When I was running my first company, I believed that I knew what it meant to be a great business leader.
I thought it showed good leadership to “set the pace” by being the first one in the office and the last to leave. I also felt it was noble to make some very important things — my friends, my finances, my family — secondary to the business as a way to show employees and investors that I was all in for the company. And although my health deteriorated and my relationships suffered, I was content because I told myself that I could help change the world in some way through my efforts.
And then, my daughter Marley was born. Immediately, I had a realization that creating a more well-balanced life was a necessity. Focusing on the time spent at your desk is a fool’s errand and a poor way to spend the precious little amount of time we have in this world.
In the almost three years since Marley was born, I moved on from CustomMade and founded a new company, ButcherBox.
As we’ve built ButcherBox, we’ve tried to create a better working environment for everyone by taking the lessons learned from prior experiences in tension-filled startups (I say “we” because the entire ButcherBox team has been in similar situations and wants to do better in our approach with ButcherBox). Quite often, the intense pressure found within early-stage companies is borne out of the nothing more than the management missives passed down from one generation of MBA-trained leaders to another.
So we are doing something different with ButcherBox, and it allows me to put in more quality time with my family than I ever could have if I blindly continued to lead by the “rules” that were instilled in me in the early days of CustomMade.
And so, I have never worked a Friday and yet have been able to scale up a profitable e-commerce company with a team of more than 25 like-minded employees.
Which is also quite good since my wife and I recently added a pair of identical twin girls to the fold.
How am I doing it?
Here are a few things that I have learned while running a company and being a dad to young kids. They may not all work for you, but they’ve been helpful for me to achieve the quality of life that is rewarding both personally and in business.
- Follow your passion — being away is hard enough, make it count.
The businesses I like to start are about more than making a living; they are mission-driven. For me, trying to make a small positive change to some entrenched global system makes the time I spend on work as valuable as time on the other important things in my life. First I did this by creating a marketplace to connect craftspeople without any idea about how to find work in the Internet age with their ideal consumers. Now, I am trying to provide the healthiest, highest quality meat to the world — ranging from 100% grass-fed beef to organic free range chicken and heritage breed pork.
- Find a day a week not to work and spend it at home (4-day workweeks force your team to step it up while forcing you to work on what matters).
This has been the hardest but most rewarding. I don’t work ButcherBox on Fridays, I hang out with my kids. If I need to, I will still occasionally do a lunch or a mentoring meeting for a window, but the main focus of the day is on my children, not work.
- Find ME time (Which, for me, is from 4:30 to 6 AM).
With work, kids, relationships, and more, I think it’s important to still carve out some much needed time for myself. To do that, I wake up before the craziness of the day begins! I do my Headspace meditation, have a stretch, drink some great coffee, review my goals, and prepare for what the day holds.
- Kids spell love T.I.M.E.
I learned this one from the great Jim Walsh when I asked him for the one piece of advice he would give about raising kids. It is super helpful to remind myself of this one time and time again.
- Focus on the most important projects and be OK that the job is never done.
You will never find enough hours to do everything, so learn to give yourself a break every now and then. Utilize a task manager, make sure you are hitting the highest priority items, and don’t beat yourself up when you can’t finish everything you need to in a day.
- Limit your downside.
In other words, don’t bet the farm. For us, before we dove in blind, we used a platform like Kickstarter to prove the model. And when we started ButcherBox, it was with an all-in investment of $10,000. Don’t feel like you need to spend a lot to get your idea off the ground. Spend as little as possible to get the information you need. Adapt. Then, repeat.
- Get your kids involved in the business.
And I don’t mean by teaching them how to code or putting them on fulfillment. Even doing the littlest things with the kids can go a long way. It also helps if you are able to laugh at yourselves a little. (This little video below has been viewed by more than 220,000 people and helped us sell a LOT of bacon!)
- Finally, take it easy and try to enjoy.
I’ve been told again and again that the time you get to spend with small children is so fleeting. Try to not “crank through tasks,” but to enjoy all the little small moments within your business and your personal life.
What are some of the tactics you use to help balance work and life? Please share in the comment section below.