The SASSY Executive Forum
As a SASSY business owner, balancing your family and work life can be tricky. So, for some perspective, we took a question posed from a businessperson in the area and asked three successful women how they manage it all. Janet Ericson, president of K-Wood Products Co., Inc.; Carol Senour, director of human resources at Bremen Castings, Inc.; and Anita S. Knudtson, CFO at InterCambio Express, Inc. all offered great advice on how they attempt to find balance.
Question: Over the past three years, the economic slowdown caused us to reduce staff in the business and for me to pick up additional duties. Now that the recovery is beginning and we are short staff, the level of hours has not decreased. Our children are at that age where they are active, and I am unable to be present as much as I would want. How do other executives balance the demands of business and of their families?
Janet Ericson: Balancing the demands of business and family can be accomplished. I’ve learned that first and foremost, you must keep your life in perspective and know your priorities. My priorities are God (faith) first, family second and career third. This lays the foundation of how I run my life.
Secondly, I believe you need to communicate effectively with your colleagues, your spouse and your children. Let them understand the pressures that face you each day, and engage their help in prioritizing your tasks. Have your calendar present for your colleagues, and work with them in order to cover all tasks. Chart out a week with those in your family for assigned duties, and let everyone work together as team players to accomplish the goals for the week.
Lastly, be sure to allocate your time wisely. Schedule one day a month to do nothing but hang out with your children. It can be something as simple as a picnic, but they will appreciate that they have your full attention. Also, take a few hours a week to indulge yourself as well. Find out what really renews your energy. It could be meeting up with a friend, going to the spa or engaging in your favorite sport or hobby.
I have found that by following these simple steps, I’ve been able to maintain a healthy balance between work and family life.
President of K-Wood Products Co., Inc.
Carol Senour: Although we did not experience any reductions during the economic downturn, we have been riding the wave of doing more with less for years through continuous improvement and lean initiatives. It may have been a recession, but we are working harder and putting in more hours than ever before.
As an executive, balancing the demands of Bremen Castings and my family is an even greater challenge. Both jobs are 24/7 and 365 days a year; neither job gets turned off when you walk through the other door. Striking a balance requires an understanding by both parties that sometimes you need to put one ahead of the other, and it is in their best interest for you to successfully balance both.
If you are organized, then most days you can fit in all the demands and no one suffers. As a morning person, I am able to get a lot done before heading to work, which frees up my evenings for whatever is needed. Balancing requires a flexible schedule. Some days I may stay at work for 12-hours, knowing that later in the week I need to be off earlier. Occasionally, work events cannot be rescheduled, and you have to miss something, but that’s life. I also like to schedule vacation days during important events like birthdays, anniversaries and major school events. It assures my schedule is clear to focus on them. While that tactic works most of the time, sometimes we move the celebration to allow me to participate at work. With enough notice, you can juggle most anything.
Technology has made this balancing act much easier over the last several years. Being wired with an iPhone, iPad and laptop keeps me connected offsite and not glued to the office.
Director of Human Resources, Bremen Castings, Inc.
Anita S. Knudtson: As the CFO of a 12-year-old start-up company that has experienced a 20% growth rate year after year, I find myself in a situation similar to the one you mention. Like many other working moms, it’s a balancing act to meet the needs of my children, my volunteer work and my job. Fortunately for me, I work for an employer who is respectful concerning my family’s needs. Because I am willing to give in some areas of my time in order to get the job done, I’ve earned my employer’s respect and trust, which has given me some freedom to adjust my schedule in order to fit everything in.
Technology has been a great aid in helping me find and maintain balance as well. With the use of my laptop, a Droid cell phone, a MIFI and utilizing cutting-edge technical software and apps on my phone, I am able to work at any time of the day from most any location. There are some very efficient cell phone apps that quickly connect me with information I need to do my job. One of the best ones I’ve run across is Evernote.
Personally, I think the key for me is remaining flexible. Throughout the day, I give myself permission to re-prioritize my work load, deadlines and outside interruptions. Being flexible and creative in how I accomplish my daily tasks also allows me to meet my personal and family needs and make it all work. In remaining flexible, everyone wins at the end of the day, and somehow everything always gets done.
I’m also a firm believer that carving out time to focus and re-energize helps one be more productive in all aspects of life. Every morning, I give myself the gift of quiet time. In those moments, I find a quiet place to meditate and process who I am, what I need and where I want to be. At least once a week, I take a Yoga class to help incorporate the physical aspects into the meditational practices I have been doing.
Lastly, joining groups that support my personal and professional goals, such as my membership with Executive Forums, brings a supportive and educational component to my personal and business activities. It forces me to slow down and take the time to realize that I am not alone and am capable of much more than I give myself credit for. I believe finding a network to support your goals is crucial in providing perspective and balance to your hectic schedule.
Anita S. Knudtson
CFO, InterCambio Express, Inc.