Former Dragon and venture capitalist Bruce Croxon, now 30 years into business building, isn’t shy about how difficult balancing family, hobbies, and work can still be. “It’s one of the hardest challenges we’re facing,” Croxon said in a recent conversation with YouInc. He eschews the traditional belief of balance being 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and no weekend work, “when I think about balance for an entrepreneur, I think: give yourself to something for a period of time, make it successful, sell it, and then take time to do something else.”
We wanted to know what weekend work looked like for entrepreneurs within startup and growth mode, and whether it’s possible to have balance. Three women at the helm of their businesses share their definition of balance, what their weekends look like, and how they manage conflicting priorities:
I believe work-life balance as an entrepreneur is possible, but it’s a choice and it’s hard work.
Whitney Turcato, president, Borderland Food Co.
Balance is about being mindful and maintaining good communication with the people I love. I’m writing this response from the breakfast table while my husband and I honeymoon in Belize. Prior to leaving, we talked about how I’d need to work a bit on the trip, and I’ve been mindful to not check my emails as frequently as I would if I were at home. For us, that’s enough to maintain the balance. For others, it might take more negotiation, but the important part is being mindful of the impact that your work is having on your relationships. It’s important to have a healthy discourse, if the work is taking over.
I don’t believe there’s one recipe for work-life balance. It will be different for every person and family, and it will also change as the business evolves. Maintaining my work-life balance has nothing to do with quantifiable measurements (time spent at work versus at home, number of emails sent, work hours, and work-free weekends).
The act of working isn’t the only thing that can interfere with work-life balance.
I believe work-life balance as an entrepreneur is possible, but it’s a choice and it’s hard work. Entrepreneurs juggle a lot, and some of the balls in the air are rubber and some are glass. The rubber balls can be dropped and will bounce a couple of times before you pick them up, and there’s no catastrophe. The glass balls can’t be dropped, and you need to find a way to keep them in the air. The hard work is being able to determine which balls are glass and which aren’t, and having the restraint and focus needed to allow a few bounces.
My weekends are a good time to accomplish a lot without the distraction of incoming emails and phone calls. Again, the secret is good communication and being mindful. As long as I’m transparent about when and how much I’ll be working on the weekend, and I also leave time for my relationships, there’s no reason for conflict.
The act of working isn’t the only thing that can interfere with work-life balance. The heavier lifting has been not allowing the emotions of entrepreneurship to impact my relationships. I remember during one of my first conversations with Laura Incognito, owner of Little Tucker; she mentioned that she was working hard on regulating her emotions rather than continuing to ride the roller coaster of entrepreneurship. This resonated deeply with me. Since then, I’ve wallowed a lot less when things go wrong, but I’ve also celebrated the highs more quietly. Ultimately this has allowed me to keep things more level; the emotions of being on this ride are a whole lot less draining, not only on me but on my relationships as well.
I never listen to anyone who says you can’t have it all: you can have everything.
Fatima Zaidi, co-founder, CEO, Quill
I believe in finding balance in the long term. I remind myself that my 20s and 30s are dedicated to working hard, so I can afford to slow down in my 40s and reap the rewards when I’m older. As an entrepreneur there’s often a fine line between work and personal life, and because of that, it’s important to love what you do. This past weekend I flew to Los Angeles for meetings with potential investors and then to Chicago to meet with customers. I've been living out of a suitcase, so it’s good that I love what I do.
I never listen to anyone who says you can’t have it all: you can have everything, but you have to make your own rules.
I’ve been told by previous colleagues and bosses that it’s impossible to be a successful entrepreneur, make time for your family, have a healthy relationship, play hard and travel, and achieve work life balance. Unfortunately, thanks to icons like Gary Vaynerchuk, who constantly promote the hustle 24/7 mentality that leads to burnout, people think they can’t achieve balance or shouldn’t be striving for it.
If you didn’t have to make sacrifices to your work-life balance, then everyone would become a founder.
I’m a believer, as are many industry tycoons such as Tobias Lutke of Shopify or Ariana Huffington, that you can work hard and play hard. I sleep eight hours a day, I go to the gym, I work a minimum of 12 hours, and prioritize time for family, travel, and friends. Balance is balance over time and you have to be organized and disciplined with your time. Not every day will be perfectly balanced.
I try to prioritize when I can and work around important dates, and luckily, I have a supportive network filled with other entrepreneurs. I understand that if you didn’t have to make sacrifices to your work-life balance, then everyone would become a founder—this work isn’t for the faint of heart; you have to have a lot of grit and resilience, and a strong work ethic.
Stephanie Ciccarelli, co-founder and former chief brand officer, Voices.com
Headquarters: London, Ontario
Note: At the time of this interview, Stephanie Ciccarelli was the chief brand officer of Voices.com. In December 2019, she announced as of December 31, she’ll be stepping away from the role to spend more time with her children and family.
My family comes first. What I’ve found to be true is that one parent needs to put the family first, while the other needs to put their work first. It’s a balancing act when both parents are working, but children need to know that someone will be there for them and drop whatever they’re doing, if there’s an emergency. Most of the time the parent who puts our family first is me, but there are situations and circumstances where my husband and I (he’s co-founder and CEO of our company) temporarily switch places and work becomes my first priority for a set period of time.
When on tour for Voices.com’s VoiceWorld conferences, I was out of town for
about three days a week over the course of five consecutive weeks. It was during this time that my husband and I needed to switch places, with me putting the business first and him putting our family first. That was definitely not a normal time, but illustrates what work-life balance can come to mean at times.
Friday nights are spent with family, usually watching a television program or movie. The kids (we have four) host sleepovers at our house or sleep at a friend’s house. On Saturdays, there’s a trip to the horse farm for riding lessons in the morning and the rest of the day is at leisure. Pancakes may be part of the equation, and a good book or podcast takes me up to making dinner. Another show is watched and the evening winds down. On Sundays we go to church, have lunch, and then grocery shop. Sunday nights are reserved for a big homemade dinner, which might be beef bourguignon, shepherd’s pie, or chicken noodle soup. Somewhere through it all, laundry is done, homework completed, and we prepare for the coming week.
Work-life balance is nearly impossible to achieve at times. Being intentional about making time for what matters most to you (and then actually doing those things), will help create a more liveable atmosphere for your family, while still feeling like you’re getting the work done every day. That said, having a hobby is crucial for an entrepreneur.
You’re not defined by your business, nor is your worth defined by the things you do.
You need something that isn’t related to your work to help you recharge and catalyze creativity. Community is important; you can find community in many ways, one of which is to pursue a hobby. Hobbies can connect you to other like-minded people outside of your work circle. These connections offer you something different and necessary. You aren’t a business leader in those circles. You’re a friend and fellow sojourner. This might sound obvious, but having friends outside of the office is vital. When I was off with my kids, one of the most lifegiving groups I belonged to was a weekly mom’s bible study. I got to interact with women who were going through many of the same things I was and be mentored by older mothers. I love to play the piano and I need to do it; if I don’t play my piano for longer than a couple of days, I feel the effect because it connects me to something deeper.
At times, there are work-related items that come up on a weekend that simply can’t wait. Over the years I’ve become much better at recognizing what needs immediate attention and what should wait until Monday. It’s the discernment piece that makes conflicts that arise on the weekend easy to navigate. Discernment also includes the question of whether you personally handle it, or if that’s the responsibility of someone else in the organization.
Too many people measure, understand, and internalize their worth through a distorted lens. Some good news for you: you’re not defined by your business, nor is your worth defined by the things you do. There’s so much more to you than being an entrepreneur. You have unquestionable, intrinsic value that no one can take away simply because you’re human. The metrics we use in our jobs are not a true measure of the person we are, what we mean to others, or who we are meant to be. Your thoughts, words, actions, and habits have an enormous impact on not just your outlook but on how you live and influence others. The next time you are feeling down on yourself or looking down upon others, remember that.