If you’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart and loved creating business start ups, chances are you’re ambitious and tackle many challenges directly without reservations. You have a passion for your product and service, and want to share those visions with your clients. You hate losing, and will win at all costs. You will even skip breaks and meals, work extended hours and on weekends, and scream at the first sight of failure or missing a deadline. You also expect every one of your small group of co-workers to do the same for the sake of the organization. Does this person sound familiar?
All entrepreneurs know, you have to be passionate about what you do and go “the extra mile” to make your startup a success, but winning in the business game doesn’t have to cost you everything outside of it. In fact, creating a healthier lifestyle – both in and out of the office – will have a direct positive impact on the overall success of your organization. We’re talking hard dollars here for being healthy. A nerdy analogy here would be that you are Excel, and a healthy business lifestyle is Excel VBA, you with added extras that is eminently more flexible. While improving your health should be a strong incentive by itself, there are ancillary benefits for building a healthy lifestyle right into the culture of your business start up. For example, that new college graduate or seasoned executive you are interviewing may not be as ‘gung-ho’ as you are about the new smart phone app or 3-D printer being created, but may be immediately impressed by the lifestyle present while interviewing at the office. Please keep in mind the opposite is true as well, and a poor startup lifestyle can quickly affect the perceptions of potential candidates, current employees, or even customers that you interact with in person. The good news is there are many ways to combat negative outcomes and have a healthy startup lifestyle. The methods listed below also work well in your personal life. Let’s go for it:
Block Schedule Time
Don’t just create a “to-do” or “task” list. The reason why this is relevant is because most people have a laundry list of tasks, but don’t necessarily have proper time allocated to see them through to completion. You should increase confidence (and decrease stress simultaneously) knowing you have specific time for a specific task this week, and don’t be distracted from your goal. For example, if you have to do a presentation this week and it will take you two hours to fully prepare (say an hour for creating slides and an hour for revisions and practice), make sure you block of two hours well ahead of the big show. This is especially key in a business start up environment, where the majority of time you have to create original materials and systems.
Also, the reason why you rarely leave the office on time may not be because there is too much work (gasp!) – it could be you simply don’t have solid time management skills and didn’t budget your time correctly. There are some days that will simply run longer than others for a variety of reasons, but I learned early on that it’s OK to leave on time, as the work would always be there tomorrow.
Take Brain Breaks
Research shows you’re much more effective in both doing work and learning with intense two hour sessions followed by a 15 minute break versus a marathon session, work day, or work week. Have you ever tried making a sales call, learning a new program, or being in a meeting at the end of an exhausting day? It always seems much tougher, complicated, and strenuous then when you feel fresh.
Instead of just trying to pound through the day, do some great work and then take a quick break to re-energize. Do this at intermittent points throughout the day, and base it on your own personal energy levels. Think about it like strategically managing a race, and the importance of getting water throughout the race – not just at the end when you’re already physically and mentally spent. If your current business start up is still a small group of people, you could consider doing an informal group break session. Your brain will thank you later for it in the form of new energy and ideas.
Change Meeting Scenery
Even if you have one of the best meeting spaces on the planet, it pays to have some meetings out of the normal grind of the office. This will force you to walk around, get fresh air, and change scenery. On a larger scale, mobility, flexibility, and embracing a constantly shifting environment are hallmarks of a healthy startup lifestyle. Whenever I’m doing creative writing, it always helps to go someplace different than my standard location to help stimulate those creative juices and get ideas flowing onto the notepad, smart phone or laptop. At least once a quarter (and hopefully much more frequently), make it a point to invite people from other departments to certain meetings. As Steve Jobs once correctly noted, it’s these random encounters with both co-workers (from different teams) and strangers (in the real world) that can produce an intellectual spark resulting in a breakthrough innovation. The next time you’re meeting with family or friends, go to a new restaurant or venue that you’ve never been to before instead of the local favourite. You might surprise yourself this way.
Invest in Culture & Perks
The culture of your organization can make-or-break employees lifestyles inside the office (otherwise known as workstyle). After all, employees don’t usually leave companies because of pay or lack of responsibility. More often, they leave because of poor company culture and/or relationships with other employees. As a business start up, you should invest considerable resources getting the culture right early on in the incubator stage. Then, hire people that will fit into the positive culture you have created, and make sure there is a Culture Champion monitoring it and constantly, looking for ways to improve it. When you do find a potential superstar employee (that fits into the culture), try talking about something different than a big salary and signing bonus (that you may not be able to afford anyways), such as office perks. We’ve all heard of companies offering famous perks and common ones like a game station, foosball table, dart board, free/discounted massages, and drink cart with free healthy drinks and adult beverages (for Fridays) can go a long way with the right people.
Building a business start up is inherently fun, and it’s also a lot of work. However, just because there are tough days required doesn’t mean your entire professional and personal lifestyle has to suffer. While you’re working diligently on your next project or hit a road block, remember the above points and share them with your team. When you’re the owner, founder, and CEO of a startup, aim to work smarter instead of harder. One of the best ways to work smart is to consistently use healthy habits and strong practices. In the long run, these gets results. Healthy lifestyles breed healthy habits, and healthy habits mean productive days. Increased productivity = increased profits.
Finally, your lifestyle outside of your startup can directly impact the results inside the office walls. If things are not going as planned and you’re running out of ideas, try changing the person staring back at you in the mirror before changing your employees, systems, and culture. Lead by example and the results will follow. Are you an entrepreneur or a business start up? Share some of your valuable thoughts below.