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Finding balance while running a family owned business

November 30, 2017
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I’ve always been interested in the topic of work-life balance, but the subject really started to matter to me in early 2015.

I had just started transitioning into leadership of our business, working with my father to ensure a successful handoff from one generation to the next. At the same time, my wife and I were celebrating the birth of our third child and discovering that after baby No. 3 it was much more challenging to manage the day-to-day operations of a family-owned business and trying to help out at home. Sleepless nights were common while the stress of work and home started to elevate. Suddenly, it was hard to be “on” all the time. To make things even more challenging, that fall I contracted Lyme disease, and I often felt worn out, fatigued and sore, and was dealing with brain fog and headaches on a daily basis.

Other business leaders may have similar experiences. Making room for family, careers, physical health, hobbies and faith is a daily test. For this reason I want to share what I’ve learned in my journey toward the healthy integration of work and personal life, in hopes that it can be helpful in creating a more balanced community of leaders.

Set goals

A healthy business is sustained by measurable and actionable goals. So is work/life balance. For me, committing time and energy to each of these is what makes for success. Here are five different areas of life that I try to integrate for healthy balance:

Personal health: Taking time for myself and doing what I love to do, such as quality time with friends, golf, skiing and reading.

Physical health: Exercising, meditating, doing yoga and keeping a healthy diet.

Family health: Spending time with my wife and our four kids, as well as with my parents, brothers, sisters and their families, while being present in our time together.

Faith health: Spending time with God and putting him first in all I do.

Career health: Leading the company and leading people, setting goals and strategizing, spending time with our customers and managing financials.

Bring family into work

My dad started the business with certain values and a culture I hope to continue: putting family first, being honest, doing what’s fair and, most importantly, giving back to our employees and the community. As a second generation leader and a millennial, I hope to continue that culture and build off of it with flexible work schedules, wellness and lifestyle health, and reminding people everything isn’t always about work.

Transparency and openness also are important to me in the workplace. I try to relate to every person and every role in our company, while also remaining open about my personal life, health and my family. I’m open to discussing my struggles with balancing stress and dealing with Lyme disease, both because I love helping people and because it encourages others to bring their whole selves to work as well. When we have whole, healthy people coming into the office every day, we do better work and our collective empathy increases.

And try to keep work out of family

Family businesses are unique in that it is very hard to “get away” from it — family functions offer prime occasions to get into business matters. For this reason it’s all the more important to limit work conversations outside of the office and focus on being present and enjoying family. This also means ending phone calls before I enter the house, or waiting until later in the evening to write the email I need to get out. Work/life balance doesn’t mean work and life are always separate, but it does mean that in every moment we have to choose what we devote ourselves to wholeheartedly.

Today, the circumstances aren’t much different from those busy times two years ago. We’ve welcomed one more child into our family, I’m responsible for operating our family business and I continue to fight Lyme disease. But by being committed to my goals and setting work/life balance objectives, proper balance doesn’t seem so far off.

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