A couple of years ago, I saw firsthand what can happen to a founder, and the business, when the founder practices unhealthy habits such as working 20 hours a day. A typical “Type A” personality, with boundless energy and enthusiasm, she aggravated some previous health limitations until she was bedridden, and the business floundered.
Many entrepreneurs are too focused on their dream to take notice of health warning signs, which leads them to ignore business health signs as well. If you can’t remember the last time you had a relaxing evening with the spouse, or read a book, you may be overworking and that could negatively affect your health in the long run.. If your business won’t run for a day without you, then the business isn’t healthy either.
There is no single formula for how to stay healthy while starting and running an exciting but demanding new business, but here are a few suggestions, depending on your lifestyle:
- Stay fit and rested. You will have more energy and think more effectively if you are in shape and rested. In addition, you’re a role model for partners and employees. Real job performance is more a function of productivity than hours worked anyway.
- Find a stress reliever. For some people, it’s quiet meditation, and for others it’s a vigorous workout at the gym. Find something you really enjoy that doesn’t have anything to do with your business. These will help you unleash the creative side.
- Work and family balance. Family-work balance is an issue that involves financial values, gender roles, career paths, time management and many other factors. Entrepreneurs can be so focused that they ignore the family, resulting in an unhealthy situation for everyone.
- Regular medical checkups. No one is immune to the random attacks of a disease, and something recognized sooner rather than later can often be treated with minimal lasting effect. Undiagnosed and untreated problems, resulting from ignored or unknown symptoms, are a health disaster well worth avoiding.
At the same time, don’t forget that there are things you must do to maintain the health of your business, and send the right message to your employees on priorities:
- Reward employee health. Lead by example, of course, and encourage employees regularly to pursue a healthy lifestyle. You might even give special recognition for sticking to a wellness program, or sponsor a healthy team outing or other activities.
- Quarterly business reviews. On a regular basis, at least once a quarter, you need to take a hard look at all your key metrics. Maybe it’s time to tackle a new geography, or figure out how to exit some clients who are “high maintenance.”
- Quality improvements. Continuous improvement is the key to quality production. Make sure your processes are working. A constant increase in the quality of products and services, including more innovation and creativity, all lead to a healthier business.
- Improve customer service. Make sure all employees are empowered to provide the same customer service they would want for themselves and their own business. Measure how well you are doing with surveys and personal contacts.
Healthy companies need healthy employees and healthy processes. Workplace health promotion is not, as some might think, a charitable gesture towards employees but an investment in the company. It can be a life or death issue with you personally, as well as your company. Don’t wait, like my friend, until you’re already overworked.