You might think that the beauty of becoming an entrepreneur is all about "being your own boss." While that's an undeniable benefit, as the entrepreneur you are responsible for everything. As the founder of Grokker.com, the wellness video network, I can tell you first hand that entrepreneurs are very much at risk of burnout. Spurned on by passion and impatience, we push ourselves and our teams as we strive to change the world. This all-consuming drive often inspires others to action yet simultaneously creates the very real danger of burnout. While another overly zealous entrepreneur burning out isn't in and of itself catastrophic, the much greater danger is of you burning out your team in the process.
Startup culture often idealizes stories of founders and their mighty teams who spend countless 18-hour days coding and sleeping under their desks eating nothing but pizza. Don't get me wrong -- there are certainly times when all out sprints may be necessary. However, building and leading a successful company means cultivating a high-performing team, and to do that I believe you need to be able to think clearly, communicate effectively and maintain a consistent stream of productivity each working day. In order to do that, maintaining your personal wellness needs to be a top priority for every entrepreneur.
When I came out of retirement to found Grokker, I knew I wanted to develop a culture that embodied wellness. I wanted a productive and dynamic environment where both my team and I wanted to come in to work each day. As the founder and CEO, I needed to set the tone and "walk the talk." Our culture at Grokker.com is quite special and personal wellness matters. We eat a healthy catered lunch together each day and have team workouts and walking groups. I wake up each morning and practice yoga using Grokker videos, and often am seen in our office yoga studio with my laptop working on my inversions. I will not burn out nor will my team members because we all make it a priority.
These four tips for entrepreneurs are words I live by:
1. Eat 3, Move 3, Sleep 8: Starting your own business is a lot of hard work. You need to be both mentally and physically strong to deal with the challenges. Taking care of yourself is one variable you can actually control. You need three nutritious meals per day, three workouts of 30 minutes per week and eight hours of sleep, that's 3, 3, 8. Several studies, such as this one out of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, reveal that even brief sessions of exercise can result in improved cognitive function. Furthermore, exercise helps get the creative juices flowing and can contribute to finding your "flow." So follow the 3, 3, 8 rule and eat 3, move 3, sleep 8.
2. Take Fun Seriously: Driving hard all day long while taking your work too seriously is a guaranteed recipe for disaster. Joy isn't a reward at the end of a life well played, but something to be savored all along the journey. By treating fun seriously, and making sure you and your team have time for laugh inducing activity, everyone will bond and feel happier. We have the mandatory Foosball table at our office but we also have regular field trips to nearby restaurants for employee birthdays, spontaneous flying miniature stuffed animal battles, a ThanksGrokker feast every November, Secret Santa, Valentine's surprises, Halloween dress up with costumes provided for you, as well scavenger hunts, happy hours every Friday, work anniversary gifts, milestone celebrations, and casual team offsites. Laugh, celebrate, repeat.
3. Take Your Vacation: I know you're invested in your company. However, if you have hired a competent, trustworthy team, the world will still turn without you. Studies have shown that even a brief vacation can result in increased productivity and better performance overall. Taking a step back from whatever you are so deeply entrenched in can provide you with fresh perspective and arm you with new ideas for when you return. You'll not only recharge your own batteries, but will set a good example for the rest of the team that vacation time is something you expect them to take. Go relax, then return refreshed and ready to tackle the world. What's more, your vacation will give your team an opportunity to grow and develop as they tackle challenges without you around!
4. Encourage your team to take care of themselves: It's no secret that employee wellness leads to higher engagement. I've worked at a lot of companies -- big, small, startups -- and even when a company I worked at offered state-of-the-art in-office gyms and subsidized massages, I often felt like I was "sneaking out" to take advantage of them. This mindset is not good for the employee nor the business because it can lead to burnout. Make employee wellness a company cornerstone. Encourage your team to take care of themselves, talk about your own wellness regimen, or create a friendly coworker fitness competition. If you can organize post-lunch walks or team yoga breaks, so much the better. Increasing your team's personal wellness, will quickly lead to increased job satisfaction and engagement. My team loves to see me out of breath and flushed at the end of a group cardio workout, I'm human and they know it!
All teams take their cues from their leader. That's why I encourage mine to lead balanced lives, to follow the 3, 3, 8 rule, have fun, and take breaks whenever they need to. I do my best to "walk the talk" with my morning yoga practice at the Grokker offices, and joining the team in group HIIT workouts because the team that sweats together is a successful one!