BALANCING WEALTH AND HEALTH
TO BEAT THE LONG HOURS AND STRESS OF OWNING A BUSINESS, YOU NEED TO OUTSOURCE AND EXERCISE MORE AND HANG OUT WITH FRIENDS. SADLY, THERE’LL BE LESS CHOCOLATE.
IT IS OFTEN SAID that an entrepreneur or small business owner’s worst fear is not so much a lack of cash flow (which is like breathing; you simply make sure it continues), but that an opportunity presented will be missed. Sometimes, however, it is health and wellbeing, rather than a new revenue stream, that must be seized.
With the typical business owner working more than 60 hours a week, and those in the hospitality industry up to 70 hours, wellbeing often tends to be sacrificed to building the business.
“They want it all,” says Emma Isaacs, founder of the subscription-based membership enterprise Business Chicks. “Being committed to my business is a personal choice. I love my work. But I haven’t exercised in a couple of years. That’s not balanced or healthy. [But] I have built flexibility into my business life and that can be a model for others.”
Isaacs boasts a membership base of more than 30,000 businesswomen and professionals, who go to her events with high-profile guest speakers in capital cities across Australia. She says she always knew she had an entrepreneurial streak.
“I was studying HR at university, but it wasn’t fast enough for me. So I got into recruitment. It’s good to get into business when you’re young and naive. And recruitment is a great grounding.”
Isaacs took over Business Chicks after it was put up for sale. “I had no idea what I was doing. I had attended an event and there was such a buzz. It had an upbeat feel, like a rock concert.” Her flexibility is achieved by having a strong team around her.
“Our members are feeling the pinch from a lack of time. Some want to be the perfect mother and the perfect business owner. We’re talking about a bunch of really smart women. They know they need a work-life balance, with good diet and good exercise.”
For Katrina Walton, the phrase “work-life balance” sends the wrong message. “I like to use the term work-life integration,” she says. Walton, who calls herself a corporate wellness strategist and runs the Wellness Designs consultancy in Brisbane, believes many self-employed people and business owners blur the lines between work and family life. “They take shortcuts, bring work home, take shorter holidays. They are on their smartphones at all hours. It is said that people will often sacrifice health to attain
Morris Kaplan writes for Friday’s Entrepreneur section in The Australian (firstname.lastname@example.org).
wealth, and then spend their wealth to regain their health. But it doesn’t have to be like that.”
Walton, who has built a reputation as a pioneer for corporate wellness in Australia, has more than 16 years of experience in developing programs for organisations large and small, here and overseas. She tells small business owners to set aside time in the diary each week for exercise, family and friends.
“Rather than meeting for a coffee or drink, meet colleagues on the golf course or the tennis court. Planning is vital, especially for road warriors. And pack healthy snacks, so you won’t buy chocolate.”
Her favourite tactic is outsourcing. “There are things you may not enjoy and which can be readily outsourced. Delegate stuff to a PA or a VA [virtual assistant], especially where things are not your core strengths. Surround yourself with experts.”
Entrepreneurs need to take “recharge” weekends, Walton says, and a longer holiday once a year.
A sedentary life increases morbidity and is often coupled with other unhealthy behaviour. Workers and business owners run the risk of obesity and other chronic diseases. Unhealthy managers and workers cost individuals, business, society and the economy. “At an employer level, it’s simply logical that if you try to make your employees healthier, the outcome will be healthy employees with less absenteeism or chronic conditions.”
Typical workplace assistance includes weightloss and quit-smoking programs, as well as advice on stress management, exercise, diet and fitness. “Also, there’s the importance of small business owners keeping a healthy office or work environment – for example, by using ergonomics, natural light and ventilation – and positive mental wellbeing, through maintaining social and work connections, managing stress, boosting their resilience.”
Isaacs concurs. “It’s really important to have a resilience to stress. You need to watch your response to stressful situations. You must educate yourself about stress – the effect of cortisol, for example. Emotional resilience is important.”
The overall key, according to Walton, is “reducing the impact of an increasingly sedentary lifestyle”. In her spare time, you’ll find her relaxing in a yoga pose, enjoying a glass of Barossa shiraz or planning her next trekking expedition.
Business Chicks founder Emma Isaacs says her own experience can be a model for others.