I’ve always believed that you can have any life you want. You just have to decide what you want, and it’s the deciding part that’s hard. Before I started CID Management—a healthcare software-as-a-service company that I sold six years ago—I decided I wanted to build a business that allowed me to both do well financially and spend quality time with my kids.
I’m not saying that balancing those two goals was easy. But once I was clear about what I wanted, every decision I made after that helped me achieve them.
I started CID Management in 2002. I had recently moved my wife and two kids (then ages 8 and 4) from the Los Angeles area to the Bay Area to work for a tech startup. Unfortunately, the startup soon went belly up, and I found myself soul-searching for what to do next. Between raising kids and the poor job market at the time, I decided that starting my own business was really the only good choice.
I got together with a former colleague and friend, and we came up with our business concept—and even found our first paying client before the software was officially launched. While it was an exciting and very busy time, I knew I didn’t want to sacrifice too much time with my family.
Balancing entrepreneurship and family time
Even though I was working very long hours that first year, working from home gave me the flexibility I needed to spend time with my kids and design my own schedule. At the time, my wife wasn’t working, so she was able to spend most of the day with the children. But I got up at 5 a.m. every morning, went to the gym and was home in time to cook breakfast with my family and take the kids to school.
In the evenings, I knocked off at 5 p.m. The kids and I would take a karate class or do another activity together, and then we would all have dinner as a family. I’d go back into my home office and work as late into the night as necessary, often with a child in my lap.
As our business grew, we rented office space less than a block from my kids’ school. They came to the office every afternoon and did their homework in the conference room. When growth really started taking off a couple of years later, I leveraged my time so that I could focus on my two top priorities: being a dad and growing my business.
I did this by hiring early. I would identify the very specific tasks that needed to be accomplished—such as coding, bookkeeping and customer service—and hired Grade-A players, whether they had that specific skill or not. I’ve always believed in hiring for character and training for skills.
I also did this by recognizing where systems would make a huge difference and implementing them so that we could all work more efficiently. For example, customers originally had to send some paperwork by certified mail, which took both them and our employees a tremendous amount of time. So we automated the process. We worked with the postmaster to get e-signatures approved, purchased special folding and stuffing machines and printed our own certifications—storing everything digitally for easy retrieval.
These two decisions—hiring early and implementing more efficient systems—were key to maintaining profitable growth from the beginning while giving me the time to focus on my kids.
Giving employees work-life balance
Everyone likes to talk about “work-life balance” these days, but in reality, entrepreneurs are juggling everything all the time.
As an entrepreneur, I was in charge, so I could create a culture that integrated my life and work. Because my kids came into the office, I created a kid-friendly culture for everyone. And because I scheduled my day around my family needs, everyone was free to do that.
There are a hundred other little things that took our tiny initial investment of $2,500 and turned it into a $45 million acquisition with about 50 full-time employees (and hundreds of contractors) 12 years later—all while letting my kids come to the office after school and allowing me to take a salary higher than I would have received at a regular job.
Today, I’m applying all of the lessons learned from my first company to building my new software company, Liquid Animals, a SaaS company focused on automating individual operational components within organizations.
Although my kids are now grown, my commitment to creating a company culture that encourages team members to completely integrate their work lives with their personal lives hasn’t changed. I believe when you hire the best people who are passionate about their lives and the work they do, everyone succeeds.
What have you done to help balance your business goals with your personal life? Share your insights in the comments section below!
Print this article