Starting your own business? Brace yourself for more work, less play… and a radical redefinition of ‘work-life balance’

By Nina Nashif (Founder & CEO, Healthbox)

I shot up in bed last Saturday morning, concerned about the status of a deck. I looked at the clock on the nightstand and the bright red lights glared 2:14 a.m. back at me. After telling myself for the next hour that the changes fundraising could wait, I ultimately turned on my computer, unable to fall back asleep.

This is not the first time my thoughts have hauled me out of bed at strange hours since I founded Healthbox in 2011. I often awaken in the middle of the night with inspiration for new ideas or anxiety about something I have to finish.

The phrase “work-life balance” inevitably means different things to different people at different stages in their lives. For someone in the process of building a company, you may only reach true equilibrium when you have done everything you can do to make your company a success. It is naïve to believe that being an entrepreneur is not all consuming. Every breath is filled with thoughts about what needs to be done, how to grow faster, who you need network with, what investors you should talk to and what direction your company needs to go in next. Why? In the end, the fate of your company lies with you, and without devoting complete focus and energy on its growth, you simply cannot gain momentum. Even if you find initial success, a true entrepreneur is always questioning what else she can do or agonizing over missed opportunities.

At The End of the Day, the Buck Stops with You

In the two years since starting Healthbox, I have built a capable team and partnered with some of the brightest entrepreneurs in the health care industry, but ultimately I am the one still held accountable for every success and every failure. While choices are going to be made without you and things will happen outside of your control, each decision is a reflection of you and your vision. This type of pressure does not come with the choice of an even work-life balance. Sacrifices have to be made in order to see your vision and dreams realised.

As an entrepreneur, you need to understand that your work-life balance when you’re in the early stages of building your company will naturally change as the company grows and develops. Yes, you need some down time, but tt is important to make time for you to process everything you are doing and learning… even if that happens at 2:14 in the morning. The more you put in, the more you’ll get out. And then you can take that vacation.

Founders: Are you having sleepless nights too? Do you still make time for you?

About the guest blogger: Nina Nashif is founder and CEO of Healthbox, a business accelerator created to support early-stage entrepreneurs and stimulate innovation in healthcare. Nina is best known for her expertise in creating entrepreneurial ventures and leading high performing teams. Nina has been recognized by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader and by Crain’s Chicago Business as a 40 Under 40. Follow Nina on Twitter @NinaNashif.