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.
Noreen Bevan is president of Summerlee Group of Companies, a Markham, Ont.-based company that provides office furniture procurement, move-management and relocation/installation services. Founded in 1981, Summerlee boasts revenue of $18 million.
Sometimes, it takes a little nudge from someone else to encourage a re-examination of an unbalanced lifestyle.
Back in the early ’90s, Bevan worked every day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. She was unhappy, admitting she’d sunk too much time into work in order to escape her troubled first marriage. When she met her second husband, Michael, in 1992, he urged her to take more time for herself. He ran his own company, says Bevan, and taught her a lot about keeping the business as business. “I realized that I didn’t have to be working that amount of time.”
Fifteen years later, she’s totally re-jigged her lifestyle. The goal of having a healthy work/life balance, she says, is “so your personal life and time for yourself and your business life are equitable, and to make sure that you don’t have any one thing dominating your life.”
For Bevan that means scheduling time for herself. Now, she’s out of the office by 5 p.m. on most days, except for Tuesdays and Thursdays, when she leaves early to keep her appointments with a personal trainer. “I have to leave by 4 o’clock, and everybody knows it. There are no excuses, I have to be there.” In addition to these two one-hour sessions, she schedules a cardio workout, usually on Saturday mornings. But she very rarely works during the evening or on weekends.
Physical fitness reduces the stress in her life. In addition to three workouts a week, Bevan enjoys road cycling. She and her husband plan semi-annual bike trips, spending a couple of weeks cycling through Europe each May and September. “We take our bikes and our panniers [bike luggage], and we ride out of the airport,” she says. “We love to be active, even when we travel and vacation. That’s what makes us happy.”
But now that Bevan has trimmed her working hours, how does she accomplish what she once did working 12-hour days? “You have to learn how to delegate, which is probably the hardest thing I’ve done,” she says. “Hiring the right people makes you feel comfortable that they care as much as you do with what’s happening in the business,” she says. To reduce her fear of letting go of control, Bevan advises building additional checks and balances into everyday procedures. Now, she can rest easy and still take time out for her personal life. “I’m confident with someone else running with it.”