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 asked 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.
Kathryn From is CEO of Bravado Designs Inc., a Toronto-based manufacturer of lingerie for pregnant and nursing women. Founded in 1992 by From and president Shery Leeder, Bravado is now a favourite of moms worldwide (including celebrities Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Garner and Britney Spears). That fan base has helped push Bravado’s 2006 annual revenue to $5.5 million.
Dedicating enough time to work, family and personal interests is a “delicate” act, says From, “And I think I’m doing a pretty good job because none of the stakeholders involved want to kill me!”
Seriously, compromise is the key to a successful balance, says From, who works 40 hours a week. “The biggest compromise that I’ve made is that I truly think Bravado would be significantly bigger at this stage if I was willing to put in more hours,” says From. “On the other hand, I think that we probably have a better business. Everybody knows that family is important here, which is nice. We have a very low turnover rate and we’re able to attract good talent.”
Scaling back her hours began three years ago, a few weeks before her son Logan was born. From began taking Fridays off to get ready for the new baby. This “free” day proved both useful and enjoyable, so she chose to keep taking it. However, she soon modified the plan. “It’s actually more stressful to take a Friday off every week, because you have to cram everything into a four-day week,” she explains. “I wasn’t leaving enough time for the business, to actually do strategic things.”
Instead, she takes two Fridays off a month, and has created a window for thinking and strategic planning by working reduced hours (roughly 11:30 to 3:30) on the other Fridays. With her time off, she takes care of personal appointments and errands, treats herself to a leisurely breakfast out, and exercises, helping to free up her weekends to spend with family.
In addition, From recently hired a nanny, admitting that she’s not quite organized enough to get her son to daycare each morning. But that means her regular workdays are limited to 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. And because her son is still young, she rarely takes work home.
Setting limits on work does mean working smarter. From sought help by joining The Strategic Coach program (thestrategiccoach.com), which helps entrepreneurs focus their time more effectively. “It’s all about routines and streamlining processes,” she says, adding it has helped her become more productive despite a shorter workweek. The program also encouraged her to hire an assistant (her first in about a decade), which she did a year ago.
Now, From feels her business is poised for even more growth, all while carving out ample time for herself and her family. She’s even managed what many couples find next to impossible: “My husband and I go out on a date at least once a week,” says From, “and often twice a week.”