast, things like that."
Treat Employees Like Family
Reliable, happy employees can bring a bigger boost to entrepreneurs than anything else. Instead of trying to do everything, a leader with a great team can trust others to handle day-to-day operations.
York has found that by treating his workers like family, he gains the many rewards that come with being one of the best places to work in the Bay Area, even if the region brings its own problems to the table.
"Commuting is horrible in the Bay Area," he says. "For us, trying to make sure that employees know, 'Listen, if you want to go down to the 11 o'clock workout class take time. Don't get stuck in traffic at the typical eight o'clock and five o'clock periods where you're going to be 60 to 120 minutes in the car. Get a workout in.' (You have to) make sure that there's good food and healthy options for people. Things like that get you re-centered and refocused. I think we try to expose those things to our players and certainly making sure that our stadium is family friendly, and healthy and things like that. You want your employees to feel that too."
Beyond perks like food and flexible work hours, York invites his employees to do the same fight-based training he's been doing.
"There's a great guy in the city (San Francisco) named Tareq Azim who runs a gym called Empower," York says. We actually built out an Empower in Santa Clara at the (49ers) facility. A lot of our staff is now doing the same type of workouts we're doing. 'Stand up' on Thursdays, they're doing deep stretches on Wednesdays, but they'll do all this sort of core training the rest of the days during the week. It's a really good workout both physically and mentally."
Don't Let Others Define How You're Doing
York finds a positive attitude makes all the difference. For him, negative press can turn an already bad day into an even worse one. He says when things are going well, reading press that praises the work he's doing isn't good for him. The same goes for reading bad press when things aren't going well. By finding a balance between the two, he's able to keep himself and his team on track.
"Just try to stay as level as you can wherever you are in the business cycle," York says. "I think that's hard for people to do because we're so used to checking social media. If somebody writes an article about us you want to read it. You have to take a deep breath and not let other people define you."
Entrepreneurship can become all-consuming if you let it. York has found the right balance that allows him to enjoy success in his business pursuits, remain physically and emotionally healthy, as well as be available for his family. His experience can help other professionals achieve the same balance as they go through their own entrepreneurial journey.