2007 Shape-Up

Take it from these experts--healthy choices benefit both your body and your bottom line.
Magazine Contributor
9 min read

This story appears in the January 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

It's no secret that entrepreneurs work their tails off--at least the ones who turn out to be successful. And often, your own health and well-being get lost in the shuffle of build-ing a business. It's a dangerous path to be on, particularly if you hope to keep growing your business year after year.

Now that it's a new year, we figure it's prime time for us to remind you of one of the most important resolutions you can make in 2007. Now is the time to take care of yourself--mentally and physically--as well as your employees. We spoke with two experts for some practical advice on integrating wellness into your life and your business: Don R. Powell, Ph.D., president and CEO of the American Institute for Preventive Medicine in Farmington Hills, Michigan; and Larina Kase, doctor of psychology and founder of Performance & Success Coaching in Philadelphia.

Entrepreneur: How can entrepreneurs integrate wellness into their busy lives?

Don R. Powell: You don't have to run a marathon, but you should exercise for 30 minutes three or four times a week. You should be sitting down and eating breakfast rather than skipping meals. I meditate twice a day, and that's a tremendous stress reliever. Another issue is sleep. We recommend getting seven hours a night, and most entrepreneurs get five or six.

Larina Kase: Entrepreneurs can get started on a healthy diet, fitness and stress-relief program by first taking some time to recognize the benefits. We all know we should improve in these areas, but until you have a clear sense of how it will benefit you and your business, you will remain unmotivated and be less likely to follow through.

I have my clients make two lists: first, how your life, mood, relationship, appearance and so on will improve if you commit to a wellness program; second, how your business's bottom line, your leadership abilities and your business partnerships stand to improve.


Entrepreneur: What if you're too busy to exercise?

Powell: For entrepreneurs who can't fit in even 30 minutes of exercise, they should try to incorporate exercise into their normal daily activities.

For instance, instead of parking at the closest spot to the office, park as far away as possible. Instead of taking the elevator, use the stairs. Instead of having your secretary bring a letter to your office, go to your secretary's desk for it. Make a point of walking around the office as much as possible, not only to oversee staff, but also to get exercise. Hobbies [and chores] outside the office, like gardening and mowing the lawn, also help with fitness.

Kase: I recommend that entrepreneurs set realistic goals about what they can commit to and what they can accomplish given their busy schedules. Goals should be in the SMART format [specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time limited] and should focus on the short-term rewards. For example, I can spend 40 minutes at the gym during my lunch break on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The benefits are returning to work with a clear head, increased energy and improved focus for the afternoon.


Entrepreneur: And what if you're too busy to prepare healthy meals?

Kase: These realistic goals [that I mentioned] can include great time-saving strategies, such as cooking a healthy meal on Sundays and freezing it to eat for several nights during the week, or eating healthy organic frozen meals.

Powell: Even if entrepreneurs are forced to eat at a fast-food restaurant, they can still make healthy choices. Ideally, they would eat salads, which are now offered at many of these restaurants. They can select chicken or fish over red meat and small hamburgers if they do eat red meat.

Entrepreneur: If you're a healthy entrepreneur, you'll want your employees to follow in your footsteps. What can entrepreneurs do to get their employees healthy?

Powell: Just providing a map of surrounding areas where they can walk at lunchtime is a way to [begin getting] people healthier. A common mistake that CEOs make is not [being] a good role model. "Do as I say and not as I do" will decrease the effectiveness of a wellness program.

Kase: Another key component is accountability. Research on why people go to classes at the gym shows that it is most often because of the other people in the class. Accountability could include working with a personal trainer, dietitian, wellness coach, friend and exercise buddy, business partner, spouse or anyone who can hold you accountable while you're forming a new habit.


Entrepreneur: How does integrating wellness into your business make for a better business?

Powell: You have increased productivity and employee morale, and reduced health-care costs, absenteeism and "presenteeism"--when someone is at work but is not able to be productive. It shows your company is taking an interest in [employees'] health and well-being. The average return is $3.50 for every dollar spent on a wellness program. Entrepreneurs have a sense of the bottom line, and providing wellness [tools] will help grow your company.

Employee Wellness and Diet Tips

To Their Health
Employees are your greatest assets, so support them with a wellness program.

For Jeff Lambert, wellness goes hand in hand with business. For the past few years, Lambert has been contributing $200 toward each employee who participates in the wellness program at his $3.5 million Grand Rapids, Michigan, PR and investor relations firm. Among other things, this benefit covers health-club memberships, smoking cessation and Weight Watchers classes as well as one group event per year, such as a 5K run. The only requirement is accountability: Participants undergo a health assessment initially and at annual intervals to show measurable progress or sustained health.

There's clearly a business benefit to providing a wellness program for employees, says Lambert, in addition to the obvious benefit of having healthy employees who are more likely to be at work: "Folks who have participated feel better about themselves. They enjoy interactions with others, and this tends to be a general morale boost for the organization," says Lambert, 35, who co-founded Lambert, Edwards & Associates in 1998 with Brian Edwards, who has since left the firm. He now has three partners: Don Hunt, 38; Tara Powers, 34; and Tim Sipols, 40.

Your wellness program can be as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be. On-site fitness centers or health clinics are options, though many entrepreneurs find that a program like Lambert's is a cost-effective compromise. To get started, "get a good picture of employee demographics--everything from age and sex of employees to a health profile," says Dr. Kelly Victory, chief medi-cal officer at Whole Health Management, a Cleveland provider of on-site clinics and health services. "Get a good overview of the health risks that your employees have," such as smoking or lack of exercise. Those assessments will help you determine where to allocate resources.

A word of caution from Mark Cheskin, a labor and employment attorney with Hogan & Hartson LLP in Miami: "No employee should be left behind when developing a program." If you're putting in a gym or implementing health-club memberships, for instance, make sure you're in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act so everyone has an equal opportunity to participate.

And make sure whatever information you gather about employees is kept separate from personnel files to avoid any issues of discrimination if you ever have to let an employee go. Cheskin advises, "When you're ready to roll out your program, have a quick consultation with someone who is familiar with the [legal] issues."

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise
Here are a few of our favorite wellness tips straight from the mouths of workaholic entrepreneurs.

Cathy Areu, 35
Founder and owner, Catalina magazine in New York City
Michael Lacey, 38
Founder & CEO of Digineer, an e-business solutions provider in Plymouth, Minnesota

On healthy eating: Depriving yourself might work in the short term, but sooner or later, you're going to break down and eat that chocolate chip cookie. "I believe in moderation. I always have," says Areu, who founded her multimillion-dollar multimedia company in 2001. "If I want a soda, I'll drink a soda. My weight hasn't changed in 15 years."

Lacey practices moderation by keeping healthy snacks around and limiting junk food--a strategy that has helped him drop almost 50 pounds over the past year. Says Lacey, who founded Digineer in 1998 and had revenue of $12 million in 2006, "The best way to keep my energy level up is to eat every two to three hours or to graze throughout the day."

Monique Dearth, 38
Founder and president, Incite Strategies, an Atlanta-based HR consulting firm

On fitness and exercise: Dearth schedules exercise into her calendar just as she would any business meeting. "Once I put it in my Outlook, I know it's time for me to do it now," says Dearth, who founded Incite in 1999 and had sales of nearly $1 million in 2006. She stays fit with kickboxing, walking, running and working out one morning a week with a personal trainer.

Michael Cerda, 35
Co-founder and CEO of Jangl, a high-tech startup in Pleasanton, California

On stress relief: Cerda practices yoga every Friday with the staff of Jangl, which develops anonymous-calling and other mobile phone services and was founded in 2005. In addition to being a stress reliever, yoga is a great bonding exercise: "After Friday yoga, there's always a new, good energy around the office," says Cerda. That good energy has helped Jangl raise $9 million in venture funding, and the company expects sales in the millions for 2007.

Yoga also serves as a reminder to breathe, something that's difficult to do correctly in times of stress. Says Cerda, who started a yoga studio himself in 2001, "Entrepreneurs deal with stress 24/7, and your ability to handle [stress] well [depends on] simple things like remembering to breathe properly."

The Entrepreneur Diet
Want to lose weight? Traditional diets can be hard for busy entrepreneurs to stick to. The Entrepreneur Diet is flexible, easy to follow and will help you lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. Jump-start your weight loss by following the Quick Start diet plan for one week. (Use the Quick-Fix or Restaurant options when you're on the go or too busy to prepare a meal.) Don't forget to consult your physician before starting this or any diet, of course.

For maximum results, make these small changes to your habits every day:

  • Take 15 minutes to do isometric exercises or stretches at your desk.
  • Take a 10-minute energy walk.
  • Drink ice water with meals and throughout the day.
  • At one meal each day, leave 5 bites of food on your plate.


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