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Work/Life Integration for Young Entrepreneurs — Rachel Lyubovitzky

Contributor: Jacob Adler

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

Rachel Lyubovitzky is an accomplished serial entrepreneur, Co-founder and CEO of OnTimeWork, EverythingBenefits, with leadership experience that spans the full spectrum of strategic and tactical activities in the software technology industry. Rachel holds Wharton Executive MBA and Brandeis Computer Science degrees. She is a published author with interests in technology and education. Rachel enjoys spending time with her family, is a devoted runner, and studies Sumi-e painting. She spoke with Stew Friedman about work/life integration for entrepreneurs with young families.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stewart Friedman: Tell us OnTimeWorks and Everything Benefits. How did you get into this, why did you start it?

Rachel Lyubovitzky: Rachel LyubovitzkyOnTimeWorks is the third company my partners and I cofounded. The first two companies were in the business-to-business software technology space; that has been the DNA of our group that has been working together for 16 years, building technology solutions to solve a wide range of business problems. The first one was one of the first pay-per-click search engines. It was a patented technology that allowed companies to advertise more effectively online. We sold that company and went on to build another one in the workforce management space. We were seeking to make life at work and the managing of work-related activities more productive, so that meant HR, timekeeping, payroll, and applicant tracking. Those were business functions that were very manual, that take a long time, and that are not really mission-critical, which was why companies really should be spending more of their time focusing on mission-critical tasks rather than on these tasks. For the current venture, that we started about a year ago, we looked around at other challenges that businesses are facing and benefits really came to the top very rapidly.

SF: How did you discover that?

RL: Benefits touches everybody these days. After healthcare reform, you really would not speak to any person or business owner and not hear the word mentioned in some way. After healthcare reform processes are different, there is different legislation, and when we looked at it through the eyes of our software company we realized that the benefits area is one of those areas in business that lags behind any other business process out there. Many other products and services are automated to the point that you can access those things online or through your smartphone. Benefits technology, in contrast, has really been lagging behind. So we saw that as a great big challenge to jump into, a lot of different problems to solve with many different players such as employers, employees, insurance brokers, and insurance providers. So we were looking for the ways to bring these players together in more meaningful ways, making it more productive and more efficient.

SF: So that was the business opportunity, and you built this based on experience you had already. You’re probably getting smarter as a work team over time, true?

RL: I would say so. Yet one of the best decisions we made coming off the last venture was to start bringing even more people into our mix, so that we could get more advice, more interesting ideas, and really expose ourselves to a wide range of thoughts that percolate around this topic.

SF: How’s the company going? You’re a year in, what’s your progress been so far?

RL: We’re a year in, we’ve finished and launched the first product, which is Carrier Connectivity —  a way to communicate your enrollment information. Over 80% of businesses, when their employees enroll in benefits, they have to fill out those pesky paper forms. Imagine a 100-employee company that has to fill out four different forms: medical, dental, vision, and life. Times four pages. It’s a lot of paperwork. So our technology allows you to eliminate all of that paperwork and move it onto their technology systems and software.

SF: What’s been the growth trajectory of your company so far, and what’s the major challenge you’re facing right now? Then I want to get into how this fits into your whole life.

RL: We really happened to hit a, I wouldn’t say gold mine, but definitely a pinpoint that a lot of companies resonate to very much. We launched the product in the end of April and right now there are over 100 companies in our pipeline that our seeking to utilize the service.

SF: Is it mostly small to mid-size companies?

RL: It actually works for companies of any size, so automating it for smaller companies obviously allows them to get that process eliminated very, very quickly, but for larger companies, that is obviously a bigger pain. So we’re seeing an influx of companies of different sizes.

SF: The rap on the successful entrepreneurial life, which you are living, is that of 24/7 dedication; no sleep, no life outside of work and a maniacal devotion to their baby, to nurturing and ensuring that the business gets off the ground and flourishes. What’s been your experience as a successful entrepreneur?

RL: The experience hasn’t been maniacal.  But one thing I learned in your Total Leadership class is that you really can’t function productively by focusing on only one particular domain for very long.

SF: One domain, that’s what I call the different parts of your life. Your work, your home, your community, and yourself. You’re saying it’s not sustainable to focus on one part, for example, just the work.

RL: That’s right, and I find that focusing on the different domains — my family, my community, and my work — really makes me more productive and allows me to spend more time thinking about my business or thinking about my family or just being there for everybody.

SF: How does that work? Could you explain how spending time with your family, you have two daughters under 10, how does spending time with them help you with your business?

RL: For one thing, my nine-year-old is a source of many different ideas. I talk to her about my work and sometimes she gives me interesting, outside perspectives.

SF: Could you give us an example?

RL: “Why don’t you have everyone work at home, that way you can spend even more time at home?” She wanted to have everyone have lunch at home. The other thing, really, is by detaching yourself from spending all your time on work, you have a little bit of an opportunity to look around, to talk to people, to hear ideas that you can then bring back to your business. You really stop being productive after you have spent all your time thinking about the same thing without having a chance to change gears.

SF: So you’re saying that by taking time and detaching, as you say, you free your mind up to entertain other ideas and also that somehow the constant, persistent focus on just work, can ultimately have diminishing returns there?

RL: Absolutely. One of the activities I enjoy doing, and I’m actually going to start running with my older one, is running in the morning. It helps me focus and keep myself in good shape, so I have a lot of energy at work.  When I do my morning runs, it’s usually the perfect opportunity to think about the day ahead without any distractions, without checking emails, without responding to phone calls, it’s just a great opportunity to make myself a little better and also do something good for myself and the future.

SF: What do you say to the young entrepreneurs who say I don’t have time for that, I’ve got to be thinking about my business 24/7. If I don’t it’s not going to work, it’s not going to fly, it’s not going to get off the ground. I’ve got to be completely and totally devoted, which is kind of the myth you hear about. What do you say to those people?

RL: I say to each, their own. Maybe they can make it last for a while, but we’ve been in this business for the last 16 years, growing and building companies, and if we haven’t spent time with their families and try to enrich ourselves, I don’t think we would be building another one right now. You really need to spend a little bit of time outside to gain that fresh perspective and recharge.

SF: So you wouldn’t be where you are now if you hadn’t taken time away to recharge and enrich the other parts of your life. So taking time away gives you greater strength to persist. It’s kind of paradoxical.

RL: It is. I don’t know fully how it works, perhaps I have to take a few more of your classes to figure out how it really works.

SF: Well, it’s really pretty simple. We need to rest, to restore and rejuvenate and to keep ourselves fresh and able to go on, because we’re not machines and even machines need maintenance, right? So running with your daughter that would be a time for you to bond with her as well as take of yourself and refresh and free your mind to pursue other ideas that enable you to come to your work with a new perspective. What else would you say to people who are starting out? This is taking you back a bit to when you first started out on your first entrepreneurial venture, what advice do you have in terms of the lifestyle, not so much the business issues but the life issues that you learned from your experience?

RL: Probably in line with some of the ideas that I learned from the Total Leadership class is you really have to be in charge of your domains. You have to figure what it is you want and figure out how to engage everyone around you so that all of your stakeholders are helping you to realize your vision.

SF: Your stakeholders, who are they? That’s a technical term we use in my class. What does it mean?

RL: Stakeholders are people who influence the realization of your vision in your startup or whatever it is that you’re doing. It is your family, it is people at work, it is people in your community who directly influence you in everything you do.

SF: And so staying connected with those people is how you build a sustainable life? Sean is calling from California, welcome to Work and Life.

Sean: I’ve been struggling for many years to find that work/life balance across many domains, as you call it. I was wondering if you had any advice on how to get started? There are so many days where I say I’m going to wake up and I’m going to go jogging in the morning and then something happens and it perpetuates this constant work pattern that I’ve had for the last 15 years.

RL: One great thing that I use is I have a little diary next to my bed, and in that diary I put in one good thing or a few good things I did yesterday that pertain to having that better work/life integration.  Then you can go back and look at that and say hey, I went running yesterday. That was really great for everybody. And then maybe you don’t go running the next day, but you can always pick it up, look at it, and say hey, I could do that. I’ll do it again today. Don’t try to change everything in one day and all at once. Take notes of the little good things you do for yourself and for everyone around you to fulfill your vision and then slowly it will start to grow.

SF: Sean, the big idea here is small steps you really focus on in terms of the impact they’re having, not just on you but also on the people around you and how it takes you, as Rachel just said, a step closer to your vision, your picture of the future you’re trying to create.  When you do as Rachel does, to note what you did and the impact that it had, you are reinforcing your strength, your capacity to try it again. That wasn’t that difficult, and here were the benefits.  You become more conscious of the fact that it’s going to motivate you to take further steps. We have another caller, it’s Jason of Virginia. Jason, welcome to Work and Life.

Jason: I offer a product that is in your space. It’s an employee benefit at no cost to the employer, and it ties in with the work/life balance.   It’s essentially what Blue Cross is to health insurance is what our company is for legal services. I was wondering if there are good ways to reach out to folks who try to bring small businesses together and offer these employee benefits to a diverse community. Is there a way to better communicate with these entities out there?

SF: So Jason, what is it that you want help with exactly?

Jason: I was wondering if there are good communities to reach out to that deal with employee benefits, how does she reach out to other peer groups?

RL: I’m actually familiar with your product. It is a very good product.  In terms of reaching out and ensuring that, maybe we should talk after the show.   In terms of the different groups, there are a lot of resources out there online and you have to kind of think about where businesses aggregate, whether it is their local Chamber of Commerce, whether it is meet-ups that are related to businesses in the area, but there are plenty of resources where you can turn to provide education about your service to others.

SF: Rachel, I want to turn to something that you do as part of your continuing commitment to The Wharton School and to the community of people who are studying Total Leadership. You serve as a Total Leadership mentor for current students, which means you read everything they write for the class, which is a lot, because I have them write a lot about what’s important to them, who’s important to them, and about the experiments they try to make things better in all the different parts of their lives. And you talk to them, you advise them based on your experience. Tell us a little bit about what’s that like to be coaching or mentoring people.

RL: It is a very enjoyable experience. It’s always amazing to see somebody start on this journey. They have a certain idea of how they want their lives to be, their ideas, their perspectives, and their action plan for future changes. It is always amazing to watch that transformation from hey, I want to spend time with my family or I think I’m working too hard. How can I make my life a little more productive to seeing them actually come up with concrete steps as to what they can to do to live a life that is a little bit more fulfilling. For me personally, I find it very enjoyable. As much as I want to say that I want to spend some time running or going out to the movies, eventually sometimes you get caught up. So it’s helpful to get the perspective of the students, and, with them, go through the course again and realign my actions to my beliefs.

SF: By serving in an educator or coaching role, you are continually refreshed in terms of your own thinking about how these ideas and tools apply to your own life, not just what you’re helping somebody else to figure out?

RL: That’s correct. You’re going to have a flood of mentors calling in now.

SF: That’s great. We love to have generations teaching generations about the tools that they find useful in trying to pursue lives that are truly meaningful with a sense of harmony, or a greater sense of harmony. What would you say the impact has been on the people that you are mentoring? What have you observed and how have you affected change in other people.

RL: Generally, they become a lot more confident about their future direction, where they want to go, how they want to pursue their leadership vision, how they want their interactions to be with their family and with their work.  So they are a  little more conscious when they embark on their path after finishing this course. They make choices with the awareness of being in line with their core values and what they want to get out of their lives.

SF: And they get that confidence because they’ve taken real action and real steps toward realizing their vision and they see that it is possible, right?

RL: They say, as that first caller had mentioned, they had taken a small step and proven to themselves that it actually works, so they have more confidence to take more small steps and move forward.

SF: I feel so fortunate to observe that all the time. How are you feeling about your future these days in terms of what’s next, both for your work life and your family life?

RL: We have a very exciting project ahead. It is the most challenging, interesting, and fun that we’ve ever had. We have attracted a lot of really smart people to work with us, so it is the most exciting it has ever been. Every new day is super exciting.

SF: Can you tell us about the project?

RL: The Everything Benefits project? That is my third baby, so to speak. And on the family front, we are very excited. My little one started first grade, my older one started the fifth, so it is very exciting to see them discover the world and be there for them, because I am able to make choices to spend a little more time with them as they are growing, as they are developing.

SF: So as the CEO and co-founder you’re able to make it work. What’s the key to being able to actually do that, because it’s a rare thing, from what we hear.

RL: You have to make conscious choices to do that, to follow up with actions, and of course, it really helps that I have an amazing support network. My husband, my parents, and all my peers are all there to back me up when I’m at work and they have to put in a little bit of time to help me out. That’s what makes it happen.

SF: That was part of your choice, too though, to marry the right person … it’s huge. It’s probably the most important career choice that anybody makes, right?

RL: You would not think to say that as a career choice, but in reality it is.

SF: You need that, and to have the extra benefit of your extended family to provide support, that’s also the result of a choice you made to be near them.

RL: Correct, we live only a few miles away, so it really helps.

To learn more about Rachel Lyubovitzky and Everything Benefits visit http://www.everythingbenefits.com –smart benefits management solutions that help streamline inefficient processes, unravel hidden costs, and improve the workplace environment – and follow her on Twitter @rlyubovitzky.

About the Author

Jacob Adler , jacob adlerW’18,  is a sophomore at Wharton and a contributor at The Daily Pennsylvanian, numberFire, and Fake Teams.

Empowering girls: If You Can See It, You Can Be It — Katlyn Grasso

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life Stew spoke with Katlyn Grasso, a senior at Wharton pursuing a B.S. in Economics with concentrations in finance and strategic globalization. In addition to the many leadership roles Katlyn holds at Wharton, she is also a Community Leader for the United Nation’s Girl Up initiative and C-E-O and Founder of GenHERation, a female empowerment network for high school girls.  Katlyn and GenHERation have been featured in numerous national media outlets, including Forbes, The Huffington Post Live, and Seventeen Magazine where Katlyn was included on their list of “Real Girls Doing Amazing Things. She just won the University of Pennsylvania President’s Engagement Prize, and she’ll be using the funds to host conferences nationwide for 15,000 girls.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman:  Katlyn,  what is genHERation?

Katlyn GrassoKatlyn GrassoGreat question. Gen-HER-ation is a female empowerment network for high school girls.  We’re an online platform that connects girls with national corporations and nonprofits to launch advocacy campaigns on a monthly basis. For example, this month we are working with an international branding house, Brandberry; they are challenging the girls to create a socially conscious brand. The girls have the whole month to submit their ideas. At the end of the month we will put all the ideas into a poll and the girls vote on them.  The winner of this challenge will get to work on their product idea with Brandberry, the branding house for wild Disney and the Wiggles and they do really incredible work.

SF: What’s the Wiggles?

KG: You don’t know what the Wiggles are? I think they are an Australian singing group on the Disney channel.  They’re for the four to eight year old audience.  They’re big deal.  And we have also worked with other companies like ESPNW and The American Heart Association.   We have some other partnerships coming up with Roominate, which was just named by Time magazine Toy of the year for girls. Our website is also a comprehensive media outlet for girls.  Every day we have informative content including videos.  We do interviews in a question and an answer session on our website. We also give away scholarships for girls.

SF: What types of scholarships?

KG: We do scholarships for projects.  So, if a girl wants to launch her own advocacy campaign we can fund that.  But we also fund scholarships for colleges or camps girls want to pursue or online courses they may want to take.

SF: How did all this came to life?

KG: I have always been really passionate about empowering girls.  I drank the Kool-aid; I went to an all-girl school, was a girl scout and when I came to Wharton I thought someday I want to have a Katlyn Grasso Leadership Institute for girls which will be a high school.  Girls have to step up and become leaders if there are no boys that would be hogging the spotlight.  So when they need someone to lead the team or when they need someone to be the class president, then it has to be a girl. When I came to Penn I was sort of shocked that in my classes — and I take financial classes so they are pretty male-dominated — girls were afraid to raise their hands in class because raise their hands even if they don’t know the answers!

SF: I have never seen that happen. Just kidding!  So that’s still a thing, as you said, in your finance classes?

KG: Yeah. Girls they have to make sure they are 100%.

But I think even earlier in my career here, when I said I want to be an entrepreneur and I started googling who are female entrepreneurs and CEO’s, I found that there are very few.  I wanted to create role models, relatable models, for teenage girls 13 to 15 years old so that they could aspire to be like them. I always had the mantra that if you can see it, you can be it.  And it becomes harder when you are in those finance bio-tech, tech worlds so that you need someone out there encouraging you to get out there and get over those huddles that are in those fields.  That’s why I created genHERation.

SF: To provide role models and inspiration for girls to see and be able to say, “I see that, so that means I can be that.”

KG: Right.  I also think that the experiential learning platform is important. Every month, working with a different company, girls actually implement these projects. Last year when we did a campaign with the American Heart Association the winner went to a charter school in New Jersey.  The girl came up with an after school program for CPR training that was implemented in nine schools in the district and she put that together herself.

SF: Is that a high schooler?

KG: Yeah a 10th grader in Newark.

SF: Wow!

KG: We have had girls do financial leadership campaigns where they do financial lessons for girls in schools or communities and arrange advocacy campaigns where they learn so much about themselves.

SF: And about their capacity to lead.

KG: Yeah.  Because even with my experience as an entrepreneur, you really don’t know what you are capable of until you have set really high goals. Sometimes they seem impossible, and then when you achieve them and you say, “Wow! If I could do that I can do anything!”

SF: What was the goal for genHERation when you first started?

KG: I don’t know if I had a really clear cut goal.  I was listening to your earlier guest, Dr. Ned Haollowell, and he was talking about entrepreneurs having a race car mind. I definitely have a racecar mind. We are a year old; we launched our campaign on March 1st 2014 and we have reached 10,000 girls since then. I didn’t think we would be that big in our first year. I just said I want to provide quality content and experiences for these girls so that they feel motivated to go out and make changes in their communities. When we launched our pilot program I said I want to reach 250 girls.  Over the summer we held our first Summer Leadership Series and we visited five cities across the U.S. to hold workshops for high schools girls — and we had over 500 attendees.

At the end of the summer I said I want a 1000 members and then we started growing.  But the true impact that genHERation can have on a girl’s life is not quantifiable.  I go back to that girl in New Jersey who was in the charter school. One day she called me to talk about this project and she said, “Katlyn, thank you for taking a chance on me because no one ever has.”  When I get emails from girls and they thank me so much for helping them pursue their dream; that’s really what is all about for me.

SF: Who influenced you and helped you along the way?

KG: I think there are so many people. I have I great family, my mom, my dad and my sister I am going to be starting a campaign called Dad’s for Daughters soon. I think having strong male role models in your life is important.  When I came a Wharton I really just started talking to anyone and everyone who would listen to me about entrepreneurship and I have met a lot great professors here. I work at the Small Business Development center where I have met incredible entrepreneurs.  Just rounding yourself with positive, optimistic people; they are the ones who have really helped me achieve success.

SF: Let’s talk about Dad’s for Daughters; tell us more about that initiative, what is it about and where you would like it to go?

KG: It’s still in its very early stages but I am working on a really big project that I hope will take place around Father’s Day this year. Growing up I realized what a big role my dad played in my leadership development journey and I realized some dads are not taking this role in their daughters’ lives. I thought that if we really want to get dads who are in the highest positions of power — CEO’s of companies, athletes and professors — coming together and saying,  “We have daughters and we want to pay them as equals to their male counterparts. We want them to be promoted and we want them to work in the tech industry as well.”

We need to come together and raise public awareness about this. I had a conference in the fall here at the Penn Museum for about 200 girls. I put together ideas for my Dad’s for Daughters panel and my dad came down from Buffalo to speak.  It was a big deal.  We also had Michael Rinzler, a Wharton MBA and CEO of  Wicked Cool Toys who has a two-year old daughter. I met him because he is also on the board of a company called Women In Toys, an organization that I am a part of. I was like Michael?  Is it Michelle?  He was a guy.   And he said,  “I think it’s important for me as a man in this industry, and someone who has a wife and a daughter, to stick up for the rights of women and to encourage their advancements.”

SF: What are the keys for fathers?  There is are lot of fathers listening out there who might be thinking,  “I would like my daughter to grow up to be like Katlyn.” What do they need to do?

KG: I think it’s really about being optimistic. My dad always said, “What’s the worst thing that any one could say? No?”  I think that’s why he is a natural salesman. I grew up seeing that he would always do anything it took to close the deal; he would be persistent. That always stood out to me; you have to keep on knocking on doors, pounding on pavement, you have to go on. I think it’s really important to be there when your daughters are going to fall, or have a hard time, and when they are applying to college. You need to say, “You know what?  It’s going to get better from here.”

I also have a younger sister so it’s not like there was a boy in my family.  I always thought that I could do anything that a boy could do.  I never thought because I am a girl I might not be able to do this.

SF: Was there something that your father said or did or implied that made you feel that way?

KG: I think he was just always there for me when I started my first business, Tap for Tots, and I didn’t even know if that was going to work out.  I have tap danced for 18 years now and my first business was teaching kids how to tap dance. When I started I couldn’t drive yet and he drove me to all my appointments during the summer.  And I just said thanks dad for always believing in me. I think it was just for always being there.  It’s not anything I think that they can say or do in particular but it’s just being the number one fan in the audience.

SF: What has been the most challenging part of bringing genHERation to life?

KG: I think this is what the importance of dads for daughters. Being a female entrepreneur can sometimes be the biggest thing that gets in your way.

SF: How so?

KG: I was pitching for a competition here last year. I was the only female finalist out of 10 contestants. They were MBAs, not a junior, like me.  It was a practice pitch and there were two male judges there. One of the male judges just stopped me in the middle of what I was saying.  And I am like, “What did you say?”  And he said, “I just want to tell you right now that this is a good effort and everything, but you are a girl. I don’t know how far this is going to go.”  I am seeing your face right now, Stew, and that’s how I felt.

SF: My jaw is dropping.

KG: He said, “This is cute and everything, but I don’t know if it could be a full time venture.”

SF: I am so sorry to hear that.

KG: I left there and that was the day I started, right after I called my mum and said, “Can you believe that this even happened?”  And she said, “You know what, this is going to happen in the business world. People are going to try to bring you down. You have to keep going on.”  And when talked to my dad he said, “They are never going to understand unless they have daughters of their own.”  Hence the idea for Dads for Daughters was born. I think being a female entrepreneur, especially being a young female entrepreneur, sometimes people don’t take you seriously.  You always have to go in even more prepared, showing why you are just as worth it.

SF: D you see that happening in your generation in the same way it has in prior generations?  Or do you think the dynamics of men and women in the work place have changed so that it’s easier for men and women to play different roles than they might have played traditionally?  There are now more women in positions of power and authority in the public professional world and men having a more active role at home. Do you see change happening?

KG: I think that there is no saying that I can’t work in this bank because I am a woman. I think I have the same skills as my male counterparts but I think in the entrepreneurial world — I am in the venture initiation program here, the incubator program for student startups at Penn — and there are about 30 ventures in it between the Philly campus and the San Francisco campus.  I can name three women in that. Women aren’t prominent in entrepreneurship yet.  I am not saying it’s a bit of an old boys club.  I think it’s because women are less likely, they see it as a risk to be in entrepreneurship. Other than that time [in the contest] I have actually never been discouraged by people saying girls cannot be entrepreneurs.  But there are just so few of them that when I tell my friends you should be an entrepreneur they are like,  “I can’t do that; that’s too risky and I don’t have the skill for that.”

I say, “Why not?”  When I ask them that they don’t even have an answer. I think they just think that’s a career that’s sort of off limits for them.

SF: What do you think is causing that sense of inhibition where these young women are hesitant to take the initiative?

KG: I think entrepreneurship is seen as something that is unstable; one day you may have a job and one day you might not have a job. I always thought that there is a greater likelihood if I worked for bigger corporation that one day they just say we went bankrupt I could get fired just because I am the young analyst on the totem pole. If it’s my company, sure maybe we don’t have a big capital like the investment bank, but I have control over my finances, how much money I want to make, in my day to day life. I feel more in control of my life in that way.  But other people don’t really see it in that way.

SF: What do you see as you look as the next five or ten years how do you see the world unfolding in terms of opportunities for men and women and how men and women are going to be working together both at work and at home?

KG: I think Sheryl Sandberg is the exemplary female icon of this generation saying we need equal agendas at the table. I think we are going to move to parity.  But I think the big change will come in politics.  I think that there would need to be a female president because when you look around the world the United States is 75th on the list on women empowerment.  There are more women in government in Rwanda, Pakistan and Iraq.

I think wow, we don’t have enough women in legislative positions who are working on daycare at work for women, paternity or maternity leave. The legislators aren’t even considering these issues just because they are not women.

SF: Unless men take a greater role for domestic responsibility and child rearing as they are starting to.

KG: Right and I think they are starting to but not the majority.

I think having the example, not even a female president, but more female governors and more women in Congress.  I think that will be a big shift. I also think there is a lot to be done about how women are portrayed in the media. I did a social impact research experience — a program that we do here at Wharton where they give students grants to study over the summer. Last summer I studied how girls’ consumption of media influences leadership development.  I was fascinated to see how the websites and the television shows that girls consume affects their daily lives. I interviewed about 500 people and 92% of them said that they don’t think that the media they consume portrays women in an equal light.

We see this but we don’t take action.  There has been an emergence of shows that are putting women in positions of political power to show that women can achieve. This goes back to my concept of if you can see it, you can be it, and that means female journalists. When you look at female journalists delivering hard hitting news about middle eastern conflicts — its usually not women, its usually men. Men sort of get seen as the trusted sources on important issues and bring more people in because it’s just a subconscious bias, you don’t even think about that.

SF: If you think about the rest of life — and let’s just look at family life — we have been talking about community and changing the cultural values and the iconography of who has the voice of authority and who has institutional power. At home how do you see the roles of men and women evolving in your generation?

KG: I think they will be equal because I think men and women both want to have families and I don’t think women now are content to stay at home. Women are earning more advanced degrees and at higher rate than their male counterparts.  That’s a lot of time and money invested.  So obviously they want to put that to work. I think what we are going to see is that not only are people going to want to have an active role in the household but companies are going to need to adjust in order for there to be more life and work balance.

SF: What do you think is the most important thing for young women to be thinking about in terms of breaking what remains a glass ceiling in large companies especially of reaching positions of authority and power?

KG: I just think that they need to be persistent and not let anyone or anything upset their perception of themselves as leaders.  They can’t worry about what their male bosses or their female bosses might say. They just have to go on with their goals and say I am going to achieve this and make sure that they are surrounding themselves with the right mentors and sponsors to elevate themselves up to those leadership positions.

SF: What’s the best way to get started in developing a network of support?  I am sure that is something you must address on genHERation?

KG: Yes. My best advice is talk to everyone and anyone. I think you can learn as much from a taxi driver as you can learn from a CEO of a company. You never know what you can learn from someone or how that can influence how you think about something.

SF: You’re graduating from Wharton.  What happens next?

KG: We will be working on growing genHERation fulltime in the beginning of May.  We are going to have a big announcement about a summer program. Then I will just continue and growing the company.

To find out more about Katly Grasso and GenHeration visit their web site www.genheration.com and follow on Twitter @KatlynGrasso and @GenHeration

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

Solving a Problem Created a Business — Nova Covington

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Nova Covington, CEO and Founder of Goddess Garden Organics.  She joins me today to share her unconventional journey from her rural upbringing to leading one of the fastest growing and most innovative natural skin care companies.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Nova Covington is the Founder of  Goddess Garden Organics. She joins me today to tell us about her unconventional journey from a rural upbringing to leading one of the fastest growing and most innovative natural skin care companies and how her mission driven company is profiting by embodying its values. Nova, could you give us the capsule summary of where you came from and how you got to be the founder of  Goddess Garden?

Nova Covington: I grew up in the Canadian wilderness and the Oregon rainforest. My family was always inspired by natural healing. My great grandmother was an herbalist so she passed down to the family love of things like echinacea and goldenseal. I was brought up thinking natural products were all the  rage everywhere.  It wasn’t until I became a mom in my 30’s that I had an experience with my own daughter that inspired the real impetus for starting the company.  My daughter, Paige, was born and was allergic to synthetic chemicals. Even with the products that I was finding in natural grocery stores, she was still breaking out in hives.  That first year we started with sunscreen and I was like “wow! there’s up to 35% toxic chemicals in this bottle.”  And no wonder she’s having a reaction.

SF: Even in those that were labeled “organic?”

NC: The organic movement hadn’t quite started yet.  Even natural products had parabens and known carcinogens and a lot of synthetics were still being used —  especially bubbles and surfactants.

SF: Surfactants?

NC: Yes. That’s the stuff that makes soap foam. Any foaming is usually a synthetic.  There are a few natural sources, but that was the inspiration for starting the company and we really have bootstrapped this brand. We started as a small farmer’s market brand in Boulder, Colorado. Like other great brands, we grew up in Boulder, like Justin’s and Celestial Seasonings, starting at farmer’s markets learning our market. I was my target market so that helped a lot. I understood what I was looking for and solving a problem really created a business.

SF: How did your growth happen so rapidly or is it only recently that you’ve experienced a surge in interest in your products?

NC: The first event we ever did was back in 2005. We sold out of sunscreen at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.  Hindsight being 20/20 I would have ditched all our products and just gone right for sunscreen.  But in 2009 that’s really when we launched in the natural channel.  We launched in Whole Foods and that first year we had about 100 stores. Since 2009 we’ve more than doubled each year. This year we’re on track for more than 170% growth. So we’ve consistently—I jokingly say we’ve — organically grown.  Word of mouth has been huge for us. Folks love our sunscreen.  It’s a little more elegant. If you’ve ever tried a mineral sunscreen, a lot of competitors have very greasy and white formulas.  Ours goes on sheer and it’s nice to use. It even comes in a spray bottle, the container you’re used to with sunscreen. We did some really good innovative things as well. We put testers on the shelf on the first day so folks could try the product before they purchased it.

SF: So sunscreen was the big mover?

NC: That’s right. Sunscreen was the big mover and we’re still only focused on sunscreen. This year we’re launching multiple other categories.  But for that you’ll have to wait till the end of the year. It’s going to be exciting.  You’ll be able to find our new products in the fall in Whole Foods. We’re innovating some really cool concepts between multiple categories in skin care that haven’t been done before. Innovation has really been the name of the game for us. We had the first “testers”, the first family-sized tube in natural and it’s still our top seller. Nobody copied us. And we wonder “why not?” People are always scared of the price point because it is an organic product which has been great for us! It’s made in America. It is more expensive. And we buy from organic farmers in the U.S. So we totally support organic farming businesses here in the U.S.

SF: So you did this out of the need to help your daughter, Paige, deal with the hives she was getting from these synthetic products?  How did that morph into a company with a mission to make a difference?

NC: I think the mission to make a difference came even before the company started.  I started at Hewlett-Packard, had a great corporate career, got a Master’s degree, and did all these different things but the whole time I was thinking, “I’m not using my skills. I really should be doing something good for the earth.” I was training leaders to be better leaders but in the long run is this good for the earth?  That was always in the back of my mind so I knew I needed to do something and my path was going to be to do something influential — developing products like ours.  We’re alternative products is really how I see it, for folks who either have allergies or want a better product for their families. Two, it’s totally safe and effective.  We’re only using pure minerals.  There’s no side effects.  There’s no allergies and in the long run that affects the planet. What’s happening is the sunscreen chemicals are so small that they’re going through our water treatment plants and making it all the way to the ocean — even from the middle of the country like where I am in Colorado. There’s bleaching happening in the coral reef and they have tied it to sunscreen.   If you go to a snorkeling tour in Mexico, if your bottle doesn’t say “reef safe” on it, it will be taken away by the Mexican government in the protected areas.

SF: Wow!

NC: The Mexican government is all over it.  And of course you don’t want to be in and out on a snorkeling trip without sunscreen.

SF: Of course, but you have to have sunscreen that’s not going to kill the reefs.

NC: It’s the same environmental issues. We can’t process it out in the water treatment plants.  That’s actually why it’s a hormone disruptor for us as humans, especially for kids, and there’s infinite websites that I have used throughout my career.  The entire website was created as a breast cancer research database to help determine what the healthy product is and what’s safe.

SF: So what would you say are the core values of Goddess Garden?

NC: We want people to enjoy the sun again. We want people to have peace of mind, as they are putting on their sunscreen, that they are not doing more damage to themselves and the planet and it’s the best possible product and that you’re well protected. I mean the sunscreen is serious. Those bad burns are the ones we know we don’t want. Parents take it very seriously. They really want to know the product works and so that peace of mind is being able to enjoy the sun again and we’re a family brand. Our employees are treated as a family as well. So, I think that family values, and not in the generic sense, but caring about people and flexibility in the workplace is always one of the benefits that I make sure my employees have.

SF: How does that play out?  Can you give us an example of what a common practice might be in order to be ensure that people have flexibility and are being honored for who they are outside of work as well as at work?

NC: One of my marketing team members took three weeks to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.  And I said “do it.” He used all his paid time off and took some unpaid time as well. We’re still a fairly small company. We’re still under 50 employees.  I think being able to travel and do those once in a lifetime opportunities that come your way whether it’s travelling with your family, whatever it is that inspires people.  And a lot of people volunteer. They spend their time in outside organizations so on certain days in the week they say, “okay see you later” and go and volunteer for whatever it is. I think having work-life balance is really critical for me as well as my entire company.

SF: How is it for you as the CEO? I’m sure it’s not easy to draw those boundary lines to enable you to be the mother you want to be, spouse, friend, et cetera.  How do you do it personally?

NC: I think the first lesson is “you’re not perfect.” If I’m being an awesome CEO, I’m not being a perfect mom. If I’m a perfect mom, I’m not a great CEO. So, you can’t really be perfect all things at the same time.

SF: Bravo! It’s an important idea. You can’t do everything all at once.

NC: No. One little step at a time is how we got here. We always tell the team that each day to do what you can and chip away at the goals and head towards the vision.  And all of a sudden you’re there. Wow! Yeah we made it!

SF: So what does that mean for you though personally as you try to accept “okay, I’m not perfect.”  You have to make some adjustments in order to be the person and the leader you want to be.  And not just work but in the other parts of your life.  What are some of the most important principles that you try to follow to realize that ideal?

NC: I think one is not trying to micromanage and control every aspect of the business. I have fantastic people who I totally trust. I’ve collected these amazing people in our company that are from all over the place, from great brands, that have really done great things like Chipotle and Starbucks.

Having people that I really trust;  and without my supportive husband who’s been the real reason why I could not have a salary for a few years in the beginning when starting the company, and all those things that you do, the sacrifices you make as an entrepreneur. He has been so supportive. He’s actually the formulator of the products; he has a nutritional science background.  He’s really been the rock. And a year-and-a-half ago he left his upper level management job at IBM to join the company.

So, he’s my COO now. That is the key to me having more balance and having somebody great that I trust in that role.  He does the CFO job as well. He has an MBA from CU Boulder with upper level management experience from IBM.  He had about 400 employees under him and he helps me a lot. Without his help, I wouldn’t have as much work-life-balance as I do. We’re usually juggling.

SF: How do you find time for your personal life and your family time when you’ve got your COO next to you at home?

NC: Well, our kids start to bill us a dollar every time we mention Goddess Garden. They cut us off, “can you discuss this later at work?  We don’t want to talk about Goddess Garden.” I have an 11 year old and a 4 year old and the 4 year old is happy to cut you off!

SF: The 11 year old?

NC: She’s pretty into it. She sees herself as a part of the brand.  Up until this last year her picture was on the package with mine — another very unconventional move that we made.

SF: You mean to have your personal picture on there?

NC: Yeah that was an innovation as well and now I see a lot of brands putting a picture of someone on the front.  But we did a big re-brand in the fall and launched in March with our brand new packaging with a great design firm from San Francisco

SF: So your kids cut you off but, how do the two you, your husband/COO/CFO, find time to devote to the things that are beyond your company when you’re together at home?

NC: There’s a few things we do. We have a lot of hobbies in common like road biking. He supports me while I’m doing yoga and I support him while he’s mountain biking. I think spending time to do the things that you need to regenerate yourself is important. And then we have date night once a week. Having time together without the kids, without the business. Especially when he joined the company full time that was when we said, “Ok, we need a night designated as our time.”

SF: And how does that effect the performance of your company – having the time that’s just for the two of you?  In other words, how do investments in your family life, community and for yourself actually help you at work?

NC: By staying more connected, which is super important when you’re running a company together, you have to make sure you agree on things.  Communication is really important. We do take time, when the kids are asleep, to talk about business issues. We have a 9 PM cut off rule; past 9 PM we can’t talk about business anymore. Those are some of our techniques that we’ve accumulated to help us stay balanced. And still, you struggle everyday. Balance is an ideal we all shoot for but you have your days when it gets a little out of control.

SF: I abhor the term “balance.” And I’ve been advocating for over 25 years now that we talk about harmony or integration among the different parts of life because balance is impossible. A better way to think about it is how to create a sense of integration or harmony over the course of our whole life not at any one minute.

NC: I love it! Not having a separate work self,  I think being myself at work helps me. I totally agree with your point on balance. I don’t make any New Year’s resolutions but I choose a word for the year and a couple of years ago my word was balance. About half way through the year I said, you know balance is always a struggle.  It’s like a knife edge you’re trying to stay on top of. I agree with you; it’s the wrong metaphor. And harmony was my word of the next year after that.

SF: What does the future hold?

NC: We’re going into 4000 CVS stores Memorial Day Weekend. We’re in REI and all the natural grocery stores.

To learn more about Nova Covington and Goddess Garden visit their web site www.goddessgarden.com

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

Dual Career in Couple-Run Family Business

Contributor: Morgan Motzel

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Jordan Lloyd Bookey, Chief Mom and Co-Founder of Zoobean, a service that helps families discover children’s books and apps at home or their local library. Before she decided to make the leap to the entrepreneurial life, Bookey led teams working at the intersection of technology and education at Google. As a speaker, educator, and mom, she is passionate about innovations in education, technology, and startups. Friedman spoke with Bookey about the challenges and insights gleaned from starting a social enterprise with her husband, Felix Lloyd.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation. Or listen to the full podcast here.

Jordan Bookey with Stew Friedman

Stew Friedman: You call yourself “Chief Mom”, and your husband Felix Lloyd is “Chief Dad”. Those are interesting titles for business; a lovely way I suppose to integrate the different domains of your life. What do those titles really mean though? What do they signify to the people who work with you—your clients, customers, other stakeholders?

Jordan Lloyd Bookey: When we were deciding what we would call ourselves (because we were co-founders and husband and wife), we initially thought that I would be CEO, COO. However, since we were both doing everything together at the beginning, we decided not to delineate responsibilities in that way, at least to start. The idea was to have something more playful that we used to refer to ourselves. Interestingly, within a few weeks, you wouldn’t believe how many friends said to me “I love that so much because it’s showing that family is a part of your life and that you put that first—you’re really integrating these pieces of your life together, and I love what that says about your company and your mission.”

SF: What does it say?

JLB: I think it says this is who I am, and I’m bringing my full self to this job. I am a professional in all work situations, but there are times when I really am Chief Mom, and I have to leave on a Friday because the kids don’t have school or my daughter was called home. There are many difficult challenges to being an entrepreneur as well as having a family business, but forgoing your family all of the time is not one of those. You really do get to decide [to prioritize family], and I think we’re putting that decision out front and saying this is really what matters first, and this is a core part of our business. That is as much for us as it is for our customers.

SF: Have you gotten any pushback? Like hey, if you’re a mom, how are you going to deliver the products on time?

JLB: I think Wharton has helped with that stigma. The way people perceive the Wharton pedigree works to counteract that. What we have heard, though, from many couples who are entrepreneurs together, is that you shouldn’t go in and pitch together or try to raise money together. You don’t want to both be in the room and remind people that you’re married because it will be perceived as a distraction. What if they fight? What if they get divorced? What if anything else happens? A relationship can overcomplicate things, so we try not to remind people about that part of our lives [that we’re married].

SF: What’s the biggest challenge you find in working with your spouse?

JLB: I’d say the biggest challenge of working together is carving out the space (to use your framework, Stew) for self. Because so much is together—work, family, and community. That is actually the hardest part… besides the actual work we’re doing. It’s so important, though, to make that space and find time to nurture yourself, and it can be especially difficult [for me] because it feels like every part of our life is intertwined, so I don’t really have that space. For many people, your work space is separate from family, but for us, work and family are circles on top of each other.

SF: What have you found that works for you in terms of finding time to restore and rejuvenate—to tap into the things that give you sustenance?

JLB: If you had asked me this a year ago Stew, I would have said “I don’t know, and you probably shouldn’t have me on this radio show!” [laughs] But we have recently found ways that work for us through implementing what you call experiments.

For example, it’s really important to me to do yoga and work out. We both aim for 4-5 days per week where we wake up at ungodly early hours and I am doing work while he goes to the gym and then drops the kids off. At night then, he’s helping with the bedtime routine, and I go to the gym or go to yoga. It helps to be able to have those separate spaces. We’ve also recently started carving time to spend with our unique friends and making sure we have planned date nights, especially ones that aren’t necessarily just the two of us but with other people in the community as well. It’s good to have other people we are able to connect with because we already do spend so much time together.

We did (and still do) really have to force those things though, otherwise honestly there’s no end to the work. We could probably be home every Saturday night just working, doing laundry, and other “exciting” things.

SF: The exciting and wonderful aspects of the entrepreneurial life. Let’s stay on this subject of boundaries, which I think is an important issue in family business, especially in the case of a couple-managed business. You can maintain those boundaries by making commitments and being very explicit about the needs that you have both as a couple and a company. What advice would you give listeners about how to make that happen?

JLB: I think one piece involves just being honest with yourself and not trying to accommodate what you think the other person really wants. That can get really muddled. In a romantic partnership, you often think to yourself what do they really want… they say this, but they might really want that…? But in a work relationship, you need to be extremely honest and direct. It’s a different dynamic, and you can’t take things personally if someone doesn’t like something you’ve done or doesn’t agree with it. At the end of the day, it’s nothing personal, but still it can be hard to separate those two things from each other. For example, at one point I was working from early in the morning until maybe 2AM every night because there was a limitless amount of work to do. I was thinking that this is probably what Felix wants, given that we’re both so dedicated to the business and there’s so much we want to do.

SF: It sounds like you were making assumptions about what his real needs and expectations were.

JLB: Jordan Lloyd BookeyExactly. And I also wasn’t thinking about what my needs and expectations were. One of the most important reasons why I wanted to start this business was to be able to spend more time with my kids and have that flexibility. So Felix and I talked about it, and we realized that it actually is important for me to have those few hours per day with the kids. I get scared thinking about looking back later in life and feeling as though I missed that chance to spend time with them. From there, we discussed how we were going to manage that need, and what it would look like for us. In a family business, it’s important to express when you’re unhappy about something in your personal space, but then you must also be able separate that out from what is happening workwise.

When it’s happening at work, just keep it at work; when it’s happening in the personal realm, try to still keep them separate. One domain does not always need to impact the other. It’s a hard balance to achieve, but it’s critical for us to attain what we want both for our family and for our business.

To learn more about Jordan Lloyd Bookey and her work, visit Zoobean and Beanstack and follow her on Twitter @zoobeanforkids.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Morgan Motzel Morgan Motzelis an undergraduate senior in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at Penn focusing on Management and Latin America.

Re-Imagining the Work Place

Contributor: Arjan Singh

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Joshua Abram, a successful serial entrepreneur, founding advertising tech companies such as DStillery, and Integral Ad Science, before recently founding Neuehouse, a private workspace that is redefining the ideal work environment for today’s entrepreneurs and companies in the creative fields. Stew spoke with Joshua about how Neuehouse is not only creating a new work environment but also merging work with other aspects of life.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: Joshua, you have been a very successful entrepreneur. What inspired this latest venture?

Joshua Abram: joshua abramI think that the businesses that my business partner, Alan, and I like to start are businesses in which we have tasted the problems ourselves. It’s a good way to focus the mind and avoid misadventure if you know the problem you are trying to solve. And in the course of starting companies with Alan over the past 15 years, we came to employ hundreds of people in New York and all over the world. Despite the companies’ prospering, one of the things we never felt that we got entirely right was that collision between the entrepreneurial moment and big city real estate.

SF: Can you explain what you mean by the collision between the entrepreneurial moment and big city real estate?

JA: For sophisticated entrepreneurs, the competition is no longer about raising capital. Money is available. The real competition is about talent and bringing brilliant collaborators to work with you on a project or at a company. And when Alan and I were starting these companies, we were recruiting people out of the great media companies – Hearst, Conde Nast, Google, Facebook. And the people that we were recruiting were not people who were jonesing for their corner office; that was never the discussion. They were people who cared deeply about the environment in which they worked and whether it was an inspiring company. And part of that had to do with the company, and the mission of the company.

SF: So what was missing from the typical environment in terms of it being uninspiring and what were people looking for in a space to inspire greatness?

JA: I think people are looking for a place to learn. And I think that as diverse as talented people are, curiosity is one of the distinguishing factors that characterize the kind of people that we have always wanted to work with in our companies. And we began to think about the environments that we wanted to create, not just for ourselves but also for others. We thought that, given changes in the economy and changes in the attitudes toward work, maybe it was time, independent of the companies we were starting, because we knew other people were facing the same situation, to take out a blank piece of paper and entirely re-imagine the ideal environment and experience for work for people not so much in technology but in the creative industries operating on a global basis.

SF: What is the distinction between the ideal environment and ideal experience?

JA: When we think of Neuehouse, we don’t think so much about a space. We think about what the experience is from the moment someone enters Neuehouse, from the moment their staff is at Neuehouse. What is experience of their visitors? How will the environment we are creating inspire them? How will it drive their success? How will it allow them to attract more interesting collaborators and more interesting clients? And how will it be a place where both the principals of the company and their staff can learn? We decided to focus on four things. One is that design matters in all of its forms. We are very focused on creating beautiful, inspiring environments. The architect David Rockwell, who is globally known, is our partner at Neuehouse. Another thing that interests us is hospitality. In our lifetime, there has been a hospitality revolution. We are all very aware of the power of hospitality.

SF: What’s the essence of that hospitality shift?

People want to be taken care of. They want to be in an environment where it’s possible to be your best-self. And hospitality can really drive that and influence that. So imagine the experience of being at your favorite boutique hotel and the experience of being there and the ease of living there was transported to your office. That is very active within Neuehouse and very much our focus.

The other thing that we focus on is an intentional community. Neuehouse is an office in which people are invited to participate. If someone is interested in what we are doing, we ask them to apply. And we took this membership-driven approach not to be rude or obnoxious, quite the contrary. We think that the magic in office and in any setting happens not when you have the same people doing the same things but when you have diversity. We never wanted to be a tech ghetto, a design ghetto or a fashion ghetto. The magic happens when those communities are in close proximity to each other and accidents happen. And frankly, if the accidents aren’t happening fast enough, we stir the pot a little bit to make sure the accidents are accelerated.

SF: So how do you intentionally stir the pot and connect the different members?

JA: We do it in number of ways. One is we think of this as being the host of a good dinner party. When you go to a good dinner party and have a great time, you probably have a host who has thought carefully about who will be there that evening with you. And that person tries to find people who were not doing the same thing. You want to meet people who are in different fields doing interesting things. To have a host who is not only convening you, but guiding the conversation and making connections between people that they know well in hopes that those connections will end up having a life of their own. We do that very actively.

The fourth pillar of what we focus on is programming, which at Neuehouse means “food for the curious.” Several nights a week, 100-200 members and their guests gather for conversations with leading tastemakers, opinion leaders, sometimes troublemakers from the creative industries. It might be Paul Smith, the English designer talking about his creative process, or the environmental artist Christo talking about thirty years of environmental art and innovation therein. All of our programming is always non-business related because we think that at the end of the day, in a commercial environment, the last thing that many of us want to hear about is purely commercial topics. It’s much more interesting to hear about things on the periphery of your expertise – it’s much more inspiring.

SF: What has occurred as the result of people convening to listen to someone who provokes their thinking, even if they are operating in different spheres?

JA: It bridges conversations in the community. It’s a shared experience outside of conventional silos of commercial life. It propels a conversation that leads to deeper relationships amongst our members. And also tangents that might lead them to engage in ways they otherwise might not have. It often leads to someone saying, “in the course of talking about what we shared together last night, we’ve come up with a new idea together. Let’s pursue that.”

SF: You have talked about the fuzziness between work and life, and that you see Neuehouse as being designed for that fuzziness. Can you explain what your thinking is? And how your design is uncovering this fuzziness or this blending or mutual enrichment of work and other parts of life.

JA: It’s a really big focus for us at Neuehouse. I think one thing that strikes most people who visit us in New York – and we are about to open in Los Angeles and soon London – is that Neuehouse does not resemble a typical office. When you walk in, frankly the first thing people tend to say almost in unison is “what is this place?” And we love that ambiguity because it signals that we are not just tweaking the office, but fundamentally reimagining its terms. And your question suggests that we are merging different parts of life that have traditionally been separated, although arbitrarily. And one of the things that people say about Neuehouse is that it feels like a beautiful home and that it feels domestic. And we have been very careful to use a design language that much more resembles a home, a home of a curious person, a sophisticated traveler who has seen a lot of things and had a lot of experiences and brought back those experiences and represented them in their home, whether through books, objects, art — which is an important part of the agenda at Neuehouse. So we focus on this domestic setting. And Neuehouse tends to be a place where people come in the morning, and stay through the evening.  They work during the day and then in the evening they invite friends over for the programming, to share a glass of wine and maybe stay for dinner.

SF: Do children become a part of the experience?

JA: It’s so funny that you ask that today. I was at Neuehouse at lunch and I was so glad to see that a member had brought in her two children, ages 6 and 8,  and they were having lunch together. I think it suggests that this is an extension and an integration of their whole life and it signals to me that we are getting something right.

SF: I’m interested in your market. Is this concept one that is just for an elite group of creatives who can afford such an environment? It has to be for a particular niche in the commercial market. What is your vision for how to take that model and scale it

JA: We’ve already begun to do that. We opened in New York 18 months ago. We opened in September, and by December, we were oversubscribed. When we first took this 50,000 square foot lease in New York, it felt like a big gulp, but with a great team, we were able to make it happen. We feel that we have tapped a very strong demand that exists in creative capitals all over the world, and that many cities – New York, Los Angeles and London included – will have more than one Neuehouse. We have a long waiting list in New York. Heterogeneity is very critical to us. We’re focused on the creative industries, so typically film, fashion, music, design. We’ve made the decision that 50% of the companies at Neuehouse will be led by women. And that is indeed the case. It tends to appeal to a fairly cosmopolitan group. 40% of our members in New York have a European passport.

To learn more about Neuehouse, visit them online at neuehouse.com.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Arjan Singh Arjan Singh (2014_02_10 08_00_04 UTC)is an undergraduate junior at the Wharton School.

Bulletproof in Work and Life: Dave Asprey

Contributor: Arjan Singh

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Dave Asprey, a Silicon Valley investor and technology entrepreneur who spent a couple of decades and $300,000 to hack his own biology. He’s lost 100 pounds without counting calories or excessive exercise, used techniques to upgrade his brain by more than 20 IQ points, and he has lowered his biological age by learning to sleep more efficiently in less time. This transformed him into a better entrepreneur, husband and father.  He’s the Founder and CEO of Bulletproof, a company focused on teaching people how to upgrade their performance in every aspect of their life.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: You were a very successful person when I first met you, over a decade ago, when you were a student here at Wharton.  You decided, though, that you wanted to make some dramatic changes in your life. What was the spark? Why and then how did you make significant changes in your own life and body?

Dave Asprey: Dave AspreyYou actually get some of the credit for that spark. I took your Total Leadership class. I was already working on upping my brain and I recognized that I was obese.  I had already lost a lot of weight before I met you. I lost half the weight that I wanted to lose.  It was interesting to understand that I needed to get my brain working right in order to get the spiritual and emotional things that we are capable of when we are performing really well. And what happened when I was in your Total Leadership class is that you encouraged a type of quantification, a measurement.  I was focusing on my weight, how much was I eating, my IQ, my reaction time, and what I could do for those variables. But I never looked at investment return on the time and energy that I put into things. And it was your framework that said “if you’re spending a lot of energy in a particular area and you’re not getting results, maybe you shouldn’t do that.” And that made me start looking at how can I make this easier instead of just how can I get this done.  It is that sense of ease and ability to not just do it with struggle and striving and just working really hard but to do it with a little bit of effortlessness and joy. That has become a big part of me becoming successful as a human being and bio-hacker.

SF: How did you create that sense of ease or joy in the process of taking care of yourself?

DA: We have this model that I wrote about in my recent book The Bulletproof Diet. The easiest way to explain it is to think about a Labrador Retriever, a big sloppy dog, and if you look at a three behavior set a dog has, those are behaviors that we have.

One, if something comes in front of our vision then we’re either attracted or scared by it and want to run away. This is a good survival behavior. It’s kept us from getting eaten by tigers and ensures we find interesting stuff. But it might distract us when we want to stay on task.

And then we have this other survival behavior which is eat anything so we don’t starve. And it keeps us from starving, but it doesn’t work if it is getting in our way. That Labrador will eat something even if it makes it sick or even if it gets obese. And these are instincts that fuel us, too.

And the final thing has to do with reproduction of species. The dog sees a leg and it wants to mate with that leg.  These three human behaviors can cause an enormous amount of stress and struggle. And the one that I found was most pernicious was food. Because if you’re eating stuff that makes you constantly just a little bit hungry – or even worse, “hangry,” the combination of hunger and anger.

SF: Hangry? What does that mean in terms of how it affects work and life?

DA: When you get hungry that “Labrador” in your body starts to get growly and then you treat people unkindly. To get past that, using willpower, comes at a cost.

Your willpower is a finite resource and you don’t want to waste willpower on being hungry all the time. You don’t want to waste willpower on doing things that are really hard for you, especially if they are things that are easy for someone else. So for me I made a resolution that I was going to spend my energy on things that I was really good at, or uniquely good at. And I would take the things that either did not bring me joy,  things that were more difficult than they should be, and I would find someone who enjoyed them or was just better at them than I was and I would work with them.

I don’t try to address my weaknesses. I try to fill them in with partners.

SF: Can you give an example of that?

DA: Even though I did go to Wharton, finance to me is like Valium; it knocks me out. I don’t like accounting and I don’t like finance. So I hired a kick-ass Chief Financial Officer instead of pouring extra effort into that when I would’ve gotten sub-par results anyway. And it’s the same reasoning you teach in Total Leadership. If you’re putting effort into this and you’re getting very little return, then you need to change your technique put in less effort. It’s a relatively simple example; hire a good CFO.  But if I was weak at marketing and strong at finance, I would hire a Chief Marketing Officer.

SF: It’s really about knowing what your strengths are – what you’re good at and what you enjoy – and knowing where you should invest.

DA: Exactly. It is easy to do the things you’re good at, and like, and it’s fun.

SF: How did this apply to your diet? And how did that affect your career?

DA: I spent seven weeks of my life with electrodes glued to my head doing advanced neurofeedback in a program called 40 Years of Zen. It teaches you byusing a lie detector when your body is perceiving something that you believe or don’t believe. It’s an advanced form of meditation.

SF: Your focus on getting data that helps you learn is inspiring.

DA: During this time, it gave me a very keen awareness of the inner dialogue that we all have. It’s different for each of us, but we all have this inner voice in our heads. What I learned was that every time someone put a bagel, a cookie, or a piece of candy in front of me, there was an immediate response – almost like a knee jerk reaction – that said “Eat that.” And I would tell myself “No, don’t eat that.” It’s the same as when you train a dog. You tell the dog “Don’t eat that” and the dog says “No.”

If you eat in such a way that induces food cravings, then you will feel that those cravings are hunger.  But every time there is food, you will use your willpower that should be going into making yourself an awesome life, making yourself good at your work, or good at what ever that matters to you and you’ll apply it to telling yourself not too eat that hamburger or whatever it is. Since willpower is a finite resource, there is willpower fatigue, there is decision making fatigue – like muscle fatigue.

Why would I waste muscle on basically telling myself no to something?

The breakthrough was figuring out that there are things you can do by either avoiding causes of food cravings or by fueling the body properly so when someone sets that bagel or cookie in front of you, it doesn’t register and your body doesn’t tell you “Eat that” and you don’t have to tell it “No” because you are actually satisfied by your diet.

SF: What are the keys to a high performance lifestyle?

DA: Number one: meditate. There are so many ways to meditate. You can just do deep breaths, you can take a class on meditation, or you can do the neurofeedback way that I have done. Find a way to meditate and use technology to do it faster.

Number two: don’t sleep too much. More sleep is not better or worse. It’s just more sleep. People who live the longest sleep six and a half hours a night. That doesn’t mean you should sleep less. It means that people that are healthy need less sleep and that’s why they are living longer. Get healthier, you will need less sleep and you will free up extra time every day.

Number three: don’t over-exercise. People who listen to your show, people who are high performers are naturally driven to do things that are supposed to make them stronger, better, and faster. When I weighed 300 pounds, I exercised 90 minutes a day, six days a week for almost two years and I didn’t lose the weight. The reason was that over-exercise is just as bad as under-exercise. You can get four or five hours a week of productive time back by exercising more intelligently, by doing it intensely for short periods once or twice a week instead of doing it for long periods every day.

SF: Where would you advise listeners to start?

DA: There are two easy places. The first one is the Bulletproof Diet Book explains all of these bio-hacks, including this psychology of willpower and food and how that willpower bleeds over into your business performance and your life performance. That book is a condensed version of the quarter million words or so that I have written on the Bulletproof Blog.

That said, on the Bulletproof Blog homepage, there’s a get started link that gives you basic things to do. The whole point of Bulletproof is not to be perfect, not to do everything. It’s about choice.  If we can help you understand on a roadmap that choice A leads you to slightly better performance than does choice B, then just make choice A. And the difference in your overall performance can be profound.

SF: What’s in store and on the horizon?

DA: The Bulletproof Coffee Shop in Santa Monica, California is slated to open in May. We are hiring for that.  The rest of the Bulletproof team is virtual and we are hiring for that, as well. It is a good sized company and we have people all over the west coast who work from home, which is a new model there. In May, a documentary called Moldy will be released. This is about a very common source of what I call Kryptonite – things that make us weak that we don’t know about in our environment. And we are going to open more coffee shops and continue producing content, especially about things affecting 100 million people that they don’t know about.

To learn more about Dave Asprey, please check out Bulletproof and follow him on Twitter @bulletproofexec

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

ArjanArjan Singh (2014_02_10 08_00_04 UTC) Singh is an undergraduate junior at the Wharton School.

How to Invest in Your Employees’ Health — Dan Calista, CEO Vynamic

Contributor: Sathvik Ramanan

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Dan Calista, founder and CEO of Vynamic, named #1 boutique consulting firm, as well as Best Small Firm and Best Places to Work. Vynamic is the Philadelphia-area’s largest management-consulting firm focused exclusively on the healthcare industry. Mr. Calista discussed how CEOs can help create a sustainable and hospitable working environment for employees through company values and vision.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: A lot of CEOs say a company is only as good as its people. It’s easy to espouse that value but to enact it is another matter. What are some of the key practices that you do to make that come alive?

Dan Calista: dan calistaLet’s get into some examples. One that’s been fun at Vynamic is what we call “Zmail”. The Z stands for catching some z’s – catch some sleep. It’s an email HR policy at Vynamic where we ask that everyone on the team does not spend any time on email during Zmail hours — 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Some people think that’s shocking – like how late 10 PM is and other people think what’s the big deal, shouldn’t we be sleeping then anyway? And the other big part of this policy is no emails over the weekend. Now if something urgent does comes up, we’ll take care of it by special exception and prior arrangement.

SF: So do people put a delay on so you get hundreds of emails flooding in at 6 a.m. Monday?

DC: It’s amazing. When you really put that filter on your work, you realize what is truly urgent, truly important and what isn’t.

SF: You become more conscious of your choices.

DC: Yes. So the evening’s winding down and you may want to get one or two emails out if something is important, but you start mentally thinking Ok, now I’m shifting my day. And on the weekends, it’s the same idea. This is not a work curfew. I believe in a flexible work arrangement that lets people manage their own schedules. You can get work done when you want to including the 10 PM to 6 AM time, but unless it’s essential and urgent to involve others our norm is that we don’t send emails during that time. Now, if you send something at 9:59 PM, that’s called a Z-bomb because now I cannot write back to you and I’m thinking about your note!

SF: So maybe you should be a little bit more relaxed about that boundary. Is it a slippery slope once you open it up?

DC: Eight hours of sleep is all I’m asking for. Zmail is a company policy and I have to make sure I’m doing it, but it’s also managed by the team.  So we don’t unplug servers, but our team enforces the norm. Someone might say, “Hey, I might have to email you this document. I might not get it done in time, but I know you need it in the morning. Do I have your permission to send it later?”

SF: So you have to negotiate that?

DC: Yes, you just have to ask.  Set boundaries. And reading a lot of your work, I found that to be part of the conversation as well.

SF: Having conversations about mutual expectations and respecting boundaries are essential ingredients to successful work/life integration and smooth team functioning. So what else are you doing that helps your employees to be whole people and bring their very best selves to your business?

DC: Well, the idea that we are whole people. We’re committed to the idea of being healthy in mind, body, and balance. So for example, one of the early investments that Vynamic made was to have someone on staff dedicated to training and continuous learning. Part of life is continuous learning especially in management consulting. A more recent example is that we have someone committed to what we call health and care, which is basically kind of in the wellbeing space. Given that we’re in the healthcare industry, our health and care staff member is there to help with the health and care of our team – whether that’s walking meetings, treadmill desks, healthy snacks, and more. One of our team members expressed interest in this area. She had been a management consultant who took the initiative to study and get certified as a coach and really learn the area. And then the opportunity came up, and we created a role for her. Now that’s her full time job.

SF: So how do you justify that investment in terms of its return?

DC: That’s the power of the values. They drive our decisions at Vynamic.

SF: So what I’m looking at here is a beautiful sheet of paper in different colors that describes the Vynamic values: living, leading, learning, growing, and thriving with the Vynamic vision of being the healthiest company in the world. What a simple, powerful idea. How does that guide your decision making every day?

DC: It’s about making decisions based on those values. Growing for our people and not at the expense of our people. Let’s talk about the vision statement – to be the healthiest company in the world. So how can this little Vynamic company grow to be the healthiest company in the world and what does that look like? It’s about internal conversations like What would the healthiest company in the world do? Yes, we would have somebody that would be full-time dedicated to working on health and wellness. We would have programs to develop our female management-consultants because this is an industry that doesn’t have enough females. At Vynamic, we have 51 females as management-consultants. 54% of the entire company are females. These are things that get layered on to the business as we grow. Companies have to make decisions based on a scarcity of resources. Because we know our values and what we stand for, our values drive our decision-making.

To learn more about Dan Calista and Vynamic, visit www.vynamic.com.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Sathvik Ramanan Sathvik Ramananis an undergraduate freshman in the Vagelos Program in the Life Sciences and Management at the University of Pennsylvania.


Projects, Not Jobs: Jody Miller, Business Talent Group

Contributor: Sathvik Ramanan

Work and Life is a radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday at 7 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Jody Miller, the Co-Founder and CEO of the Business Talent Group, which teams up the world’s best independent professionals to provide consulting and project-based support to companies. Jody previously served in senior roles in business, government, media and law, and was deputy to David Gergen under President Bill Clinton and White House fellow under George H. W. Bush as well as mover and shaker at Time-Life, Lehman Brothers, and Americast. Before founding BTG, Ms. Miller was a venture partner with Maveron, the Seattle-based venture capital firm, from 2000 to 2007. Stew spoke with Jody about project-based work and other disruptions in she made to the otherwise standard career path.

The following are edited excerpts of their conversation.

Stew Friedman: After going into venture capital, how did you get to where you are today?

Jody Miller: 625_Jody MillerI enjoyed venture capital but it’s still very different to be an investor than to be someone who’s really driving a business. I missed that.  And, at the same time, I was being sought out to do consulting projects because I knew a lot about interactive television from my experience at Americast. I started building teams, finding other independent professionals—many of whom worked at major consulting firms—and started helping clients who were coming to me solve their problems with these independent professionals. Before I knew it, I was one of the largest outside contractors to the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, doing a series of five projects all with different teams constructed of independent professionals.  What they were saying to me was Boy, this is really interesting and unique. No one else is really doing this.

SF: What was interesting and unique to them?

JM: One was that no one else was offering them this blend of former consultants with former executives. Number two was that it was actually producing a better result for them than just going to a classic consulting model.

SF: You mean it was less expensive?

JM: No, that was the third. But the actual result was better because what they ended up having were people who had deep knowledge about whatever it was that they were doing. So for example, one of the first projects we did was on education, helping them with an online education company they’d invested in. We brought in someone that had actually led an online education company and paired them with a former consultant and that combination produced a really magical result for the client.

SF: So you’re able to access talent that’s very specifically relevant for the project.

JM: Exactly.

SF: And most of the people that you connected to project work are not in the work of sales and creating the business, but rather they do the implementation. Is that right?

JM: Our projects can be very significant and involved, but a lot of the folks in this market want to think about the project itself. They want to think about the problems. They don’t want to just be responsible for overseeing, which is what happens in a lot of consulting firms where you rise to the top and your job becomes selling business rather than rolling up your sleeves and actually doing the work.

SF: What kinds of effects are you seeing in the talent-side of the equation in terms of people’s lives and how people are changed by this form of employment?

JM: It’s really interesting. We survey our talent pretty frequently, and they always say the same thing about why they’re doing this. Surprisingly, it’s not flexibility—that isn’t even in the top two. Most importantly, they want to choose what they work on and who they work for. They don’t want to be forced to work with people they don’t like.

SF: Well that’s a kind of flexibility; it’s just not about time.

JM: That’s true, but it’s fascinating. Psychologically, it’s also really interesting. Let’s just say there’s a great project available but with somebody who’s really not someone’s cup of tea. It’s a different mindset if you know its only going to be for this project and then you’re out of there.

SF: You think, I can put up with this jerk for another two weeks because this is a really cool project, and I’m excited about it.

JM: Exactly. I’ll put up with this guy or this woman for a bit, and then I’m out of here. That’s very different than if you’re in a permanent situation where you’re thinking I just can’t do this anymore. It frees you up in a way that I think is very liberating for people. Obviously, it’s also nice to be able to decide when you take on projects. I have a hypothesis that when this model really does become ubiquitous, the rate for summer work will be significantly higher than the rate for work during the school year. A lot of people want more time in the summer, and I think the market doesn’t adjust for that today, but it will someday.

SF: Interesting! So what other tips can you give to people who want to be successful in this new labor market? What do you think are the keys? You mentioned having the stomach for some uncertainty and being able to present yourself in terms of the work that’s relevant to the task at hand. What else is there?

JM: Staying current. You’ve got to have a sense of where the world is going and how you fit into it. If you need to supplement your existing skills, you need to know what those things you need are and how to get them. It requires a constant ability to understand where your skills are and where the market’s needs are, and then you get the skills you need to supply what’s most in demand.

Join Work and Life next Tuesday at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111.  Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

To learn more about Jody Miller and her company, visit her web site www.businesstalentgroup.com or follow her on twitter @jodygmiller

About the Author

Sathvik Ramanan Sathvik Ramananis an undergraduate freshman in the Vagelos Program in the Life Sciences and Management at the University of Pennsylvania.

How Entrepreneurs Create Harmony — Stonyfield’s Meg Hirshberg

Contributor: Alice Liu

Work and Life is a two-hour radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday from 7 pm to 9 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

On Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Meg Hirshberg, Contributing editor of Inc. magazine and author of For Better or For Work:  A Survival Guide for Entrepreneurs and Their Families..

Following are edited excerpts of Friedman’s conversation with Hirshberg:

Stew Friedman: How did you get involved in the entrepreneurship game?

Meg Hirshberg: Meg HirshbergReluctantly and by accident. I am not an entrepreneur by nature. I married into a business. When I met my husband he had just co-founded Stonyfield Yogurt. What I didn’t realize was that I wasn’t just marrying a man, I was marrying a business as well. I didn’t get that until I moved up to the farm, which was a very intense introduction to the business. We lived with the business— our factory was there, employees were there. It was a time which I later came to call “the full catastrophe” because we lost money for nine years and didn’t have a profitable quarter for almost a decade. It was sort of a shocking entry into the life of a family and the life of a business.

SF: You didn’t know what you were getting into?

MH: I don’t think I really got it. I’d visit the farm, and it was this idyllic location on a hilltop in New Hampshire – it all seemed quite quaint, and I loved the product. I think it’s typical of non-entrepreneurs who pair themselves with entrepreneurs to not really understand what the entrepreneurial life is all about until they’re steeped in it.

SF: So how far into it the start-up your husband been when you first joined him there?

MH: Well we had the factory at Stonyfield farm in New Hampshire, and they were selling a few products mostly in New England. They were trying to grow the business, working night and day at that. I didn’t understand that whole lifestyle. That led to years of misunderstandings and hurt feelings, because my husband was working so much, and I felt he was prioritizing everything else over me. Again, I think this is very classic for non-entrepreneurs who pair themselves with entrepreneurs, and that’s one reason why, thirty years after the fact, I wrote this book for entrepreneurs and their families. I think there’s no reason for everyone to reinvent the wheel with this. There are so many classic, typical challenges that arise for any entrepreneurial family, and you can deal with them so much more effectively with a clear head if you talk about them and anticipate them before they become red-hot.

SF: Dave, calling from South Carolina, what do you know about this issue and what would you like to know from Meg?

Dave (caller): I’d like to know how to balance your personal life and work life when you work out of your home. My youngest daughter is five years old. I work a forty-hour week, and I’ve recently started a new project, which is my entrepreneurial side, so trying to do all of that out of my home and make time for my daughter has been a struggle.

MH: There’s nothing to amp up household stress like having your business as a housemate as well. I’m going to make some recommendations that we were not able to follow at the time. I think if I had understood how important it was to really try to find some demarcation between work and life when you share your home with your business, I would have been a little bit more forceful about instituting them. For example, I think a trap that entrepreneurs fall into is that you find yourself nipping into the home office after dinner to answer some emails and then you find yourself emerging at midnight. Trying to really set some structural limits around work is important so that you are not going to go into your office (or wherever it is that you do your work) after a certain hour or you’re not going to bring your laptop to bed, for example. Those demarcations, as feeble as they might seem, are actually really important. Another example is not bringing your smartphone to the dinner tablemaking sure that meals are free zones from that kind of intrusion. Another type of demarcation is just with space. A lot of times a family business will start in the corner of the dining room and before you know it, there are materials all over the house, which leads to work taking over physically.  I think it’s important to make sure you don’t let that happen either, in order to allow work and life to coexist with less tension.

SF: What do you think, Dave? Are there opportunities that you have in your life to create some boundaries that might give you an opportunity for real focus in your family life?

Dave: One boundary that I did create for myself and my daughter was I gave her permission to ask me to put down my phone when I speak to her. She actually really appreciated it and made use of it.

SF: Well, you’ve given her power. You’ve not only listened to her, but you’ve also given her a voice in decision-making about where you spend your attention, which I’m sure makes her feel closer to you and more confident in your relationship.

MH: Technology has galloped forward before we’ve had a chance as a culture to catch up with it and establish some really sensible rules and expectations about its use. I think that has led to so many hurt feelings between couples, and also between parents and their children. I’ve experienced this with my husband. If he is glancing at his smartphone when I’m speaking to him, that’s a meta-message to me.

SF: Define a meta-message for our listeners.

MH: A meta-message is not what he’s literally saying to me, but what his behavior is conveying to me.

SF: He’s saying that right now something else is more important to him than you.

MH: Exactly. Something else is more important, or you’re not quite important enough to have my full attention.

SF: Dave, what you’ve done with that intervention with your daughter, if I can call it that, is to help her break through that message. Thank you so much for sharing your anecdote.

SF: Meg, let’s go further. You talked about some structural limits—physical as well as temporal—to help people draw those lines and focus. What else have you discovered about what families can do to effectively manage and thrive in the entrepreneurial life?

MH: Different people try different things. What’s right for one family is not necessarily right for another, but for example, if there are children in the household, many entrepreneurs I’ve interviewed do regular family meetings. Something as simple as setting a time to sit down with everyone in your family is especially helpful for an entrepreneurial family where there’s so much distraction. It’s really good to sit down with everyone periodically and have everyone, the children as well, speak about how this household could run more smoothly just to formalize the way in which you touch base.

SF: Is that something you did with your family?

MH: We actually did do that, not with much regularity, but I know that the times when we did sit down with the kids it was great. It was almost like you could hear the tension seep out of the room when people got a chance to voice what’s going on for them, what’s not working for them. Even when the kids are small, six or seven years old, families can start this kind of thing.

SF: That’s a theme that you’re repeating here, which I think is so important – giving voice to the family so that the members are really heard, because it’s so hard to compete with the power of the vendors or customers or other stakeholders in your business.

MH: Right. It’s the urgent always taking precedence over what’s important. And it’s important not to let that happen all the time. There will always be times when the business is going to win, but it’s important that the family wins sometimes as well.

Hirshberg discusses ways that families can speak up and be heard amidst the urgent demands of the business in entrepreneurial families.  If you work from home or if you are part of an entrepreneurial family, what strategies do you currently use and what strategies are you excited to try out to better integrate your work and your life? Join us in the comments section with your thoughts and experiences.

To learn more about Hirshberg’s work, read her book, follow her on twitter @meghirshberg, or visit her website http://www.meghirshberg.com.

Join Work and Life on Tuesday, May 13 at 7 pm on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Neil Blumenthal with Nilofer Merchant. Visit Work and Life for our schedule of future guests.

About the Author

Alice Liu is an undergraduate senior studying Management at The Wharton School and English (Creative Writing) at the College of Arts & Sciences. 

Make Workplace Flexibility Work For You – Allison O’Kelly

Contributor: Morgan Motzel

Work and Life is a two-hour radio program hosted by Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, on Sirius XM’s Channel 111, Business Radio Powered by Wharton. Every Tuesday from 7 pm to 9 pm EST, Stew speaks with everyday people and the world’s leading experts about creating harmony among work, home, community, and the private self (mind, body, and spirit).

This week on Work and Life, Stew Friedman spoke with Allison Karl O’Kelly, Founder and CEO of MomCorps, about the growing consciousness of the value created by workplace flexibility arrangements. O’Kelly discussed how engaging your networks, managing stakeholder expectations, and having honest personal conversations can bring about work-life satisfaction for individuals in new and unexpected ways.

The following are edited excerpts of Friedman’s conversation with O’Kelly:

Stew Friedman: The conversation about workplace flexibility has changed these days. We’re operating in a different landscape now where there’s more fertile ground for innovation, and where MomCorps, as a staffing agency, can push its client firms to adjust their employment policies and become more flexible.

Allison O'KellyAllison Karl O’Kelly: Yes. I think that companies now, for the most part, want to make flexibility work. This is especially true when you’re talking about the Human Resources department of many organizations. They understand the importance of flexibility. Now it’s about understanding how to make flexible arrangements work.  I think that once the mindset is there, it’s a lot easier to help companies implement strategies to make it work.

SF: How do you get that initial mindset shift? What are your methods for making that happen for an employer?

AOK: As far as the mindset shift is concerned, I see that most people have that already. We don’t spend a lot of time trying to convince people why work flexibility is good. What we do spend a lot of time doing is trying to just get companies to understand the quality of candidates for a given role and to grasp why they can get a better candidate if they’re willing to provide some flexibility to him or her. We often talk about flexibility as being another form of currency. Sometimes it can actually be a way to save money – whether that’s not paying for full-time work that can be done part-time or not paying for office space. We’re certainly not asking companies to hire someone flexible who is not the right person for the organization, but hopefully they can quickly understand that if they give up a little bit on the flexibility piece, they are going to get an amazing candidate that they otherwise might not be able to get.

SF: They can maybe even get a better work method out of it too, in the experiment of trying a new way to get things done.

AOK: That’s also important. We hear over and over again about folks who work on a part-time basis and how amazingly productive they are. I personally think that’s because when people are treated like adults and they’re given that level of flexibility they’re just so much more loyal to their employers. They really want to perform well and do a good job for them.

SF: I’ve found that in order to make any kind of alternative work arrangement work, it has to be not only something that is good for you, but also beneficial for your employer, and even more, for your family and your community. I like people to think of creating what I call “four-way wins” among these four domains of their lives. I believe thinking that way really helps you negotiate effectively because you’re thinking from the point of view of the people around you and not just your own needs. Is that an idea that resonates with your approach?

AOK: Absolutely. We talk about that a lot when we are giving advice, not only just to our candidates, but also when we’re simply talking or writing on the subject – it really is so important that it’s not just about you. Certainly, if you’re going to ask for a flexible work arrangement, in your head it is about you, but you also need to figure out why the employer should be good with what you’re suggesting. There could be so many reasons for that. Cost savings is always a good one, but especially if you’ve been at a company for a long time, retention is also very important.

For example, maybe there are opportunities for you to bring somebody else on, and you can train that person so that the company ends up spending the same money they’re spending now but for two people. They’re not going to have that work otherwise. That’s why it is so essential to figure out what is most important to your employer. Perhaps it’s really important to them that you are at a particular meeting every Friday, and so you will make sure that you’re at each of those meetings. That, then, becomes part of your deal. Ultimately, I think you need to find a way for the employer to feel comfortable with your idea and feel as though the company is getting something valuable out of this arrangement, rather than simply doing you a favor.

SF: That’s a critical theme we’re going to come back to again and again throughout the Work and Life show. It’s really essential because what many employers fear, of course, is that when people ask for alternative work arrangements that they, as the employer, are going to lose something. What they have to be shown is that they’re actually going to gain something. It sounds like you do a lot at MomCorps to try to make that happen.

AOK: Absolutely. I agree that this idea is critical. Gone are the days when your employer would say, “Let’s just do this because I really like Allison, and she’s a nice person.” We don’t have the money or the time for that these days. First of all, you have to be somebody who is very valuable to the organization, and, second of all, whether you are already there or not, you need to prove why you are valuable to the organization and why allowing you to have an arrangement that might be different from what the general employee base has is actually going to be good for them as the employer and not get in the way of doing business. As we know, at the end of the day it is business, and they need to make sure that they are able to meet their outlined goals and objectives.

O’Kelly zeroes in on how organizations and employees can create mutual value by having honest conversations in open and trusting environments. Have you ever been a part of a workplace conversation with colleagues or managers in which you realized that your seemingly conflicting interests could both be realized through a creative solution? Join us in the comments below with your thoughts and experiences.

To learn more about O’Kelly’s work, visit https://www.momcorps.com.

Tune in to Work and Life next Tuesday, April 22 at 7 PM Eastern on Sirius XM Channel 111 for conversations with Doug Conant, Chairman of Kellogg Executive Leadership Institute, and former CEO and President of Campbell Soup, and Brigid Schulte, Washington Post reporter and author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has Time Visit Work and Life for a full schedule of future guests.

 About the Author

Morgan MotzelMorgan Motzel is an undergraduate junior in the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business at Penn focusing on Management and Latin America.