Stella Yoon knew her life was badly out of balance.
"I was working all the time - we hadn't had a vacation in six years,"
recalls Yoon, 39, president and CEO of cStar Technology Inc.
"Work was really cutting into my family life," she adds. "I'd take my
work at home with me on weekdays and weekends and work non-stop - I'd
send out e-mails at 3 a.m."
Yoon was no longer enjoying her entrepreneurial role at the company she
founded in 1998 to integrate wireless information technology systems
with non-IT devices such as vending machines or metres so purchases,
inventory levels, or energy/water usage can be tracked by computer from
"It's not enough to be successful in business if you don't have happy
feelings," says the Richmond Hill businesswoman.
Yoon was grappling with a familiar, perennial problem for small business
operators, home office people and entrepreneurs: finding that right
balance between work and home/family life.
"I sat down with my family and discussed this situation," says Yoon,
noting she then changed her approach and no longer goes into the office
on weekends, but instead spends most of the weekend with her husband
Michael and their son Luke, 13.
She's also learned to delegate work responsibilities to her capable
staff. And she set aside time to join her family watching a video or
going out to movies. She also enjoys gardening.
Yoon's situation is a familiar one to Rosaleen Citron, 47, CEO of
Burlington-based White Hat Inc., a firm that serves the growing market
for computer security systems. The company has 22 employees serving more
than 3,000 clients.
Citron, involved in computer security since 1996 and in information
technology before that, finds her work fascinating and demanding.
So demanding in fact, that work can crowd into the Grimsby woman's
family life and leave little time for husband Tom Slodichak, 49, and
their children, Mathew, 19, and Andrea, 16.
For Citron, a self-confessed former workaholic, the turning point came
when her daughter, a special needs child came into her bedroom where she
was working on a computer and asked for help with her homework.
"I told her I'd help, I just needed a few minutes to wrap up my work,"
Citron recall. "Two-and-a-half hours later, I looked up from my computer
and found my daughter sleeping - it was too late to help her with her
homework - and I resolved this would never happen again."
For Citron, part of the solution lay in doing more work at the office
and less at home. She had been in the habit of working ling hours at the
office, then sometimes taking enough work home to keep her busy for days
at a time before returning to her office to repeat the cycle.
"I've learned to balance things more, and that's helped my family life
and business," explains Citron, who sometimes takes her laptop computer
to her sundeck when the weather is nice. "Frankly, if you're 100 per
cent focused on business all the time, you'll get eaten by it."
She has also learned to delegate: "At first it was like ripping my arm
off," she confides. "I'm the type of person who has to do everything
myself, so it wasn't easy."
"It's important to set priorities and to make sure you're setting aside
some quality family time. That's how I found a balance and changed an
unhealthy lifestyle that was all work and no play."
Elizabeth Verwey, president of Toronto-based HomeOffice Mentors, says
many small business people and entrepreneurs work almost constantly in
the mistaken belief that this is what's needed to succeed.
"Working hard, working long hours is accepted as
a badge of honour," notes Verwey, 45, whose
company provides consulting services and finds
work/family balance solutions for busy people.
Verwey says a lot of small business people also
mistakenly believe they can't ever say no to
"You should tell your clients you'll have to
work on their contract a little later if you've
got a vacation planned. In most cases, the
clients will be agreeable.
"Unfortunately, a lot of small business people
seem to think taking a vacation is a sign of
weakness. In fact, a good break will help you
return to work feeling refreshed and recharged
and you'll probably find you're able to work
Verwey says the other problem with being a slave
to your clients and canceling vacation plans is
that this can cause havoc with your home life.
"You can end up some real family problems if
you're forever canceling plans and spending all
your time working for clients. You need your
family to be supportive and that's not realistic
if you're always disappointing them."
She also advocates taking "microvacations" -
short breaks of an hour to a couple of days -
that take your mind off work and allow you to
return to your job feeling refreshed.
Elizabeth Moultray is also something of an
expert on the need to balance work and family
Moultray, 42, is currently director of small
business banking for Scotiabank and she's spent
many years helping small business operators cope
with financial and other business concerns,
including the need for balance.
"Small business people and entrepreneurs tend to
be extremely focused on building their
business," notes Moultray. "Even when they're
doing something family oriented, such as driving
a child to soccer practice, they're often
distracted by work and they put themselves under
a lot of self-induced stress."
Moultray advises scheduling breaks and vacations
and taking up an activity that takes your mind
"You can't let work take over your life," she
cautions. "You have to balance work with family
time, breaks, healthy diet and exercise.
Otherwise, you may find yourself burning out and
hating a job you once loved."
And the question of balance isn't just an issue
for people with families.
Pearse Murray, 56, is a single man who once lost
himself in his job as a successful real estate
sales representative for Toronto-based Bosley
"I worked seven days a week for years to get my
business established and I allowed very little
time for myself or anyone else," notes Murray,
who now regrets shortchanging himself on time he
could have spent with his much-loved nieces and
Murray, a client of Verwey's, says he's learned
to set aside time for himself for walking and
He also takes Verwey-prescribed micro-vacations
- "just an hour by myself in the afternoon to
read" - that leave him feeling relaxed and
focused on returning to work.
Murray was compelled to scrutinize his lifestyle
when a recent bout with prostate cancer forced
him to leave work for six months.
"I'm fine now, but something like that is a
wake-up call that really makes you thing about
what's important in your life."
"Finding the right balance is crucial. It's so
important just to take time to enjoy life."
"I don't think very many people look back on
their lives and regret that they didn't spend
more time working."