Nothing to lose and everything to gain

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Wellness is a loaded term. It means too many things to too many people. And when it comes to scaling a business and teams, wellness isn’t on the critical path which is ironic given how important team performance is to a venture’s success.

Some founders consider wellness a personal responsibility of each team member (that was me).

Others solve for wellness by introducing yoga, healthy snacks and flexible work arrangements (to name a few) for their teams to access.

These two approaches (and every option in between) are opt-in and neither one mandates co-founder participation.

And herein lies the issue.

Team members are cue sponges. They notice when co-founders or any person perceived to be a leader starts acting in ways to improve or degrade their wellbeing, regardless of whether the leader is acting consciously or subconsciously. It’s an unavoidable fact that they respond and modify their behaviours based on what their leaders say and do.

For the record, I think wellness should get more airtime than it does today. I think it’s an undervalued asset for teams starting or scaling ventures. And while wellness isn’t likely to stand shoulder to shoulder with product, technology or marketing on the critical path, it is simple to scale.

The key to this simplicity is the example co-founders set and talk about with their teams.

It’s all good. Until it’s not.

If I’m honest I only started embracing wellness as an ideal when I started thinking about it in terms of how I perform in the service of my wife, daughters, friends and teammates.

I reframed wellness from being an esoteric, nice-to-have cliche and began thinking about it as a core capability I needed to be successful.

Sound strange?

Ask or observe most entrepreneurs and you’ll find that they possess a kind of invincibility psyche. This manifests in a number of ways but it boils down to their mindset being something like this: ‘If I’m always on and upbeat, I will overcome all odds and others will believe we are worth backing’.

These same founders scoff at the idea of work/life balance and dismiss the ‘marathon, not a sprint’ analogy. To them, their venture, identity and livelihood are so inextricably linked that they see no other option but to never stop. This can end badly.

Team members see this behaviour and try to match it in order to fit in. Or they burn out trying to. And while it’s true that entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, no investor wants to see a company fold because its founders implode.

Founders who are scaling their business constantly navigate a slew of known and expected obstacles. Ironically, scaling wellness involves implementing 10 simple tactics.

I encourage founders to do all 10 and then share them with their team in a kind of checklist format. Set the example and then ask the team to follow suit. It will change the game for you, your team and your business.

10 ways founders can scale wellness

Here are the 10 ways I think about scaling wellness and how I bring them to life.

It’s also important to tell your team that you do these things so they can take your cue and also feel permission to do the same.

That’s the secret to scaling wellness.

1. Lock in time for the annual vacation

Do this on 1 January each year. This delivers two benefits. First, it creates an event that you and/or your family can look forward to. One that is jam-packed with relaxation.

Second, you and your team can manage the workload up to and around that period so you can recharge while on vacation.

2. Lock in a closing time for each day and each week

My day ends at 9:30 pm. Period. It starts at 4 am. I’m better in the morning than at night time and I play to that strength. I hold the line on those times so I can be present for my family, my team and those I enjoy supporting.

My week ends on Friday night and spins up again on Sunday night.

3. Codify your rules and your exceptions

This builds on the second principle. There are always exceptions to the rule but most founders don’t lock down which is which and as a consequence they become interchangeable. Being clear on both. By way of example, I have my rule for daily and weekly closing times. There are times when exceptions play out like having to pull the odd all-nighter. That’s OK but it’s not the rule, it’s the exception.

4. Get an alarm clock

This is code for park your phone at your bedroom door. Many of us use our phone as an alarm clock. The problem with that isn’t the function of the alarm clock, it’s the fact that once you switch off the alarm on your phone, the next immediate step is to check email, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. All of a sudden, the rest is gone and you’re into a hectic start of the day.

Give yourself a chance to wake up. Like a human.

5. Move once a day

If you struggle to make time to exercise, take people you need to meet with on a walk and meet while you’re walking.

6. Get relief (and perspective) through a side hustle

A side hustle can be a hobby, a small business or just spending time learning something new but they all have one thing in common, they allow you time to disconnect from your venture. This is important as the by-product of briefly disconnecting from the all-consuming work of growing a business is perspective which is essential to maintain high-quality decision-making. My side hustle is writing a weekly post.

7. Get tactical on focus

This is all about being deliberate about crushing tasks. Here are the three tactics I use. First, make a list each night of the three things you need to nail the following day. These are not strategic questions you need to mull. They are tasks you need to complete to create or maintain momentum. Second, block out time each day to think and get work done. For me, that is 2pm to 4pm each work day. Third, switch off notifications that don’t matter. This includes managing notifications in Slack, email and social media. Every app we use comes with a built-in way to manage and customise notifications. Get good at this.

8. Teach once a quarter

Paying knowledge forward is energising. Offer to speak on a panel, write a blog, be a guest presenter. Put what you learn as a founder into the minds of people just starting out. It will help you realise just how far you’ve come.

9. Ask Jaime Oliver what to eat once a week

Managing weight and energy levels is at least 80% based on what goes into your mouth. If eating habits aren’t a strong suit or you’re bored of the food you do eat, cook a Jaime Oliver recipe once a week.

10. Get radically candid by asking one question 

This is about self-awareness and I wrote about it recently.

One Last Thing …

Founders have nothing to lose and everything to gain by stepping up to implement these 10 steps. I have been doing these 10 things for some time and I encourage my mentees and the founders leading ventures I’m involved with to do the same.

The key to scaling wellness is leading by example and being overt about what you are doing to make wellness a priority. Set the example and then ask the team to follow suit. It will change the game for you, your team and your business. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, listen to what Reid Hoffman has to say about it.

Originally published at

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