For a lot of us, it’s easy to look at entrepreneurs, CEOs, and small business owners and disconnect them from their human behaviors.
All they do is work, right?
Not so much.
Emily Conroy, CEO of World Encounter — a nonprofit that provides micro-lending, coaching and social support to women in Tanzania — said it’s easy to look at someone with so much on their plate and forget that they have a personal life, too.
“I’ve given up on the idea that I’m going to ‘balance’ my life,” she said. “What I’ve found is that there’s just different seasons in life.”
A big change in the seasons for Conroy was when she became a mom on top of the busybody she already was, juggling World Encounter with two other small businesses she still owns and runs. Without the flexibility she had before her little one, she’s found she needs three main types of relationships to keep everything running.
First, her inner circle of her husband and two closest girl friends. Conroy feels she can, “…come to them for everything with my whole self.”
Then, a professional circle of her employees, investors, mentors and volunteers. Conroy underlined the importance of this circle, saying, “If you want a successful business and you want some sort of balance, you need partners and collaborators.”
Third, an outer social circle. Conroy said this can shift, again, based on the season of life she’s in. Right now, it consists of other moms who are also entrepreneurs.
“I’ve given up on the idea that I’m going to ‘balance’ my life. What I’ve found is that there’s just different seasons in life.” — Emily Conroy
“Friends are something we all tend to overlook,” Sherry Walling, PhD and host of ZenFounder, said. “They’re super important to maintain sanity.”
But nurturing all of these relationships — family, friends, coworkers — can be really hard.
Alex West Steinman, co-founder of the women, non-binary, and trans-focused co-working space The Coven, said it’s all about redefining your expectations of balancing those relationships. For West Steinman, the last two years has been a time of personal discovery in this area.
“I feel like I’ve been learning a lot about myself,” she said.
Right before the first Minneapolis location of The Coven opened in March 2018, West Steinman became so sick she couldn’t work. She saw it as a wake-up call.
“My body was rejecting my brain,” she said.
“[It’s] really about prioritizing taking care of yourself, otherwise you won’t have anything else to give to anyone else.” — Alex West Steinman
Now, she prioritizes exercise, healthy foods, and self-care, whether that be a full-on indulgence day of a massage and manicure or just a walk around the block with her young kids.
“When I don’t have that physical activity or I’m not eating healthy, I can’t function mentally,” she said.
Like Conroy, West Steinman agrees that there are season-like waves to life, especially when running a business and raising kids — with a partner who is also an entrepreneur, no less. Sometimes she’s up until 1 a.m. cleaning out her inbox, and sometimes she shuts her computer down at 3:30 p.m. — every day is different, and that’s ok.
“You have to move with the ebbs and flows of your business and your family scene,” she said.
One thing that she’s learned has to happen every day, though, is prioritizing herself.
“[It’s] really about prioritizing taking care of yourself, otherwise you won’t have anything else to give to anyone else,” she said.
It’s clear physical health can be greatly impacted by the stress of overworking and not taking care of yourself. Next week we’ll talk with Matt Chock and Robin Borg from Bind about what they do to ensure they stay healthy — mentally and physically.