Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Work-Life balance is a battle we are in the midst of constantly. The nature of your career and the size of your family have no bearing - there is constant tension. Work demands productivity, excellence and continuous vigilance for personal and organizational competition. The demands of our personal lives are similar, but we wrap them in different words – quality time, down time, vacations, etc. For most of us, there is little margin around either. The majority of our energy is spent fretting about our equilibrium – pushing back when career interests become demanding or pushing back when family needs are high – rather than actually rebalancing. It is in rebalancing that the battle loosens its grip on us.
I had a conversation with a good friend a couple of weeks ago. She was worried about balancing the demands of her rapidly growing business and the needs of her family. She’s pushing hard into her career and it is paying off. At the same time, the guilt we all feel is tugging at her – she wants her daughters to be more independent and simultaneously worries they don’t need her as much as they used to. The busyness that is normal life is leaving little margin for error or unexpected business and family demands. As we talked, I suggested that maybe her business is in a “not yet” timeframe. Her kids, like mine, will be off to college in the blink of an eye. What if she continues to work hard and grow the business, just not as fast? Essentially, it is putting some margin around her business and family that protect the interests of both. Rebalancing is the key here – making a few changes based on carefully considered priorities.
I rebalanced slightly last year. My career involves a lot of early morning and evening events – over 80 last year, plus a regular work schedule. I missed a few of my kids’ games and school events. Sometimes I was there physically, but not mentally. As I watched my sons play soccer early last fall, I realized my oldest would be at college in 4 years. I considered how quickly his first 14 years had passed, and as I watched my son push a play downfield, I determined I would not miss these years. At one soccer match in particular, I had chosen to miss an “important” evening event. It was an average game - and as usual, I loved it. Instead of riding home with a friend, my son rode with me and during that 45 minute trip we had a pivotal conversation that has strengthened our already strong bond. I realized I could have easily missed the opportunity without ever knowing. So, I rebalanced, weighing the importance of career, activities, kids and commitments. The changes have been slight, but meaningful. The changes are also ongoing - testing what works, how to best accomplish slight changes etc.
The key to rebalancing is to assess what is important, carefully consider how slight changes can be made, making those changes one at a time, and assessing the impact on both sides of the fulcrum. Rebalancing is paying dividends – the balance battle has lessened; it is still there, but by setting priorities in advance, the decisions I make around time commitments are based on priorities and fretting about time commitments and lack of margin is diminished.
Fellow Denison University grad Dr. Richard Swenson has written an excellent book about the need for maintaining margins in our lives, appropriately called Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives. I highly recommend it.
Another great resource brought to my attention by a good friend is Andy Stanley's "Choosing to Cheat - Who Wins When Family and Work Collide". It hits the nail on the head. You can't possibly do it all. In nearly any given moment, something must be "cheated" ... someone will feel like you're giving less than you could. And the question he answers is how to make that choice effectively and without remorse.
If you are an entrepreneur or small business owner, you are fully immersed in the work-life balance battle. I recommend you check out the International Bootstrapping Association. The April meetings are about work-life balance: Thursday morning, April 8th at the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center and Wednesday evening, April 14th at TechColumbus. We all struggle with the need for margin and balance; it never quite goes away. So join fellow entrepreneurs and business owners to learn how your peers are working for and maintaining a healthy work-life balance - registering is easy.
I am interested in what you think about the challenges of balancing career and family and how you maintain balance. What are doing about it? What's your biggest struggle? Have a recent victory? We're not alone in facing the challenge, so please let me know what you are thinking and doing, and what kind of results you are seeing.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Our experience with the Columbus Startup Weekends has been phenomenal. Our first, in July 2008, had about 70 ideas presented on Friday evening, and the weekend launched 10 companies, 3 of which are still in business. Our second, in April of 2009, coincided with a number of other Startup Weekends across the country. There were nearly 100 ideas presented, and 13 companies were launched. We even had one company get started with a strong team that half way through the weekend decided their idea would not be viable - they quickly dissolved and the team's members were welcomed into several other teams where they contributed to their successes. At least two of the 2009 SWColumbus alumni are still in business. Some of the 2008 and 2009 alumni have raised investment capital that is allowing them to grow and pursue greater levels of success.
Here's the five companies still going that were launched at Columbus Startup Weekends:
ClearWish makes online shopping easy. You can create wish lists for birthdays, graduations and just about any event. With ClearWish, you can add products from any online retailer to one wish list. Most retailer sites limit you to items at their store only - using ClearWish, this barrier is eliminated. Wish lists and specific items can be shared with friends and family via email and on on Facebook.
You can also find Clearwish on Twitter: @Clearwish
CorkShare is a way to visually share web content like notes, photos, videos, and more with small groups of friends or colleagues. Modeled after physical bulletin boards, CorkShare users create virtual CorkBoards (like physical bulletin boards), post embeddable content and discuss these objects in a fun and simple way. Corkshare is now based in Cleveland, Ohio.
EventStart is a event planning utility that connects you to social media applications, suppoerts event blogging and forum management and interaction on site, allows recurring events and has some great event management tools. One of the cool things about EventStart is that we are using it for SWColumbus this year, and it could be adopted as the Startup Weekend event management tool nationally.
You can find EventStart on Twitter: @eventstart
JoeMetric™ leverages smart phone technology to gather consumer opinions when and where they matter most. The JoeMetric™ interactive interface makes it simple and affordable for organizations to develop and distribute customized surveys. Consumers provide valuable feedback and are paid for their efforts, essentially turning a moment of downtime into paid work time. JoeMetric™ is currently housed at the TechColumbus Incubator.
You can find EventStart on Twitter: @JoeMetric
YourMilton is providing office oriented services to manage contacts, projects and financial information for small businesses. It was started to by entrepreneurs frustrated by the complicated array of business productivity products with the purpose of allowing a small business owner to focus on core aspects of business.
You can also find EventStart on Twitter: @YourMilton
My fun favorite from our first two Weekends was an
Check the Startup Weekend 2008 Slideshow to get a feel for what happened and what to expect.
Many of those attending our first SWColumbus have become good friends, and I expect the same this year- a reunion of good friends and an opportunity to meet some new entrepreneurs and make some new friends. Startup Weekend really is a community building event. I also expect to see some really creative ideas, and maybe a new company launched that follows in the footsteps of our most successful alumni and itself enjoys success.
Register for Startup Weekend Columbus and partake in our Central Ohio entrepreneurial institution. Who knows? Your idea might be selected Friday night (i.e. voted on by those attending) to move forward into the Weekend or you might find yourself on a great team.
I hope to see you there!
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
One of the great things about Central Ohio is the vibrant innovative community that is a foundation for a tremendous amount of entrepreneurial activity and a corresponding high level of investment available in a variety of forms. An ingredient in our foundation is an ongoing series of events, networking & educational opportunities, and Meetups that seamlessly mix casual and professional.
The MobileX Conference is a great example of this foundation. Spearheaded by Awesome, Inc., based in my hometown of Lexington, Kentucky, MobileX is a five-city technology conference tour designed to provide networking, educational content and opportunity (via a pitch contest). Here's the tour schedule:
- Columbus - March 4, 2010
- Chicago - March 5, 2010
- Atlanta - March 26, 2010
- Nashville - March 27, 2010
- Lexington - April 16, 2010
One of the best parts of this conference is that fact that it is organized by what some might think of as "outsiders" - i.e. people not from within our own innovation community here in Columbus. Several of us met Luke Murray last fall at a mini-mobile application conference we hosted at The Dublin Entrepreneurial Center, and at that time Luke talked about bringing his conference concept to Columbus. We welcomed him with open arms and several of us volunteered to help make it a reality. Instead of "hey, this is our turf", we collectively said, "you are welcome here". The payoff? Several, and among them are: We are anticipating a great conference that highlights some of our local experts and brings other experts into our community; We will likely see some real creativity and potential for new ideas to take off and become viable business opportunities; We'll expand our horizons via an expanded network of friends and people we can call upon for their expertise later. In short, we have an opportunity to grow and to learn, to make our community even better for entrepreneurs and innovators. We also have an opportunity to help Luke and Awesome, Inc. learn what works best and what might need improvement to make this an even better event for the next four cities.
I am proud of our community, our openness, our welcoming nature, our desire to learn and grow - all of the things that contribute to our foundation that enthusiastically supports innovation and entrepreneurialism.
If you can attend, you've still got time to register for what promises to be a great conference. There are no outsiders here.