Tag Archive: work_life_balance

Healthy Body, Healthy Business Q & A: Why Small Business Owners Can’t Afford to Sacrifice their Health for their Business

Healthy Body, Healthy Business Q & A: Why Small Business Owners Can’t Afford to Sacrifice their Health for their Business
by Iris Dorbian.

Like many small business owners, Ceres “C.C.” Opanowski has had an unusual career trajectory. After spending a decade as a paralegal, she jettisoned the corporate lifestyle to become a certified Pilates instructor. Recently, the 35-year-old Opanowski opened her own studio, Rivertown Pilates in Tarrytown, New York where she now works 50 hours a week giving classes and running her own business. Recently, writer Iris Dorbian spoke to Opanowski about her new venture and why a healthy body can contribute to a healthy business.

ID: What prompted you to go into business for yourself?

CO: I had been working with Pilates since 2007 and really fell in love with it. It’s a form of art rather than exercise. As I began to get deeper into it, I thought I would like to teach this. I didn’t really love what I was doing; I just felt myself shifting from being involved with law and wanting to be involved with something that was about my health, my wellness, and my body. When the time was right and I managed to get enough students who were interested in my teaching and the way I taught Pilates, I decided to go out on my own and work for myself.

PQ_HealthyImage.jpgID: Do you agree with the sentiment that a healthy body makes for a healthy business? You think there’s a link?

CO: Absolutely. I think when you’re taking care of your body and yourself, that tends to fall all across the board. You’re going to feel better. You’re going to be more likely to have the endurance to build and to grow and to keep the outlook the same as you would for yourself. Being in business, you have to nurture it in order to grow. And you have to do the same thing for your body. It generally follows that if someone is not taking care of him or herself, they’re not taking care of their business and vice versa.

ID: Do you have clients who are small business owners? Do they come to you with health issues they want to work out?

CO: I do. If they have sedentary types of jobs and they’re not moving around, they tend to have lower back issues like sciatica or neck and shoulder tension. Then if you have clients who do move around—such as those in construction or different kinds of hands-on jobs—they come in with a whole set of other issues. I really see a wide spectrum of people come in. But, listen, every industry is going to have something negative—we have body patterns. Our bodies move in a repetitive manner [based on the] regular things we do every day—the way we sit, the way we eat, the way we sit in a car, the way we work. All of these things create imbalances in the body. So yes, people come to me and they have issues: Some of it is caused by work.

ID: Many small business owners tend to be workaholics. How can they prevent burnout and still do what they do effectively without destroying their health?

CO: I think the first thing is [to realize] you didn’t go into business because you wanted to work 100 hours a week and you didn’t want to take a day off or not take care of yourself. Most likely, you said, ‘Hey I want to go into business for myself because I want to golf more.’ That may sound silly, but that’s someone’s passion, just like I said, “Hey I think I’m going to go into Pilates because I like Pilates so much I want to do it all the time.’ In fact, I not only want to do it, but I want to teach others so they can do it too. You got into [your business] for a reason, so keep why you opened your business in your mind. That was your goal and it should be at the forefront. When you’re trying to work too hard or you’re overstressed, you really do have to take care of your body. You can’t expect that your body is going to take care of you if you’re not giving it the right exercise or the right nutrition or the right health benefits.

ID: How has Pilates helped you manage your own small business better?

CO: Pilates helps me keep my head in order when managing the business. The advantage to owning your own space is the ability to work out and get into your “zone” when things get stressful and overwhelming.

Five Things to Make Your Home Office Work for You

Five Things to Make Your Home Office Work for You
by Erin McDermott.

Nick Loper is a mover and shaker at his home office. Actually, these days, mostly a mover.

Back in December, he found a treadmill on Craigslist, and with a little DIY derring-do, he rigged his workspace to it. Now the CEO of ShoeSniper.com is walking 8 to 10 miles a day while he runs the shoe-shopping website from his place near San Francisco.

He’s had to learn to steady himself while walking and typing, got a bigger computer monitor that was easier to see at the top tier of his desk setup, and admits it’s been a bit tough to ignore the numbers on the exercise device’s panel. Even so, he’s hooked. “It’s kind of addictive to watch the amount of calories you burn as you go,” he says. But overall, it’s working for him, and Loper even recently punched another hole in his belt—on the good side. “There have been times since, when I’ve been away, working in a hotel, and I feel like I should be doing more, and being up and moving.”

It’s never easy to get your workspace just right, more so for anyone who regularly works from home. With the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating there are now some 18.3 million home-based businesses, more people than ever are out there trying to project the professionalism of the office onto their home base.

“The recession has made more companies open their minds to the cost-savings that can come from working with telecommuters,” says Sara Sutton Fell, chief executive and founder of FlexJobs.com, an online job-service site dedicated to flexible work situations. Sutton Fell walks the walk, too: She’s worked from home for almost six years. From a loft above her detached garage in Boulder, Colorado, she manages a staff of 24 other home-office dwellers, half of whom she’s yet to meet face to face. “My kids know I’m up here, but they know not to interfere,” she says, “It’s still a better alternative for me.”

What works best for these home-based entrepreneurs? Below are a few suggestions to make your home office hum:

A backup system…and a backup for your backup

It’s every computer user’s worst nightmare. Last year, Sutton Fell’s hard drive crashed. Unbeknownst to her, her data-backup system wasn’t working properly either. “It’s embarrassing to even admit this,” she says. She ended up losing a good amount of data. Now, in addition to her crucial two monitors she uses to accommodate all of her open tabs and her website, she also has two backup systems for her data.

But what if your home and home office are destroyed? First, make sure that your home insurance is up to date and get a rider that covers your work setup. Then consider something similar to Binary Formations’ Home Inventory. This software helps you catalog everything in your home and home office—information that’s crucial if the unthinkable happens. “Most people think ahead to get riders on jewelry, but not many think about their home-business equipment,” says Diane Hamilton, Binary Formations’ managing partner, who, along with husband Kevin, runs the company from their Virginia home office. “You should think about the coverage for your workspace whether you work for yourself or work from home for someone else.”


If you deal with a lot of paperwork, you’ll need plenty of things like tabbed folders and file cabinets. But if you’re trying to go paperless, several small business owners recommend taking a look at the products from Neat. That company’s mobile scanner and software products can build a searchable directory of receipts, business cards, and important documents. And if you’re a really big thinker, unleash your creativity and surround yourself with one gigantic big dry-erase board, using new whiteboard paint products to turn your office walls into a wraparound notepad.

PQ_Homeoffice.jpgA map of your day, week, month

Psychotherapist and relationship coach Toni Coleman says it’s critical to establish a structure—with your routine, with your schedule, and with your family and friends. “To be really good at working from home, you have to be really good at getting into ‘the zone,’” she says. “However you set that up physically, you have to be able to do it mentally. And you have to clarify that with everyone around you.”

The mother of four operates her practice out of her home in McLean, Virginia, and says she sees clients get into trouble all the time as gadgets blur the line between business and life. She advises her clients to create a schedule and a routine and stick to it—shower, dress to get into the professional mind-set, grab your coffee, and then get into your office and go to work. Good planning is everything, Coleman says. “If you’re disorganized and you go to sit down and realize you’re out of ink, and want to run to Staples, it will throw off your whole schedule. You have to resist that urge and stay focused.”

A door

For nine years, Lori Karpman ran her management consultancy from an area off the kitchen in her Montreal home. She had all of the professional trappings, but she lacked the ability to shut herself off physically from the rest of her household. Though she says she’s always been very disciplined about her hours, there was no stopping her kids or other sirens of domesticity from testing her concentration. Karpman moved to a new home with a dedicated workspace about a year ago, and raves about the mental break that the door on her new home office provides. “When my day is over, I turn off the lights, shut off the ringer on the phone, and close the door—I’m not at work anymore and I’m really home,” she says. “It’s important to say that space is your workspace—not your living space. Psychologically, it makes it seem so much more professional.”

A release

Got a picture on your desk to remind you of your work/life balance? Or a window that provides an inspirational view? Or iTunes cued up for a five-minute Motown session to recharge during the 2 p.m. doldrums? The isolation of remote work has its own set of stresses. John Paul Engel, marketing consultant and chief executive of Knowledge Capital Consulting, says he overcomes the pressure of 24/7-availability by going for a run outside his Sioux City, Iowa, home office to clear his head—and to engage both sides of his brain to sort out a problem. Others swear by sitting on exercise balls to physically vent and stay fit in the process.

The key is to make whatever works work for you, like Nick Loper and his treadmill desk. And now that he’s on his feet all day, does he test his wares on it? “No,” he says, before adding, “but I guess that could be a good writeoff.”

Overturn Turnover: How to Keep Employees from Leaving for Greener Pastures

Overturn Turnover: How to Keep Employees from Leaving for Greener Pastures. By Sherron Lumley.

Small businesses want the same top talent that large businesses do, but holding on to good employees is challenging when jobs are plentiful. As a result, small business owners have to be especially creative when it comes to attracting—and retaining—the best workers.

The numbers help tell the story. Since the official end of the recession in July of 2009, job openings are up 45 percent, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey. In the first month of 2012, there were a more robust 3.5-million job openings, although that number remains below the 4.3 million mark before the recession began in December 2007. But even in those good old pre-recession days, employee turnover was higher for small businesses than for larger businesses, according to a report by the U.S. Small Business Administration, (SBA).

“Both large and small companies want to hire the same people,” says Casey Alseika, partner of WatsonBarron LLC, an executive recruiting firm in Spring Lake, N.J. His company works with clients ranging in size from major corporations to family-owned small businesses, providing him with a unique vantage point on the matter.

“Larger companies have taken the stance that the job market is not great and they have reduced their numbers and have fewer people doing more work,” says Alseika. “On the other hand, smaller companies are doing the opposite, trying to create a better overall quality-of-life experience for their employees,” he says.
First, hire the right people

Shawn Whisenhunt is the owner of Performace Prototypes, a manufacturing business in Vancouver, Washington that makes parts for excavators, forklifts and other heavy industrial equipment. He’s in his eighth year of operations with 14 employees and has had zero employee turnover since day one. So what’s his secret?

When it comes to hiring, Whisenhunt admits to being selective, taking care to make sure it’s a good fit before a position is offered. After that, “It’s a pretty simple equation,” he says. “Treat employees decently and pay them decently and they will be loyal. I’ve yet to have anyone quit on me.”

He describes the culture at his company as busy yet laid back, and says even though the workers could possibly make a bit more elsewhere, they stay because they like the work atmosphere.

“I let them listen to the stereo all day and they don’t have a set schedule. They can go to lunch when they want, and we have all-you-can-drink coffee,” he says. “As long as they’re turning out good products, I’m happy.”
PQ_Turnover.jpgThen, create the right culture

Kevin Sheridan is Senior Vice President of Human Resources Optimization for Avatar Solutions in Chicago and author of the new book, Building a Magnetic Culture. While he was surprised to see his book shoot to best-seller status, he feels its popularity underscores the mounting concern and interest that businesses have in attracting and retaining talent.

“The top reason people leave,” says Sheridan, “is lack of work-life balance, combined with job stress, which is the perfect storm for disengagement.” Work-life balance, he explains, means employees want to have flexible job hours to deal with things that come up from day to day and they also want the ability to telecommute or work from home, which lets them save money on gas and avoid the stress of a commute.

Besides flexibility, giving employees time off is also part of the work-life balance formula. “This is especially valued by younger workers,” says Sheridan.

The magnetic small business culture that wins the loyalty of its people is one of values and emotional and intellectual commitment from employees, Sheridan explains. “Employee engagement is the attractor and glue of top talent.”
Next, engage employees at all levels

CDL Helpers in Winona, Minn., was created to tackle employee retention in the trucking trade, an industry with some of the highest annual turnover—81 percent last year.

“Employees that feel like their work destabilizes their lives or that their job keeps them from achieving their personal goals will leave,” says CDL Helper’s founder, Tucker Robeson. He recommends a focus on creating stability in the lives of employees and paying people what they need to lead a satisfying, fulfilling life.

Robeson also advises small business owners to reach out to employees personally on a regular basis, in a situation away from their peers. “Give them a chance to have a candid one-on-one discussion with you about what you can do to make their days easier and improve their work environment,” he says.

It’s also important to show your ground floor employees exactly how their small actions are crucial to the big goals of the business, Robeson adds. Tell them directly how important their job truly is to the overall success of the business.

Alseika from WatsonBarron concurs. “People are a small company’s biggest resource. It’s important to give everyone a sense that they are a part of the company’s long term plans.”
Consider your employee benefits

Like it or not, “It’s difficult for a small business to retain employees if they don’t offer healthcare. People will take less money to get good health care benefits,” says Alseika.

Health and retirement benefits are the most important factors contributing to employee turnover, he notes, and SBA research confirms that benefits decrease the probability of an employee leaving by 26.2 percent, reports the SBA’s Department of Advocacy.

Beyond healthcare and retirement, 44 million U.S. workers lack paid sick days, according to the Center for Law and Social Policy, and this is another motivator in the decision to stay or go. Although healthcare benefits may be too expensive for some small companies to offer and still stay in business, paid sick days and family leave are supportive policies that improve job quality and employee morale, which, in turn, reduce employee turnover.
Finally, say ‘Thank you.’

Back in Vancouver, Wash., Whisenhunt says his employees at Performance Prototypes know they are appreciated and he sees this as key to his success. “Thank them,” he advises, “give them a bonus, pay them for Christmas and major holidays and buy them lunch once in a while.”

As for health or retirement benefits at Performance Prototypes, “No we haven’t got there yet,” he says, “but we’ve talked about doing it and it’s coming.”

Top Chef Q & A: Lessons on Managing When Things Heat Up

By Susan Caminiti.

At Gramercy Tavern in New York City—consistently rated as one of the top restaurants in the country—Executive Chef Michael Anthony (right), 44, oversees a kitchen staff of nearly 70 people and knows a thing or two about leading a team in a pressure-filled environment. He recently spoke with business writer Susan Caminiti about learning to delegate, the best ways to motivate employees, and why it’s important for the boss to occasionally disconnect from the action.
SC: Running a kitchen is often portrayed as such a command-and-control way of leading. Is that accurate?

MA: It can be, but my style is actually a bit counter-intuitive to the restaurant industry, where the golden rule is that the guest always comes first. The number one goal at Gramercy is to take care of each other. When I first came here in 2006 and met [owner] Danny Meyer, I felt like we had a number of things in common when it came to managing people, and I felt drawn to his sense of respect and devotion to his employees. That business philosophy felt attractive and comfortable to me.
SC: How does it play out in your management style?

MA: When it comes to managing people, there’s no such thing as one size fits all. It’s one size fits one. Each person brings individual talents and needs to be motivated in a different way. By recognizing that, I’ve become a better leader and we’ve become a better team. I feel confident in my ability to cook great food and to teach people how to be great cooks, but we are a much better restaurant when we tap into the individual talents of the people I’ve chosen to be part of the staff.
SC: That sounds incredibly time consuming. How do you manage it?

MA: You’re right—it takes an enormous amount of time, attention, and energy but that’s part of the mission of being a good leader. Certainly half of my job is creating and cooking great dishes and serving them in a wonderful way. But the other half is effectively managing the folks that I work with. In my line of business we are bound by the hours of the restaurant and in our case it’s from noon until the end of the evening, sometimes midnight or later. Some of that meaningful conversation with my staff happens after the dinner service ends at midnight or 1 am. That’s challenging, so as a good manager I’m always trying to balance what’s best for the restaurant with what’s best for that individual.
PQ_QAtopchef.jpgSC: What mistakes did you make early on?

MA: As a young chef I made the mistake of believing that I could do it all. The problem with that is that you can’t sustain it. I realized through lots of guidance and time that if I don’t have energy to give to my team, I really don’t have much to offer.
SC: How did you overcome that desire to do it all?

MA: First, I’ll say it wasn’t a matter of not trusting people. It was simply a selfish decision on my part—I love cooking so much and I didn’t want to miss one moment of it. I wanted to be in the center of it at every moment. I think a lot of leaders are like that. In order to change I had to learn: How do I formulate my ideas, share them in a clear, poised way, and make sure that I create realistic and ambitious expectations for the people who work for me? I have to be able to take a step back to make sure we’re putting our top managers in a position to respond creatively to issues and problems that come up every day. It can’t always be me. And that’s one of the benefits of making employees feel understood and valued: they look forward to coming to work and appreciate those ambitious expectations. Champions want to be challenged.
SC: What if someone isn’t meeting those expectations?

MA: We have something at Gramercy called “continuous gracious pressure.” In practical terms that means if there is an issue with an employee, it sometimes takes active coaching on my part or on the part of one of my sous chefs. So if there is someone on our staff who is falling short and just not understanding something that’s important, it requires more individual contact and dialogue.
SC: How do you balance the time needed for big picture thinking and the daily obligations of running a very busy kitchen?

MA: I used to call that big picture time “walk-in time” because it would happen late at night when I would stroll through the prep and walk-in areas of our kitchen and hold ingredients, just waiting for those moments of inspiration to come up with dishes for the next day or week. It just wasn’t sustainable. I would find myself in the restaurant until 3 a.m. and then not in a good position to be back in the next day for morning prep time.
SC: How did you fix that?

MA: I figured out how many hours a day I needed to be productive in those creative areas and made it part of my schedule. So there are now 2½ hours in my week that are as important as any meeting or any lunch or dinner service. They are ‘do not book’ hours and they are sacred. Sometimes I’ll spend it in my office; other times I’ll actually be in the middle of the busy kitchen working on menu development and nothing else.
SC: What’s the benefit of doing it that way?

MA: What could be more important than taking the time to develop the cooking that we do? However, I had to learn to be disciplined about it. I had to communicate ahead of time with my staff to remind them what I was working on without getting frustrated. When I communicate well people are actually happy I’m doing this because there’s a payoff for them: new dishes, better organization, a better-run restaurant. So while it could feel a little off-putting in the beginning because it looked like I wasn’t responding to questions, people quickly understood and actually rallied around it.
SC: What is still the biggest challenge for you?

MA: All of it! But seriously, if I say no to something, then I better be able to be honest and open about why I’m saying no. And if I say yes, then everybody needs to understand why I said yes. If the reasoning is murky then it’s very difficult for people to turn around and offer creative ideas. They don’t understand what makes an idea successful or valid. In a highly creative environment, leaders have to make sure they’re not allowing their emotions—whether that be pride or insecurity—get in the way.