Meeting both business and personal demands has long been a juggling act for women entrepreneurs. Between the long hours, travel, meetings and employee and customer challenges, there’s little time left for personal needs. Still, leading a rich, well-rounded life is as essential to your business success as it is to your sanity.
We ask Canada’s leading businesswomen to tell us how they effectively manage work/life balance. Each issue we’ll bring you the tactics and strategies that help women grow their companies and careers, while still finding a little “me” time to help deal with the personal commitments of life.
Elana Rosenfeld is CEO of Kicking Horse Coffee Co. Ltd., an Invermere, B.C.-based firm that roasts and distributes organic “fair trade” coffee. Founded in 1996, Kicking Horse offers 21 coffee blends, including its best-selling Kick Ass blend. Since 2002, its annual revenue has grown 526%, and in 2006 the firm posted sales of $7.8 million.
Rosenfeld is a tough customer when it comes to drawing a line between her personal and business lives. Having experienced mental and physical exhaustion while still in her 20’s, she has no desire to repeat the experience. Today, she has become “militant” about protecting that delicate balance to make sure she feels confident and fulfilled on both sides.
She and her husband Leo, co-owner and president of Kicking Horse Coffee, have instituted several strategies to achieve balance. First, they’re staunch supporters of living and working in Invermere, a small town of just over 3,000 people, nestled in the East Kootenays of B.C. on Lake Windermere. “Our environment contributes to our work/life balance, and that helps,” says Rosenfeld, a native of Toronto. “We don’t live in a community of work, work, work.” That allows her to pursue the stress-busting activities she loves, including running, mountain biking, skiing, hiking, yoga and meditation. “I love the mountains, that’s why I live here. I’ve got to be around the mountains.”
Next, while most people are loading up on new technology, Rosenfeld, 38, is unplugging. “We have an unlisted home phone number, we don’t have cell phones and we don’t have Internet access at home. When we’re at home, we’re home together or with our kids. And when we’re at work, we’re at work.” Her home has no TV, and “we just bought a new phone, and it doesn’t have an answering machine on it. Oh well,” she says. “You think my kids want to watch me talk on the phone or play on my computer all day? I don’t think so.”
The pair firmly limits work hours, too. When her two children, aged seven and eight, were babies, “Leo and I split days: he’d work the morning and I’d work the afternoon,” she says. Eventually, Rosenfeld hired a babysitter, which allowed her to work four days a week. “Now that our kids are in school, we’re both on a 9-3 program.” They never work weekends, and always take six to eight weeks of vacation time each year.
Protecting so much personal time actually helps, not harms the business, says Rosenfeld. She recalls a study that says time spent working after six hours is actually less productive. “I know that’s true for myself,” she says. “And because we’re entrepreneurs, we have to be very creative. So you can’t have your head down at the desk and in the computer all the time; you’ve got to nurture your brain.”
Rosenfeld promotes a balanced lifestyle for her employees, too, considering it a valuable HR tactic. “We don’t work all the time, and we don’t expect our employees to work all the time. All our employees get four paid weeks off a year, minimum, with benefits,” she says. “We emphasize quality of life, and I think that’s why we’ve got such committed employees.”