Entrepreneurship is a juggling act. For every benefit of being your own boss, there are a handful of challenges that come with such free-floating territory. Not having a 9-to-5 often means suddenly working from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. The freedom to work while you travel somehow morphs into becoming glued to your smartphone and email inbox while you're on the beach. And the glory of being your own boss often comes at a cost, especially to your relationships with those closest to you.
In short, entrepreneurship looks glamorous on the outside, but many entrepreneurs have opened up (especially in the past 5 to 10 years) about the toll it has taken on their relationships, their personal health, and, most importantly, their families.
An Inc. magazine article on this very topic won an award in the Magazine Personal Service category from the Deadline Club in 2014. The article told stories of entrepreneurs who, at one point or another, thought the end was upon them--with maxed-out credit cards, aggressive interest rates on their loans, and worried significant others. To say they experienced sleepless nights would be an understatement.
Top executives and business leaders especially are beginning to use their stature to facilitate discussions about healthy work-life balance. Randi Zuckerberg has explained that while the cliché of "friends, family, fitness, sleep, and work--pick three" may hold some validity, she likes to think of those things as interchangeable based on the day. As she stated in a recent interview, she balances the extreme demands of her busy life by saying, "These are the three I choose for today."
What makes entrepreneurs effective, then, is their ability to not only build a successful business but manage their time in a way that allows them to maintain a healthy personal life throughout the process. While some entrepreneurs operate from the mentality of "Whatever it takes, whatever the cost, make it happen," I am a firm believer that whatever you sacrifice in the short term with your interpersonal relationships and personal health, you will end up paying for in the long run.
However, this is all easier said than done. Achieving a healthy and sustainable work-life balance is no easy task. Ask any serial founder and they'll tell you that peace of mind, health, and happiness are vital components of building a successful business.
How, exactly, are you supposed to structure your lifestyle so that you are properly allocating resources to both your personal and work lives? Does your business or your family come first?
The blunt reality is that often the more your business succeeds, the more attention it demands. Do the math. That means less family time, which can quickly turn detrimental to building relationships with your children and other loved ones.
"But it does not have to be that way," Jim Sheils, co-founder of Family Board Meetings, explained to me. "Healthy family relationships and being a successful entrepreneur are not mutually exclusive events. You can do both."
Jim and his co-founder, Brian Scrone, built Family Board Meetings to prove that you can be a busy entrepreneur and still have plenty of time to nurture your relationships with those closest to you--your family. It's focused on the simple idea that "time together is not the same as quality time together."
Quality time is a lot to ask for when you're building a business. The constant buzz of our cell phones easily distracts us from focusing on what really matters. As a result, we spend time with our children without really forming any deep, memorable bonds. Before we know it, 18 summers go by and they are off to college.
To remedy that, Sheils and Scrone have created all-inclusive family retreats that put entrepreneurial parents in a position to not only have deeper and more meaningful relationships with their children but also support them more effectively. Their next retreat will be in Utah this summer, and they intend that every participant walk away from the retreat with the proper tools to continue building more open relationships with family members.
Angela Lauria, an alumna of the program, was super excited about what she learned by attending her first retreat. "Now we are ambassadors for these tools, bringing them back into our personal lives and integrating them with our family ... we're going to bring these tools back in to further deepen all of our relationships."
So what exactly does an entrepreneur experience at these retreats?
Scrone says, "Through our quantitative and qualitative research over the last five years, we have identified that the most successful parents either A, have some kind of involvement in their child's education, or B, are keeping consistent rhythms to keep the lines of communication open, in turn deepening the connection with the child." Those two components are the cornerstones of the Family Board Room experience, as they provide opportunities for families to share ideas and experiences, learn, and grow together over a weekend in a contained and safe environment. "We turn to experiential learning, and put families in a position to acquire new skills, while still having a fun time."
Steve Sims, another attendee of the retreat, was amazed: "I saw [my son] in positions I've never seen him in before. I have a newfound respect, admiration, and I couldn't love him more than I already do."
There truly is no substitute for quality time. And for some entrepreneurs, these are skills that require practice and learning. In the same way you don't stroll into your first business and do everything perfectly, being a parent or an effective spouse is no easier a job.
These skills take time to learn. What's important is that ambitious entrepreneurs always remember the value of investing in their interpersonal relationships.
What is success, after all, if you enjoy it alone?