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I’m a young CEO. I started my company while I was still in college at Brigham Young University (BYU). I was part of BYU’s Collegiate Club National Championship soccer team in 1999. Playing soccer, starting my own business and being a full-time student taught me the importance of maintaining balance in life. It didn’t take long to learn that certain activities can dominate life even when you have the best intentions. When one activity consumes your life, other areas tend to suffer.
Playing soccer (or any other competitive sport for that matter) was a great stress reliever for me. It’s something I’ve done since I was a little kid and something that I still do today (though my skills have deteriorated over the years). I found that when school and my business were eating away at me and causing me stress, the soccer field became my escape. After a practice or game, I’d come away with a clear mind. I found that it was usually after stepping way from work or school to play soccer that I’d come up with the solution to a problem or have clarity on a whatever project I was working on.
I decided in college that I would do whatever it takes to be able to maintain a healthy balance between work and other interests. Since graduating, I’m still CEO of Lendio and now have a wife and three young children. My priorities are now my family and work, and I am as committed as ever to maintaining a healthy work life balance.
I’ve had several opportunities to abandon my commitment to managing a healthy work life balance but have remained true. Even when I was fundraising and pitching VCs on investing in Lendio and one potential investor told me, “I don’t know how anyone can try to be a dad and a CEO at the same time. The reality is that the startup will need way too much attention and it’s just not worth it to have a family while being a CEO.”
I knew immediately he would not be the right partner. Being a dad is incredibly fulfilling and meaningful. I believe that you can be a successful CEO and dad. And I’m on a mission to prove it.
There are five key lessons I’ve learned that have helped me manage my role as CEO and dad. Most of these principles are applicable to any other role within a company, not just the CEO:
1. Identify Priorities
Prioritizing is critical to accomplishing your goals. Jotting down a list of items that are most important allows you to make decisions early about meaningful activities and whether or not they take precedence. Without priorities, the urgent will always take over and you’ll be left frustrated that you missed something of importance for something else that may have been urgent, but less important. The two highest priorities on my list (which I will rarely miss) are: 1) family dinner and 2) daily time with each child.
2.Create a Plan
Once your priorities have been established, I recommend creating a plan of attack that allows you to accomplish your highest priorities. The plan will likely include a detailed schedule of work, family time, meals, etc. For example, Sheryl Sandberg (COO at Facebook) has set a schedule to leave work each day at 5:30 p.m. It’s obvious she has set her priority (dinner with the kids) and has also created a plan on how she’ll be able to meet her prioritized goals.
The hardest part about executing on the plan is being disciplined enough that you can actually meet your goals. Every week, your plans & priorities will likely be challenged by something happening at the office. Appointment requests will come, challenges will arise, meetings will go long, deadlines will be looming, and there will always be excuses to make an exception. During those times, your priorities will be tested. However, most of the items can be handled without making exceptions or excuses if you will just stick to your plan. For me, I do my best to communicate my intentions to my entire team from the beginning.
4.Hard work and a little sacrifice
For the plan to work, you have to be willing to put in the effort and make the necessary sacrifices to be a great CEO. This will likely mean early mornings, late nights, and efficient work schedules. It also means sacrificing other social activities with friends, colleagues, or co-workers. In order to make time for my family AND be effective at building Lendio, my daily schedule will usually include 30-90 minutes of early morning and late night working sessions. This time allows me to work uninterrupted on important projects or catch up on email.
5.Be “all in”
Some people attempt to juggle work and personal life by multi-tasking. In my opinion, this is a bad habit that leads to failure as a dad and a CEO. When I’m at work, I’m all in. I give everything that I have each hour of the day and night in order to successfully lead Lendio and our team. At the same time, I also try to be “all in” when it comes to spending time with my kids. They crave and deserve my undivided attention and are the first to know when I’m distracted with items from work on my iPhone.
I’ve learned that the measures of success are very different for work and home. At work, success is measured by results. Some people get confused and measure their success by how much time they put in. At home, it’s the exact opposite. A happy life at home is about time.
I believe a healthy balance between work and home makes me a better CEO. Taking time away from the office to be with my family helps keep me grounded. It’s easy to lose track of what’s really important when you’re faced with the challenges of running a business everyday. There’s always a reason to stay late, work through the weekends, or otherwise ignore the family. I think that’s why so many CEOs focus on nothing but work.
I’ve also found that stepping away from the office gives me a chance to look at challenges from the outside—often leading to more creative solutions. What’s more, I think it’s important for the rest of the team to do the same. I think it makes them better employees.