As part of our Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting report, we asked the candidates: "Have you achieved work-life balance? If yes, how? If not, how are you trying to achieve it, if at all?”
Their wide range of answers are given in full below.
It’s hard to say if one ever achieves the perfect balance, but I really believe the key is in your perspective.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received regarding balance and prioritization was that it’s not an all or nothing proposition: Don’t approach it as work will always come first, or your children will always come first, or your husband will always come first … because you will have a day when one comes first and other days when the other comes first. It’s all about balance.
--Karen Abramson, CEO, Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting
I am not a fan of the term “work-life balance” because the word “balance” implies that work and life are at odds with each other while I believe they can be harmonious. I prefer the term “work-life integration,” which causes me to think about how my work, family and other passions fit together to create a full and fulfilling life.
I believe I have good work-life integration, and I have achieved that by doing three things consistently throughout my career. First, I have always followed the good advice given to me by a senior partner early in my career and scheduled time for my family to ensure I have the opportunity to enjoy them and be there for the important moments in their lives. For example, when I had young children, I always made time to coach their ballgames. And last December, I curbed business travel for several weeks to ensure I would be home for the birth of two new grandchildren. As a result, I have a great relationship with my family and they support me in my work.
Second, I have maintained my passion for sports. I am an avid golfer, I continue to play baseball and I played hockey until I assumed my current role in 2011. Taking time to be active through activities I enjoy is an important part of my life, and I believe it also helps me maintain my competitive edge on the job.
Finally, I delegate. I equate being a good delegator to being a good teacher and mentor. I strongly believe that if you hire good people, train them to do the work you need them to do and then set them free to do it, providing guidance when needed, you will create opportunity for them and free yourself to pursue other things that are important to you – both at work and at home.
Modeling work-life integration is important, and I encourage all of our leaders and partners at McGladrey to do so. When our staff look up and see us effectively integrating our work and our lives, they feel more comfortable taking advantage of the flexibility and benefits we provide to ensure they can have fulfilling personal and professional lives.
--Joe Adams, Managing partner and CEO, McGladrey
I think that I have finally figured that out. It’s a little bit easier now that I’m focused on consulting, which is not as deadline-focused as my prior CPA firm life was in serving clients. The breakthrough is when you figure out that only you control your schedule and time – not everybody else.
--Gary Adamson, President, Adamson Advisory
To some extent, this is a work in progress for me. For as long as I can remember, I have traveled about a hundred days a year, with most of the travel occurring between May and January. I make it a priority, however, to calendar significant time each year to do enjoyable things with my family and to attend key family events. Three years ago, we moved from Helena, Mont., to Heber, Utah to live closer to extended family. This has made my travel significantly easier. I love what I get to do as a career and so (except for travel time) it seldom feels like work.
--Sam Allred, Director, Upstream Academy
I believe I have, although the scale may tip in either direction on any given day or week. Part of achieving balance is not getting frustrated when the scale tips to one side. Set expectations with those on the downside of it, get through it and get back on track as soon as possible. Another part is being clear on what the main objectives are, the things that move you forward, and being laser-focused on those objectives. That means surrendering to the fact that other, less valuable, things may not be accomplished, at least not now. One of the main objectives has to be being at your best for the people that count on you, and that typically entails stepping away and recharging. So to some extent, finding balance is a part of your job!
--Brian Amann, CEO, TaxOps
That is a work in progress, primarily because deadlines and commitments are often imposed by events over which I have no control.
--John Ams, Executive vice president, NSA
Yes. My family is extremely important to me, so I make sure my schedule reflects that priority. I also firmly believe that work-life balance helps build a stronger organization and more business success. The ability to disconnect from work is extremely important to maintain freshness and creativity in the ever changing world we live in.
--Erik Asgeirsson, CEO, CPA.com
Yes. Achieved and maintained honesty in open two-way communications. Managed expectations and realistic goals. Respected needs of others.
--Billy Atkinson, Chairman, Private Company Council
Yes. I have finally learned that you don’t always have to say “Yes” to everything. “No” is a small but important word. I don’t think we should continue using “work-life balance” because life is seldom in balance. Sometimes it’s work that is dominating our thoughts, and other times it’s personal. I want to have a healthy life.
--August Aquila, President and CEO, Aquila Global Advisors
One of the advantages of marrying within the accounting software profession is the ability to share my professional life with my personal life. Ed Kless used a term a few years back that has become my mantra - forget about work/life balance, shoot for work/life integration. He used it more within the context that today’s workforce tends to blur the 9 a.m.-5 p.m. lines far more than past generations. When we have technology that enables us to always be connected, it’s sometimes tougher to truly disconnect. I’ve chosen to embrace the fact that my personal life allows Brian and me to be passionate about our careers, and share our excitement professionally, which in turn becomes a personal high as well. At the same time, having a fellow workaholic to remind me when it’s time to close the laptop and go outside, go to sleep, or spend time with family is also a huge benefit, so we hold each other accountable in that way too.
--Kim Austin, Business development manager, national accounts, Intuit
Balance is for tires and ballerinas. Work-life balance is a misleading expression. Life and work are not two different things, but intimately interrelated. The word “balance” is also untrustworthy; it’s too obvious, not to mention a terminally boring idea. It conjures up the image of being stuck and immovable, yet in order to move forward you must unbalance yourself into a new set of possibilities. As my mentor George Gilder wrote: “Show me a success in any field, and I’ll show you an obsessive. If your life is “balanced” by languid afternoons at the museum, you cannot develop a new business, break an important story, or make a contribution to the world … . Our task on earth — laboring in the service to others — can only be satisfied through hard and unbalanced work.”
--Ron Baker, Founder, VeraSage Institute
As part of a large organization, with responsibilities that currently span seven countries, it’s not always easy to balance my work with life as a spouse and father. But I do my best. I try to “disconnect” whenever I’m with my family, and give my complete attention to the things I know are important to them and to us as a family. Luckily I’m surrounded by a highly experienced and capable management team, and we’re all supported by outstanding, dedicated employees. That knowledge gives me peace of mind that things will continue to run smoothly in my absence. The organization doesn’t need me all the time, and frankly, if it did I wouldn’t be doing my job very well.
--Jon Baron, Managing director, Professional Segment, Thomson Reuters Tax & Accounting
Yes. Achieving work/life balance has been a constant quest throughout my career, but now I am in a place where balance for me is creating and respecting boundaries between the different aspects of my life so that no one component drains me because of the others. I have become adept at this balancing act, which is never constant as children grow, parents age, and challenges increase as you move up your own corporate ladder. I have made deliberate choices about what I want to achieve in my career and in my personal life and set time and energy parameters based on those choices. And I have become more judicious about the things I commit to. Most importantly, I have become a role model for young professionals as they grapple with their own definitions of personal and professional success.
--Joanne Barry, Executive director and CEO, NYSSCPA
Yes, I think my wife and grown children would also agree with that answer (since this is the real test). I am pretty good at separating my work/personal life, although it is much more challenging than when I started my career with technology now. I was very involved with our three children while they were growing up and coached many of the sports teams. I also realize that I could not have done this without amazing support from my wife, who always worked, but not with the kind of schedule I had. That balance was very important to me throughout my career.
--Lyle Benson, President and founder, L.K. Benson & Co.
I enjoy what I do and believe that I have achieved work-life balance because I think like a Millennial and not like a Boomer. I use technology and have worked remotely so I think cloud and how to take advantage of technology to work and stay connected. Work-life balance is a state of mind and not a predetermined set of hours. I mix it up with work and non-work with family and friends but am connected so when I actually get a client call in the evening, I am able to respond without getting stressed out due to being connected.
--David Bergstein, Strategic account manager, Accountant & Advisory Group, Intuit
As CEO of BDO USA and global board chair of the BDO network, I have to travel a great deal. You can’t fight that fact, it comes with the territory, but you can maximize your time with family when you are in town. Whenever possible, I make sure I am home on weekends and I also make most of my children’s sporting events.
--Wayne Berson, CEO, BDO USA
I’ve achieved a pretty good work-life balance. It’s all about setting the right priorities, and having things outside of your professional life that you really enjoy. Everyone finds time to do things they enjoy.
--Chandra Bhansali, President, AccountantsWorld
While in the beginning of my career it was little rough, I have achieved a very good work-life balance that I feel good about.
I believe having the discipline to give equal importance to your work and home is critical for achieving work-life balance. Another attribute that helps is your own efficiency as well as the efficiency of those working with you. I brought up two kids who are now grown up. I manage to take good care of my mother who lives with us.
--Sharada Bhansali, Executive vice president and co-founder, AccountantsWorld
Work-life balance in one of those concepts that truly is measured in the eye of the beholder. I should disclose that I have been criticized for not being sufficient in achieving it by others. I take that seriously, but often disagree with that interpretation. I like the quote by Steve Jobs, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” I do indeed “love what I do” and I do aspire to do “great work.” Most importantly, I am fulfilled by my job. There is always a threat of being self-serving in the justification of the long hours and focus associated with being an executive. I am trying to increase the quality time spent with my wife, friends and family, and the dividends have been worth the effort.
--Ken Bishop, President and CEO, NASBA
I don’t regard work and life as being separate. Because my work is more ethos-driven than a “job” or career. I choose to do this and therefore I commit the time that’s required.
In both professional and personal circumstances I believe it is the quality of time, not the amount of time given, which is the key metric to achieving “balance.”
--Martin Bissett, Founder, Upward Spiral Partnership
Life altering: Four years ago, I had a life-altering experience, nearly succumbing to a bout with pneumonia. And I woke up. After recovering, I realized how precious my life was and after 56 years (at that point in time), time was running out. I also realized that the prior 10 years was gone in a blink of an eye. The only thing I could really say for myself was I had worked hard, and had made a successful career for myself and the many others I have supported as founder and CEO of the National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts. I could be proud of that, but it wasn’t nearly enough. My lack of attention to my health was shameful. I had not expanded my mind beyond the realm of my profession. I had not spent enough time with my wife, family and friends. Extracurricular activities were non-existent. Travel for pleasure minimal. Basically, I had little to brag about.
Now, not a day goes by that I don’t remind myself about the importance of balance in my life. And each day I bring something into it that I would not have five years ago. I will say it is an enormous challenge because my business is always tugging at me and I have to remind myself not to let it draw me in too deep, because if that happens, I firmly believe I will end up back where I was four years ago — only a few years older, but with less time left.
The single most significant thing I have done to bring balance into my life is to start working from a home office. I save time on commutes, which gives me more time in the day, and I avoid distractions that get me off focus and are often unnecessary diversions, or issues that can be dealt with in a short e-mail exchange rather than a 15-minute conversation. I do, however, miss the face-to-face interactions.
--Parnell Black, CEO, NACVA
I don’t like to think of work-life balance in terms of how many hours you spend in each area of your life. I like to think of work-life balance in terms of level of happiness. So, am I happy – Yes! I have two beautiful children, I have an amazingly supportive (and patient) wife. I get to spend time on the trails in the Sierra Nevadas, I get to run marathons/triathlons, and I get to work my butt off to ensure that the accounting profession is pushing forward to new levels.
--Adam Blitz, Business development manager, Reckon
Yes, I have much better work-life balance in my firm. A few things contribute to this:
- Becoming a virtual firm and closing our office has allowed me to work at home with my family;
- Building a model of revenue on a subscription basis so that we know what our cash flow is every month. One result of this are higher prices, less clients, and a more dedicated team;
- We have eliminated serving individual tax clients in our firm and this has allowed us to focus on more profitable work for our business clients and avoid tax season hours;
- We fire clients that are no longer a good fit for our firm; and,
- We maintain a client base of only 40 to 50 clients at a time so that we are all working less.
--Jason Blumer, Chief innovation Officer, Blumer & Associates, CPAs; Founder and CEO, Thriveal Network
Yes, but it has taken some time during my career. I have found that the key for me is to purposely disconnect from work, which in recent years has included avoiding technology devices when I am away from the office. Additionally, scheduling time for leisure and non-work activities has helped me find that balance. I think of it in terms of the old Stephen Covey habit, to “sharpen the saw.”
--Gary Bolinger, President and CEO, Indiana CPA Society
Success is defined personally. For me, work-life balance is a misnomer. I believe in work-life integration. If you can focus on your unique abilities and build the right team, you can achieve free time to rejuvenate and re-energize yourself.
--Gary Boomer, CEO, Boomer Consulting
Work-life balance is more an art than a science and there certainly is not a one-size-fits-all solution. With a job that requires significant travel and a wife (with her own career) and young children at home, my wife has been most important in making it work. Her sacrifice and attitude allow me to be fully engaged when I’m working, which then allows me to be fully engaged in time with the family. The key is realizing that it won’t always be balanced but you have to maintain a commitment to not letting it permanently swing in favor of work.
--Jim Boomer, Shareholder, Boomer Consulting
I can honestly say that I have achieved work-life balance. I’ve met so many people during my professional career that have not been able to do the same. It’s difficult, very difficult.
One way that I’ve been able to do this has been to bring my family into my business world. For many, many years when my children were younger I would bring them to meetings and events. For example, when I was going through the officer and trustee positions at my state society, I always attended our out-of-state conventions. I would always bring my entire family along. A number of times when speaking at various conferences, I would have my son open for me, poking fun at me on how “Dads should NOT use technology.” My children grew up with many members of our state society and I do believe that their interaction with by business associates has helped them to better understand my role in my firm and the profession.
My work, home and travel schedules are generally out of control, but whenever I can find a potential opportunity to bring all three into alignment, I do so!
I do believe aligning both work and life is a key ingredient into one’s business success and happy home life!
--Jim Bourke, Partner, WithumSmith+Brown
No, but I am doing better than I was a few years ago. I find it’s vital to carve out time for personal endeavors and rest to be as good as I can be during my work hours.
--Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk, President, BBR Marketing
I’ve achieved work-life balance, but finding balance was not without struggle. There was no college class that taught me how to manage work-life priorities. I have learned that setting purposeful goals in all areas of my life is important. That includes the parts of my life that aren’t related to work. Each year, I set personal, family and work goals to focus my priorities. On a daily basis, I plan for work and personal/family activities to help with balance. To make personal and family time more impactful, I schedule significant family getaways that are memorable.
--Jim Buttonow, Director of tax practice and procedure services and software, H&R Block
I have not achieved work-life balance; I am working on it. I use my Outlook calendar to block off periods of time for client work, blogging, writing, social sharing. I have a to-do list that I update each week to prioritize my projects. Working from a home office gives me a flexible schedule, which is helpful when working with clients on both coasts. I work in the evening only when absolutely necessary; that’s family time. Now, to schedule more time at the gym.
--Jean Marie Caragher, President of Capstone Marketing
I fear that I have achieved work-life balance because work is my life! But seriously, it is a gift to be able to do a job that you love, so that the time you spend does not feel like “work.”
--Paul Caron, Publisher and editor-in-chief, TaxProf Blog
I would describe my life as a life of fullness. As a teenager who just turned 18, I must admit that this balance is probably easier to achieve because I don’t have a family of my own, or the pressure to provide for even myself, as I am still living at home. At the same time, I do have two part-time jobs in both the private and public sectors, and more than full-time education. Clearly, the way I chose to complete my education was more intensive and condensed than it is traditionally. Packing four years of college into a year and a half takes a great time commitment. There were weeks that studies alone took up 90 of my 100 awake hours.
However, my family made sure that I still invested in my faith, family, and our many activities. I realize that those things are the foundation of everything else, and the only reason I will be able to do excellently in my professional life.
Anything can become overwhelming if it is allowed to be. A right perspective will mitigate that.
I know that I will continue to learn this balance as I step into my professional career, but I feel that I have learned the importance of maintaining it, and will thus pursue it aggressively. My goal would be to not let doing what I love keep me from who I love.
--Belicia Cespedes, Treasurer, AWSCPA (and one of the youngest CPAs ever)
I am grateful to have a partner, Kim, who is a perfect match for me. With her unyielding support, I have achieved balance and fulfillment. Together, we have raised three confident, successful, loving daughters, two of whom are now parents themselves to my three grandchildren. I draw strength from relationships with my family members and the time that I spend with them, which rejuvenates me and, in turn, enhances my commitment to my profession, my organization, and the members we serve.
--Richard Chambers, President and CEO, Institute of Internal Auditors
For many people in demanding jobs, your work-life balance is not necessarily the way you would want it, but rather the best you can hope to achieve. You often cannot “have it all” and you are always forced to prioritize. These are never easy decisions. That said, I do whatever I can to consider both my professional and personal life together when I make important decisions. Brad Smith, the CEO of Intuit, has a great way of thinking about work-life balance — life’s moments are made of either rubber or crystal, and while you can bounce back from missing a rubber moment, you will always regret it if you miss a crystal one. Ultimately, I strive to experience all of those “crystal moments,” whether they center on my career or my family.
--Fayezul Choudhury, CEO of International Federation of Accountants
Like success, work-life balance is defined differently by different individuals. I have always found ample time to enjoy many interests outside of, and in conjunction with, my work. The accounting profession allows an unparalleled combination of flexibility and opportunity. It is up to the individual to capitalize in a way that works for him or her
--Tim Christen, Incoming chair, AICPA; chairman and CEO, Baker Tilly Virchow Krause
Yes – I do believe I have achieved a reasonable work-life balance. Ironically, being able to work anywhere/anytime makes a big difference in this regard. While constant access to e-mails, phone calls, etc., can be a burden; on the other hand, it provides real flexibility to align my schedule to include other priorities. For instance, I can work for an hour between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. to clear out e-mails and put out early morning fires, take the next couple of hours off to exercise and get ready for the day, and be back at my desk by 9 a.m. ready to go for the rest of the day.
That said, I should take more vacation. Though the difficulty of getting away is probably more a function of being a small-business owner. I guess that work-life balance is more a pursuit than an official destination!
--David Cieslak, Principal, Arxis Technology
Oh, let’s be honest. I’m famous for running around like a crazy person. There’s a reason my bio says “non-sleeper.” Being single with no children, I’m fortunate to have the freedom to work hard, play hard and relax hard as I feel necessary. I am a HUGE advocate for self-care. Making decisions that directly affect your happiness is not selfish; it’s self-care and it’s necessary. If you’re not happy, you cannot provide your colleagues, your clients, your family, your friends or your communities with your highest value. This is a priority for me and I am very transparent about it. I have thousands of people follow me on social media (especially Facebook) to hear me motivate and inspire on the topic.
There are many ways I achieve this. Firstly, and most importantly, I am fortunate to find immense enjoyment and pleasure in what I do and who I do it for. You spend way too much time working to not love it. (Spend your life proving your passion and you will find success.) I have met enough people to understand how unique this is. I am grateful. I also teach multiple Zumba Fitness classes weekly. (Totally the same thing as accounting… .) I run. I spend time with family. I spend time with friends. I spend an incredible amount of time helping out my community. (This year, I led a team of other Forbes Under 30s where we slept on the streets of NYC to raise funds and awareness for Covenant House – an organization devoted to remedying homeless youth … during a snowstorm in March. We raised $10,000.) I travel. I share. I educate. I inspire. I get inspired. I read. I eat. I hug.
--Sarah Cirelli, Marketing manager, Interactive Marketing WithumSmith+Brown
I tried to achieve it when our children were at home. I was never totally successful. Now that they are gone, I try to achieve it in a different way, but still am not totally successful. The problem is that I love my work, and would rather do it than almost anything else!
--Gale Crosley, President, Crosley+Co.
Over time, all of us — male, female, people of different backgrounds will have something that comes up that causes us to need to be ultra-flexible in our career — whether that’s child care, taking care of an ailing relative, doing something different with your career. I have three sons, two of whom are currently in college and one in high school. My husband has been a phenomenal support as my travel demands and client needs ebb and flow. I make it a priority to attend my sons’ soccer games and family events that truly matter as well as do things that I enjoy, such as singing in my church choir and being involved in my community.
Today, flexibility and wellness are discussed openly. To continue to innovate around our previous efforts with flexibility and predictability, we are creating a broad well-being program that encompasses three main elements: an engaged mind, a healthy body, and a sense of purpose — encouraging our people to personalize their experience in the ways and areas that matter most to them. Through this commitment to focusing on holistic well-being, we work with our staff to identify at least one thing that enables them to be their best — an earlier start time to pick up kids from school, working from home one or two days per week to reduce a long commute, or a lunchtime exercise class to rest their mind and energize their bodies. It is important that we take care of our people, understand their lives and personal priorities. This leads to a more engaged workforce that is able to perform at high-quality levels for our clients.
--Deborah DeHaas, Vice chair, chief inclusion officer, national managing partner, Center for Corporate Governance, Deloitte LLP
Yes and no. I don’t believe balance is finite. I think it’s something you work towards. Right now for me, I have the balance I need and can prioritize what is most important to me. To me, that is balance.
--Sarah Johnson Dobek, President and founder, Inovautus Consulting
I personally don’t believe in the term work-life balance. There is no such thing in my life. My work life and my personal life are blended — not separated — not sacrificed one for the other. You achieve the ideal blend by doing what you want to do when you want to do it, being where you need to be when you need to be and having a support system that allows it to happen.
--Loretta Doon, CEO, California Society of CPAs
I think I have achieved a work-life balance. It helps when you love your work.
--George Farrah, Editorial director, tax and accounting, Bloomberg BNA
I believe I have achieved a healthy work-life balance, although you may have to ask my family!
As I learned early in my career, working towards work-life balance takes individual responsibility and initiative. Even in today's work environment — where there is much more support for work-life balance than previously — no one can expect their employer to make work-life balance happen for them. Employees need to identify their work-life needs and priorities, then "raise their hands" and make their case effectively.
Part of making the case for work-life balance is to be strategic and systematic. If, for example, you plan to ask to work from home for a set time each week, have you thought through that request as thoroughly as possible? Can you present your employer with a plan of action that is both robust and flexible? Work-life balance has to be achieved thoughtfully.
--Cindy Fornelli, Executive director, Center for Audit Quality
I’ve never worked as hard, been as stressed nor had as much fun as I’m having now. As an entrepreneur I work more than I ever imagined but have the freedom to also do the things I want to do (most of the time). I tell people that vacation for an entrepreneur is just another place to work but with a better view. But I wake up early in the morning, get my work done and then enjoy time with my family the rest of the day while on break. For me, while work may be stressful and demanding, I enjoy what I do and love creating a service that benefits our profession while at the same time helps put the bad guys in jail. That fires me up. I tell my kids to enjoy what they do every day, to do something they are passionate about and want to give themselves to and it’ll never seem like “work.”
--Brian Fox, Founder and president, Confirmation.com
Yes, especially after launching my daughters into their own careers! It truly has been a “balancing act” in all respects. I particularly tried to provide a good example of commitment to career and family to my daughters and the many women who I mentored over the years.
--Jeanette Franzel , Board member, PCAOB
I find this to be a troubling question, because it suggests that one is good and the other bad. For me, I love to work and it is immensely fulfilling, so I have never felt “out of balance.” The ability to work “anytime, anywhere” has been a godsend and a major stress-reducer. I avoid commute hours and other sources of negative stress. I relish positive stress and can’t get enough of it.
--Chris Frederiksen, Chairman, The 2020 Group
I don’t think this is a great level of insight, but balance doesn’t require you to commit equal parts of time in each. It does require that you commit equal parts of passion in each. You will also need to be very clear with yourself, and those who are part of your life, how you will handle it when demands seem high in both. As in both work and life, I make my share of mistakes but understanding failure and preventing, learning and mitigating those mistakes is the key.
--Russell Fujioka, President, U.S. at Xero
I am still trying to “balance” work and family. Both require a significant commitment of time and energy. Prioritizing values is essential to a successful balance.
--Tim Gearty, National lead instructor and national editor-in-chief, Becker Professional Education
For me, an ideal work-life balance means being able to manage my professional responsibilities without sacrificing time spent with my family. It requires time management — but I find that the more you plan ahead and the more you communicate your priorities with staff and colleagues, the easier it is to make the time for the things that matter most in life.
--Russell Golden, Chairman, FASB
For me it has been successful to think of this as work-life integration. For instance, on most weekends I try to only check e-mail twice a day. This allows my mind to rest and focus on non-work activities. On vacation I try to only look at e-mail once every day or two. I travel a lot and thus have non-phone time while in the air, and only check e-mail during critical times of projects while in flight. This helps my mind relax and is good reading time. At today’s pace in a truly global economy, “appropriate” integration of this has been helpful for me.
--Jeff Gramlich, President, AccountantsWorld
Does a work-life balance really exist? It is a little bit of give and take. I am passionate about my children and my husband and I am also passionate about my company and clients. I don’t sit around much and have pretty long days every day. Some days are filled to the brim with working on developing national training and coaching programs and consulting with managing partners and some are filled with friends and family trips and enjoying my children. We make it work. It is fun, invigorating and there’s never a dull moment.
--Angie Grissom, President, The Rainmaker Companies
My mentor in this area was my father. When I was young he was dedicated to our family and always attended and supported anything I was involved in. Because I knew how important that was to me, I made the same commitment to my children. This commitment meant I had to set boundaries to ensure what was important to me was achieved. Unless we set the rules for ourselves, we allow our work to set the rules for us. I am a firm believer that if you want a healthy work-life balance you must make it a priority. My experience is that if you do that you can achieve success in both your professional and personal life.
--Roger Harris, President and COO, Padgett Business Services
I believe there is no such thing as work-life balance, one will always be “out of balance” due to the demands of the moment. Instead I have worked on work-life integration by scheduling with intention intense work periods and intense personal and family periods when possible. I am one of those workaholic Baby Boomers and happen to love what I do as well as love my family and friends, and that is how I try to focus. Have I achieved it? No, but I’m working in it.
--Tom Hood, CEO and executive director, MACPA & BLI
Throughout my career in public office, I have always made sure to not overload my calendar and always keep room to think about substance and strategy. Free time is essential to keep a fresh mind and making the right decisions. If you adopt the right strategy, you spend much less time solving avoidable problems.
--Hans Hoogervorst, Chairman of IFRS
Work-life balance is a pursuit I’m always striving to achieve. I’ve been very fortunate to have had a successful business that allowed me to control my schedule. Even being in control of my schedule, it was easy to max myself out because of all of the opportunity and client requests in the marketplace. My role requires a lot of travel and on-site client meetings.
Some specific strategies I deploy to maintain work-life balance include:
- Avoiding travel and being home for all of my kids’ school programs.
- Making one field trip each school year for each of my kids.
- “Fun Fridays” during the summer months. I will always be home and off the road by Thursday evening during the summer months to spend Fridays with my kids (movies, picnics, golf, swimming, etc.).
- I’ve made almost 100 percent of my son and daughter’s soccer games the past year, and two thirds of their baseball games.
- Two long weekend trips, per year, with my wife. I fly her in for a long weekend at a place I’m already at with a client. In the last year, we did Napa Valley and Las Vegas. The year before, Boston and Nashville.
- Spring break – one week - every March to Florida.
- Summer vacation – one week – every summer.
- Time away from work with my family is very important and allows me to “re-charge.”
--Dustin Hostetler, Shareholder and Lean Six Sigma consultant at Boomer Consulting
I look at balance as the ultimate “team” pursuit. Because it is so vital, I encourage those around me to talk openly and pursue it together. In fact it was the main theme of a talk I gave recently to 3,600 EY interns at our International Intern Conference, helping them understand, at the start of their careers, how important it is to build the elements of balance into your life.
Being open about priorities is the first step. For me, family and health come first, followed closely by the profession, people and giving back. It is also how I try to start most conversations – by understanding the priorities of others and sharing my own.
When those around you understand what is most important, everyone works together to help support the difference you are trying to make. This is just as true at work. We are encouraging our engagement teams to talk about this and support each other. We call it “High Performance Teaming.” That way everyone is party to a collective success. The result is a stronger team with a support network to drive even more substantive contributions.
--Stephen Howe, Managing partner, EY
Yes! I am very passionate about my career, owning a business and the accounting profession in general. However, I definitely work to live versus live to work. First and foremost I have my priorities in order, family first and career second.
Second, my business partner and I have built a business with a vision that the organization is not reliant upon us. We have hired great people, trained them, developed strong processes and given our team members the responsibility and flexibility to do their jobs. As a result, I have the ability to stay out of the minutia, focus on what I love doing and maintain a very solid work/life balance.
Finally, my partner and I push each other to take time off and pursue the things we love. Many organizations are opposite, they push each other to work more. I spend time on the golf course with my son, hiking with my wife, hanging out with my daughter, exercising and going on family trips. I never feel guilty leaving work behind because of the strong team we have built and the fact that my partner supports my time away from the office.
--Charles Hylan, Partner, The Growth Partnership
No. Finding balance is a constant struggle for me. My firm is virtual, so we all work out of our homes. For me, it is hard to find a disconnect between work and my personal life. Even now when I fill this out, my daughters are asking me how to spell something and want my attention.
I’m coming to the realization that balance does not mean 50/50 time spent in both areas. And, what does work-life really mean? Does that mean that work isn’t life? And is life -- family, sleep, health, and a million other things? Why would we want life to be just 50 percent of our world then?
In the end, it probably boils down to personal health balance. Too much stress is bad for us. That can come from work or home. I think all of us are just trying to find that calm within that validates we are balancing everything that is important to us in our lives.
--Cathy Iconis, CEO, Iconis Group
I have achieved work-life balance. Other than tax season, I work a four-day week. I take five weeks’ vacation each year and my staff rarely calls me while I’m on vacation.
How do I do it? The answer is simple. I hire competent, educated, upbeat employees. I provide my employees with the tools to do the job. I train them right from the start and allow them to make mistakes. I praise them for a job well done, have fun with them and provide them with flexibility. The result is a dedicated, cohesive team of people who allow me to leave the office knowing it is in good hands.
--Sandy Johnson, President, NCCPAP
I probably don’t have as much work-life balance as others think I should have, but it seems perfect to my spouse of 39 years and me. We block calendar to spend time together, with our children and grandchildren, and try to avoid letting work interfere with our personal plans. We plan ahead to choose things we want to do together, places we want to go, and minimize the amount of work done at home and on weekends.
--Randy Johnston, Executive VP and partner, K2 Enterprises; CEO, Network Management Group
Nothing is more important to me than my family. But my love for my job and the people who rely on me is vital to who I am. The integration of these important priorities often requires a flexible approach, openness to the priorities of others, sensitivity to competing emotions, and a lot of patience.
--Edward Karl, Vice president of taxation, AICPA
I always find this to be such a tricky question, because I think the answer to this is different for everyone. I have had periods in my career when I was working a 40-ish-hour week, I had my weekends largely free, I was able to take ample vacation time, and I had what most people would tend to call work-life balance. That said, that is not necessarily the life that makes me excited to get up in the morning. I am currently a part of starting this new Block Small Business Division within H&R Block. I split my time living between Connecticut, where my husband and most of the rest of my family are located, and Kansas City, Mo., where H&R Block is headquartered. I will be traveling much of the next three to four months, I work over 60-80 hours most weeks, and it is rare that I do not have my iPhone in my hand. However, I am part of a great, growing team, so when I am in Connecticut with my husband, or with my adorable seven-month-old nephew, I am able to turn my phone off and enjoy that time. I am having the opportunity to travel, meet incredible people, and pursue career goals I did not necessarily expect I would ever have. When I do get extremely tired and need a day off, I will take a Sunday and attach myself to the living room couch for a day of “On Demand” movies, or I will tour whatever city I am in, and turn off my e-mail for a while. I have a very supportive and understanding family and friends, and I wouldn’t trade any part of what I am doing right now for the “typical” idea of work-life balance.
I fully realize that work-life balance for others can mean something very different. Over the months and years ahead, what it means for me will likely change. So, I guess to me, work-life balance is whatever makes you jump up in the morning and feel excited about the day ahead. If that is the case, then I would say I have achieved the balance that is right for me for now, and I will continue to feel that I have the right and opportunity to adjust that, if “balance” comes to mean something new to me in the future.
--Jennifer Katrulya, Accounting operations director, H&R Block Small Business
For me, there isn’t a clear demarcation between work and life. That line has been blurred by the fact that I love what I do and, perhaps not coincidentally, several of my children are also in the profession, so it’s difficult to separate the topic of work from who I am. That being said, I have learned to appreciate living in the moment and do my best to give my full attention to those around me, regardless of the circumstances, so I’m happy with the balance I have achieved that fits my particular lifestyle.
--Kevin Keane, Managing partner, O’Connor Davies
At this point in my career, yes, I have finally achieved what I call perfect life/work balance because I control my own calendar. For all of the years I worked inside a busy, growing CPA firm, I had flexibility. I often worked long hours but I also had the choice of how long and how many. I actually enjoyed the challenges and worked more hours than I actually had to.
When I mention to some CPAs that I always found life in public accounting to be flexible, they often disagree. But, from Day One, over 30 years ago, I could take time off, if needed. I never missed a child’s activity or a family outing or vacation. I was simply expected to get the job done (and I did). Most life/work unbalance in the profession is self-imposed.
--Rita Keller, President, Keller Advisors
I have found that during my busy seasons (which is the opposite of traditional tax busy seasons) that work ultimately takes priority so I proactively schedule vacation time approximately every four weeks during this peak season and schedule consulting work around those dates (and around family events such as weddings, graduations and adventures that are scheduled months in advance). These breaks provide dedicated family time and a rest from the 60-hour grind weeks. Between PTO/holidays, I have been able to schedule eight weeks of vacation each year for the past decade. During the three months between Christmas and April 16, I slow down and focus on family time, personal health, and bucket list activities such as running the Grand Canyon, Ironman triathlon, and Escape from Alcatraz which I completed this year. Spring is also the most beautiful time of the year in Arizona and we are fortunate to enjoy outdoor activities as a family.
--Roman Kepczyk, Director of consulting, Xcentric
I believe work-life balance is for slackers. I believe in work-life integration. As a knowledge worker, I am always working in that I am sentient and conscious. I am always on the lookout to learn new things and look for connections in all aspects of life to business. Business is more biological than it is mechanical. It has a spiritual side (not necessarily religious, but spiritual) that we need to embrace.
--Ed Kless, Senior director, Sage
I think the term “balance” is sort of bullshit. At Scaling New Heights this year, I led sessions that we called “Work/Life Harmony,” which is better, but I prefer to say work/life integration -- because that’s really what it is. I’m checking e-mail while I’m on vacation. I’m doing payroll while I’m waiting to pick my kids up from school. I put my workouts and my niece’s dance recital on my calendar. By treating myself like I would a client: identify the pain points and challenges that keep me from achieving the goals I’m after, I can solve for them.
Stacy Kildal, Creator, StacyKAcademy.com; owner, Kildal Services
I guess I would be the poster child for not having achieved work-life balance. That being said, I love what I do and never thought of it as work. More importantly, when I’m not working, all of my time is devoted to my family. One little secret my mentors taught me early on is if you can sacrifice sleep and make it into the office every day by 6:30 a.m., you can get a lot done (and still be home for dinner with your family!).
--Allan Koltin, CEO, Koltin Consulting Group
I don’t know that anyone can achieve work-life balance. It’s a misnomer. The best that anyone can hope for is work-life integration. Achieving appropriate integration should be what anyone strives for and can be achieved if your organization allows for a flexible work environment that includes work from anywhere at any time. It’s harder for organizations to offer work-life integration if they aren’t allowing for that flexibility. I believe I’ve achieved work-life integration and the AICPA has allowed me that opportunity. I’m not sure that my family would agree with me that I’ve achieved success.
--Mark Koziel, Vice president of firm services & global alliances, AICPA
I believe I have. Work-life balance is the result of effective time management. This includes setting priorities, focusing on the things that matter most, and learning to say “no” to the things that are not very important.
--Jim Kroeker, Vice chairman, FASB
If you love what you do, there is no work/life balance; there’s only life, and some of it gets you paid.
Greg Kyte, Founder, Comedy CPE
With advances in technology and mobile communications, it feels as if we’re always connected to work. This is great, as I’m a passionate person and believe strongly in my business.
But I’m also passionate about my family. Sometimes the simplest answer is the obvious one – commit to your family as you do your work. My calendar serves not as a work calendar, but as a work-life calendar. I reserve time for my family and healthy activities in addition to work obligations.
I am also fortunate enough to have strong, equally passionate leadership and employees at Bill.com that serve additional lines of command and support. I can delegate responsibilities knowing that they are in very capable hands, which frees up my time to dedicate to non-work activities.
At the same time, we try not to take ourselves too seriously at Bill.com. We have bake-offs, celebrate birthdays every month, play ping pong, foosball and Pac-Man. Employees are rewarded for demonstrating values in action and personal development and growth are taken seriously.
I don’t believe I have the work-life balance perfected. And I may never. But as long as I am mindful of it and look for new ways to achieve balance, I’m heading in the right direction.
--Rene Lacerte, Founder and CEO, Bill.com
My life-work balance (inversion intentional) has improved as I move into semi-retirement, but for me there’s really no balance as technology is both my hobby and my job. Frankly, I’d be hard pressed to identify exactly when I’m “working” and when I’m “playing.”
--Greg LaFollette, Strategic advisor, CPA.com
I would say that work-life integration is a goal that is always a work in progress. Just like most busy professionals, I use technology and mobile devices to stay connected and on top of things whether I’m at work or home. I also recognize the importance of prioritizing and protecting those priorities. For key activities, I make every effort to multitask less and be fully engaged.
--Teresa Mackintosh, President and CEO, CCH Software, Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting
I don’t believe in the term “work-life balance.” One reason I believe that phrase is insufficient is because technology has transformed the geographic and time equations related to work. When you are passionate about what you do as a career, work and life blend seamlessly. I can walk through an airport, videoconferencing with my family, or step out of my son’s volleyball game to answer an e-mail from work. One foot in either world, shifting as I need to. Gretchen Pisano, a phenomenal leadership trainer, says, “Be absent or be present, but don’t be both.” I try to follow that mantra, but I do so in a way that is far more fluid than the phrase work-life balance implies.
--Janice Maiman, Senior vice president, Communications, Media, News & Professional Pathways, AICPA
I haven’t viewed work-life balance as a goal to be achieved. Those boundaries have always been fuzzy for me, and rather than stressing about the perfect allocation of time, I have looked to prioritize my time on the right things in each area and make sure that the overall tempo between the two was appropriate for me.
The reality for me is that to have success in both areas has always required choices and some sacrifice along the way -- and those choices have changed over time as I went from being single to married to progressing through the corporate ranks. Over time and with experience, it has become easier to prioritize and make it a manageable process both for my family and the team that I work alongside.
--Jason Marx, President, CCH Small Firm Services, Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting
In the past I have not achieved much of a work-life balance. Earlier this year I was hospitalized with a life-threatening event resulting in my spending 11 days in the hospital ICU on life-support. The doctors did not expect me to live. My survival was considered miraculous by my doctors. I have almost fully recovered, and expect to be completely back to normal by the end of this year. This event has brought my family closer and has brought me closer to God. I am now working out at a gym every day. People tell me I look great for age 70. Our family (two grown children, their spouses and our grandchildren) has rented a vacation house together at the beach this summer. I have also been attending much fewer networking events, especially in the evenings, and spending more time at home with my wife, and we are planning to do some traveling in the future. In addition, I’ve been delegating more responsibilities to employees and encouraging my wife, who works with me, to do the same, and I have hired an employee whose duties will include helping her.
--Charles McCabe, Founder, president/CEO, The Income Tax School Inc.
The demands of today’s working world are ever increasing. I try to structure my days, and also take advantage of tools and technologies that save me time.
Maybe the most important advice is to be present. When I am at work, or travelling, I focus on our partners, accounting professionals, and our employees with whom I work. But at home, in the evenings and on the weekends, I focus on being there for my wife and two young sons. Churchill said “a change is as good as a rest”… sitting on the floor playing Legos with my boys gets the creative juices flowing again!
--Jim McGinnis, Vice president, Accountant and Advisor Group, Intuit Inc.
First, it isn't balance, in my opinion. It's blend. We give and take from each area. Work and life blend today, in a far more fluid way. We know that maintaining a reasonable work-life balance is of ever-growing importance for the next generation of potential CPAs, so if we want to continue to attract the best and brightest to the profession we have to walk the walk on this – and it really is something that has to start at the top. So, yes, I take steps to make sure I have balance in my life, taking time out for family and friends and decompressing. But it is difficult – personally, I am on the road more than 200 days a year meeting with members and representatives of the profession. For me, this is a labor of love, which is part of what it means to have balance. Love what you do. When you don’t, that is when the drain becomes difficult to manage. if you’ve got a challenging job that you love, chances are you’re going to tip the balance to one side rather than the other. It just takes awareness that occasionally you need to bring the scales back in line.
--Barry Melancon, President and CEO, AICPA
I always worked hard and put full energy in the job at hand -- at work, at home and at leisure. Somehow I found time to do what I had to do and what I wanted to do. I was always involved in some sort of charitable activities, my hobbies and my home life and family – I have a fantastic wife who is a true partner and two great sons that I am very proud of. Early on because of my love of reading, I realized that my experiences could only take me so far and by reading I could expand my “world” of knowledge. I always read for pleasure no matter how busy I was and that also helped create a balance in my life.
--Edward Mendlowitz, Partner Emeritus, WithumSmith+Brown
Yes, but sadly it took me 45 years to figure it out. Today I work extensively with new and emerging leaders in CPA firms across the country and openly convey all the dumb mistakes I made in managing my time, schedule and workplace that I could/should have done differently.
--James Metzler, Founder, Metzler Advisory Group
I always thought that I had pretty strong work-life balance, but now that I’ve entered into semi-retirement (I only work a little over half time as the president of the ITA) and can look back, I realize that I may not have achieved the work-life balance I said that I had when I was working full time. In today’s cell phone/text/instant message world, our clients want and expect everything “right now,” and we all have to start trying to take some time to shut down our electronic communications if we are really going to achieve some type of work-life balance. We have to start asking ourselves the question, “Is it really critical that we return that message in the next five minutes while we are at a personal event, or can it wait until first thing tomorrow morning?” Nine out of 10 times, it can wait and until you start to realize that, you will never achieve a healthy work-life balance.
--Stan Mork, President, ITA
I believe that I have achieved work life balance, or as close to it as I can get. The important thing is to always set your priorities first. Family always comes first for me, then my job and then serving the profession. I make that very clear in whatever I volunteer for. However, in doing so, certain things get eliminated from your life, the nonessentials. Instead of my golf game being my extracurricular, coaching my son’s basketball team replaces that, and it brings much more personal reward than shooting under par. I also make it a priority to include my family in my volunteer activities and some of my work trips. My wife attends a lot of out-of-town trips with me. My children have been to Europe with me on business trips. By including them in these things, they get excited about non-standard trips, rather than dreading them.
I’m also very flexible when it comes to work style and time, and I use mobile technology a lot to do it. For example, it’s a priority for me to eat dinner with my family each night, if I am in town. However, after everyone is in bed, I can get another one to two hours of work in before turning in a good night’s rest. I tend to avoid television, and replace that with reading. Lastly, I believe it’s important to physically take care of yourself in order to be in the best frame of mind. I like to run marathons, and the training allows me to set non-work goals in my life while also staying in shape. So in order to achieve that proper balance, you must be in proper mental state of mind, relational state of mind and physical state, and you can do this while also including your family in all areas. Lastly, I think it’s important to set professional, recreational, educational, and servant goals for yourself. By doing this, it ensures a proper work-life balance.
--Benjamin Mulling, Chair, Institute of Management Accountants
Unfortunately I've never accomplished this "work-life balance thing." I'm not even sure I know what it means. I chose to work in the CPA community. This is a 24/7 lifestyle choice. While I don't practice public accounting I've always treated the culture of public accounting as my culture. I also travel approximately 220 days a year and did that for nearly 25 years. I've always considered that a blessing, as it was an indicator people wanted to see or talk to me. It also meant that my children could attend colleges of their choice, I could afford my wife the luxury of focusing on charitable activities to which she has devoted part of her life on both our behalf, we can make the donations we feel important to us, give back to society, help our children and, of course, live where we choose and drive nice cars. As for balance, I don't think high-energy perfectionists can get there. What I do believe is we can dovetail the two together. That's another story.
--Jay Nisberg, President, Jay Nisberg & Associates
I work all the time, but it’s on my time. It’s not balance. It’s just my life. Why does work have to be separate and distinct from my real life? If I love my job, why do I need to turn it off at 5:30? Take for instance social media: My professional life is completely blended with my personal Facebook page. I am one complex person and everyone has access to most of me. I have flexibility and freedom to make my schedule. I try to give that same freedom to my team. Also, my team works on their time. We don’t track time or bill by time; we work together to produce a product and keep our customers and team happy.
--Jody Padar, CEO and principal, New Vision CPA Group
Achieving a work-life balance can be a challenge in today’s fast-paced, technology-driven culture. For that reason, it’s important to work smarter, not harder. Taking the time to prioritize life outside of work helps me focus when I’m back in the office. Trying to stick to a schedule also helps. As is the case with most people, however, this is a work in progress, but one I’m striving to improve.
--Brian Peccarelli, President, the Tax & Accounting business of Thomson Reuters
Yes, though I prefer the view of having achieved work-life integration. It has always been important to me to be able to participate in family events, including our children’s school activities. This profession, especially in smaller firms, allows for all staff to attend personal family activities and yet perform the work that needs to be done. Technology is a big factor in accomplishing work-life integration, along with a firm culture that allows for individualization and achievement.
--Carl Peterson, Vice president of small firm interests, AICPA
Fifteen years ago, I would have answered this question differently. But today, I can say with confidence that yes, I have achieved a work-life balance. Being an entrepreneur can be difficult, but as my company continues to establish itself, entrepreneurship has given me the incredible factor of flexibility. I’m able to spend a great amount of time with my family. No matter how busy work or life can sometimes be, I always make sure to set my priorities straight and to create clear boundaries between the office and home. This is imperative for a healthy lifestyle. Additionally, a large part of what makes my life easier is the fact that I have great staff who share my goals, passion and mission. And most importantly, because I enjoy what I do, every aspect of my every day is fueled by optimistic energy and a desire to motivate CPA candidates in the same way the people in my life inspire me.
--Roger Philipp, CEO and owner, Roger CPA Review
Like most of us, I work much more than I am with my family or friends. My greatest challenge is turning off thinking about work when I’m at home, and I do that by pausing to reflect on the blessings in my life and what I’m grateful for. When I take the time to do that, I’m present at home. That to me is the definition of work-life balance.
--Jeff Phillips, CEO, Accountingfly
Achieving work-life integration is an ongoing and achievable pursuit. I ensure that I schedule leisure activities, travel, and time with family and friends. I regularly will leave work to attend an event, play a sport, or lindy hop, and then will work in the evenings. My company also allows us time in our days for non-work activities, such as working out at our on-site gym, participating in on-site yoga, and meditating. The integration of non-work activities into the traditional work day has enabled me to approach work fresher and with more energy.
--Elizabeth Pittelkow, Director of Accounting and Compliance, ArrowStream Inc.
Without a doubt, achieving work-life balance has been one of the biggest challenges of my career. It requires a willingness to set limits — but be flexible enough to know when to break them. For example, I’m making it a point to try not to check my e-mails after 7:00 p.m. If there’s an emergency, I’m sure it will find me. That has made it easier to avoid getting caught up in issues that can wait until the next day (and also results in better sleep!). I’ve also made a conscious effort to take more vacation time. While it’s difficult to completely unplug while I’m away from the office, I definitely reap the benefit of returning to the office feeling refreshed and recharged.
--Terri Polley, President and CEO, Financial Accounting Foundation
I feel like I finally have. I’ve done that by setting aside pre-scheduled personal time on my calendar for family time and leisure. I don’t usually have anything specific planned, just that the time will be there if I want it. I can always override my calendar and when necessary I do that.
--Terry Putney, CEO, Transition Advisors
I have achieved a piece of it. I carve out time 3 p.m. each day to meet with two key clients: my six-year-old-twins. This may be a viewed as a customer concentration risk, but the reward definitely outweighs any economic downside.
Unless I’m traveling, I pick them up from school each day and spend the afternoon and evening with them, including dinner with my husband. Prioritizing this piece of my life is an accomplishment I’m proud of.
I am still trying to achieve more balance in “turning off,” which is hard when running a business, I always have something else I can do to progress. I’ve realized that I need to include balance for my own personal activities unrelated to the accounting world. When I do this I become even better at my work because I’m refreshed and well-rounded. Currently I’m trying different routines to find one that sticks at home – and on the road for me!
--Kristen Rampe, Owner, Kristen Rampe Consulting
I have been very blessed in the area of work-life balance. My wife is my best friend, and when I am away from work, you will find us together.
We own our own airplane, and it has afforded us the opportunity to travel extensively to different parts of the U.S. So many of our trips involve flying to a location and meeting with or going to dinner with an ACFE member. We always enjoy each other’s company, and it allows me a personal way to connect to the job I so love.
--James Ratley, President and CEO, ACFE
I think that work-life balance is a myth. There simply aren’t enough hours in a day or week for all personal and professional demands.
Instead, I strive for work-life synergy. As a working mother I am blessed with a supportive family, and at SASB we have created a culture that values flexibility in working schedules. It’s easier to create synergies between work and life when you follow your passion, and I have actively done that at each stage of my career. Early in my career I worked in engineering and management consulting, traveling and gaining critical technical and business skills that would serve me well later in life. After 10 years working in sustainable development on high-profile international projects, the decision to start SASB was a response to changing professional interests and changing personal needs. Having a young daughter and wanting to be home more — in addition to my fascination with metrics — culminated in the decision to start SASB. It was not an easy move — I had a high-level position at a global consultancy that I’d worked hard to achieve, and I would be risking it all to start a nonprofit. Had I not believed this was actually the pathway to greater work-life synergy, I would not have made the transition.
I also believe that the work that I am doing will enable the next generation of investors — my daughter and her friends — to have the information that they need to make informed decisions and to drive capital to the most sustainable outcomes. This is what keeps me going through the inevitable setbacks when progress seems elusive.
--Jean Rogers, CEO and founder, SASB
I have. About 10 years ago, I defined my “ideal day” — the type of days that allowed me to live the life I want, to have a true work/life balance. After reading a book called “Chasing Daylight” by Eugene O’Kelly, I now look at each day as an opportunity to live the day the way I choose. Initially, I set out to have at least one Ideal Day a week, now I like to have at least six out of seven each week as ideal. It all starts with knowing what you want your day to be like and then taking control and making it happen.
--Darren Root, President and CEO, RootWorks
These days, the scale is tilted a bit more toward work versus personal time than I would like, but I’m told by people wiser than me that I should be thankful that business is so good. Over the past five years, I have taken many steps to improve my work-life balance.
Examples: I’ve focused my practice on fewer areas such as partner comp, retirement, succession planning and mergers. I am authoring a series of practice management monographs; we are at 12 now and I have eight more to write. I love writing and am able to do it fairly quickly; the reception to our books from CPA firms has been very satisfying. Finally, our weekly blog has proved to be a much more time- and cost-effective way of getting our brand in front of CPA firms across the country.
--Marc Rosenberg, President, The Rosenberg Associates
No. I’m not interested in achieving work-life balance. The very concept is flawed as it assumes work and life are distinct areas that have to be balanced. I believe that I’ve achieved work-life success, successfully blending my professional and personal pursuits in a way that maximize them both. Stated another way, I subscribe to the idea that if you love what you do, you don’t work a day in your life.
--G. Brint Ryan, Chairman and CEO, Ryan
My first child was born in March and I'm proud to say I feel good about the balance I currently have in my life. Getting to this place was not easy. There have been many times in my career where I focused so much on achievements that I was exhausted and burned out by the time I earned the award, designation, or completed a goal I set for myself.
The shift came about when I realized I had to be proactive to create that balance versus reacting haphazardly to feelings of fatigue or overwhelm. I now have structures in place to ensure that I take care of me so that I can better care for others.
The other thing I have learned is work-life balance is a process. The plan you design for balance today won't work for who you are in a year from now. In the first two years of owning my business, I was: faced with being a caretaker for my sick aunt, becoming the trustee of her and my uncle's estate, supporting my husband's new job that required him to travel away from home every week, becoming a mother, and delivering exceptional client service all along the way.
To feel balanced during these chapters of my life, I continuously stop, pause and assess what is and is not working. Then I make changes and ask for support. It takes a village! :-)
--Amber Setter, Chief opportunity officer, Intention Setter
I think that achieving work-life balance is a constant challenge and ever-evolving. When my kids were young, I coached soccer for a number of years. That was important to my kids and me, as it allowed us to develop relationships that few parents have. When my kids were in high school, I made a vast majority of their swim meets and soccer and water polo games. Now that my kids are grown and I’m serving as a CEO of a large state CPA society, it’s easy to work all the time. It’s all about finding a balance. I may be checking e-mails at 9:00 p.m., but I’m still finding time to travel with my wife and spend time with my kids and grandkids. I’ve always said that I “work to live” not “live to work.” I hope I’m practicing that.
--Todd Shapiro, President and CEO, ICPAS
No, with “balance” you’re not good at either one. Instead I am focused on work-life integration: weaving my professional and personal life into an integrated holistic lifestyle.
--Donny Shimamoto, Managing director, IntrapriseTechKnowlogies
I feel that I’m finally getting there! The biggest reasons for reaching this point in my career are having a great partner, trusting the good people who make up our team and learning to delegate better. Having outside interests, in my case golf, contributes no doubt as well.
--Joel Sinkin, President, Transition Advisors
Yes and no. I’ve always done what I love, so I don’t feel like I’ve had a “job” in the past 20 years. But I am addicted to work and I’ve incorporated it into much of my personal life. I think I’m a work in progress as far as balancing real time off with real work.
Now that our company has been acquired, I can now enjoy the work/life balance that I’ve worked my whole life to achieve.
--Doug Sleeter, Founder, The Sleeter Group
As a leader, I believe there are three sets of resources in your toolbox: time, people and dollars. There are often creative ways to find more people and dollars, but the one resource you can never create more of is time. Time is precious and being able to manage your time between work and personal life is a challenging balance to find. I strive to keep that balance so that I can spend time with my family and daughters and be present in both my personal and work life.
In order to streamline my time at work, here are three principles I use when determining how to best use my time so that I can achieve work-life balance.
1. Decide what not to do. It is often more important to decide what you are not going to do. Steve Jobs was once asked what his favorite product was. He shared that he was very proud of all the products that Apple hadn’t built, because those decisions made it possible to focus on the ones they did build, and allowed them to make those products great. The same is true for all of us. The first step in good time management is picking your priorities and sticking to them.
2. Define a “100 Point” plan. Time will slip away from you if you are not clear and diligent in your planning. The key to successful time management is proactive planning. For myself, I allocate my time in a 40-30-20-10 split: 40 percent of my time is invested in running the company through operating mechanisms and product reviews; 30 percent is invested in building our organization’s capability and leadership bench through one-on-ones, skip levels and teaching at leadership development seminars; 20 percent is invested outside the company learning from others by engaging with fellow leaders in roundtable discussions, seminars and board rooms; and the last 10 percent is invested in personal growth and development, meeting with my personal coach and other select mentors. One size does not fit all, so I encourage you to find the mix that works best for you. The key is making a “100 point” plan so that you are the master of your own time.
3. Hold yourself accountable. Making the plan is the easy part. The hard part is sticking to it. The trick is to be brutally honest with yourself. For myself, every quarter I ask my assistant to color code everything against my 40-30-20-10 plan – and we measure whether I am on track or off. Oftentimes I am off a bit, and this tracking allows me to adjust course and steer closer to the goals I have set. Allocating your time can be the biggest challenge or opportunity for any leader. I encourage all leaders to carefully examine how they invest their time, and then make clear, proactive time allocations to maximize this most precious of resources.
--Brad Smith, President and CEO, Intuit
I think an optimal work/life balance is different for everyone. I work a lot, and I also spend quality time with my wife and son, with extended family, and with friends. It works for me.
I have always been very regimented about maximizing my time, but after my son was born I found new ways to be more productive. I make sure that every hour counts, every meeting is useful and has outcomes. I won’t do things unless they are going to move the needle for Xero. Operating this way allows me to get the right things done and ultimately spend more quality time with my family and friends.
--Jamie Sutherland, GM, U.S. Products & Solutions, Xero
I’ve given up on work-life “balance.” Today, it’s work/life “integration.”
I love my work. I love my life. I see no reason or need to sacrifice either. Although, to be sure, I could make more time for going fishing.
--Rick Telberg, Founder and CEO, CPA Trendlines
Yes because it is important to me. I am blessed with two teenagers and a supportive husband (a CPA, in fact). I do travel a tremendous amount — mostly overseas — so work-life balance is very important. The balance comes in many different ways whether it is taking the kids on a business trip so they can see that side of my life, working from home whenever possible (with technology you can find me whether I’m in London or in New York City), or working before sunrise so I can pick up the kids from school and hear about their day. The key is to understand what energizes me, making that a priority and being present with the family when we are together.
--Arleen Thomas, Senior vice president of management accounting and global markets, AICPA
No. I’ve tried to achieve it, but I have a hard time saying no. I definitely need to do a better job. What I try to remember is that it’s an illusion to think that if you spend enough time you will “get everything done.” You will never be “done.” Research shows the happiest people are busy — but don’t feel rushed. You have to draw a line. You must decide what is important and what isn’t.
--Ralph Thomas, CEO and executive director, NJCPA
Ah, a tougher question than last year on what is your favorite book! To be a little provocative, I think that is the wrong question and the word “balance” tends to evoke the impression of false compromises. Why can’t you “do both” or “do all” with a commitment to being there for your family and co-workers? Why can’t you work hard at both? Why can’t you love your family and love your work? Again, balance implies that you must choose one over the other. This may be true, somewhat, at the task level.
--Jeffrey Thomson, President and CEO, IMA
Work-life balance is really important. I want our employees to have a good work-life balance because BlackLine is a marathon not a sprint. We don't need people to burn out. We need people that can do great work for a period and then go and refresh. At the end of the day, I don't want our employees to lose their families over their job, or have any other issues at home -- that's very important.
--Therese Tucker, CEO and founder, BlackLine
I work every day at achieving a work-life balance – some days I am more successful than others. I have made it a point to make weekly appointments with myself in order to exercise, hike, ski and bike. That said, I should make more appointments with myself – but I am also blessed that I love what I do for work – forensic accounting; I am always doing “Accounting CSI Work”.
--Michael Ueltzen, Partner, Ueltzen & Co.
That depends on whom you ask! My wife and children would probably say I’m out of balance … in favor of work. If you ask me, I’d say I am out of balance … and need to pay more attention to work! I think the answer lies in the eyes of the beholder. Though I joke with my team when I say to them “Do as I say, not as I do” with regard to taking time off and being with their family, my views on this important subject are sincere. So I guess you could say I consider work-life balance to be a continuing quest rather than a destination.
--Pascal Van Dooren, Chief revenue officer, Avalara
I am not sure total work-life balance is truly feasible – especially with the way today’s technology keeps us in constant contact and fuels responsiveness expectations. I strive to temporarily unplug and turn off the need to constantly check my phone and e-mail for a few hours each day to have some personal relaxation time and to spend quality time with my family.
--David Vaudt, Chairman, GASB
I make it a priority to balance my career with other passions I have in life. I schedule it into my calendar each day as it helps me to be my best each day. Each day of the week I alternate teaching yoga or taking a yoga class, running, spinning or strength training. When I am not traveling I practice my bass guitar a few days a week and have band rehearsal one evening a week. One the weekend, I try to take an afternoon and paint -- my favorite medium is acrylic painting on canvas.
All of these activities I am able to share in with my children as well, which gives us a bonding experience. Both of my boys run, play music and have different types of yoga they like the best that we do together. One of my sons really enjoys art, so will draw with me while I paint. My husband and I had decided to take up instruments together, so he plays keyboard in the band that we are a part of. We are also working on some rock songs as a family that we can play together as well. This helps me be the best I can be in my job and with those around me.
--Amy Vetter, Global vice president of education and head of accounting, USA, Xero
Over the last year work-life balance has definitely become more important in our house as we became foster parents to a nine- and 10-year-old. It’s easy to get caught up in working 24/7 but when you have kids that need your mentorship or want to talk to you over dinner, it helps add some perspective. However, I also have a career that I am passionate about and even when there isn’t balance, I am still loving life. I think it’s about everything in moderation to some extent. There are some weeks when achieving work/life balance is just not possible and there are other weeks when it all works. Overall, for me I think it’s about having a rewarding, fulfilling, meaningful career and personal life and I believe both can be achieved without over-analyzing how many hours you spend in each place.
--Jennifer Warawa, Global vice president of product marketing, Sage
I believe I have achieved work-life integration, not balance. I block time that is specifically for work and likewise I block time for my personal life. Sometimes my life wins with more of my time and sometimes my work wins more of my time, but in the big scheme of things I feel very little stress in my life – and I feel that I have a life that values both parts of my life. It has taken years to get to this place in my life and it feels quite wonderful.
--Sandra Wiley, Shareholder, and COO, Boomer Consulting
I am not striving for work life balance. Instead, I am committed to integrate my work and life in a way that they both function well (sometimes called “work-life fit”).
For 15 years, we have run a completely virtual and completely flexible business where we integrate our commitment to make a difference, serve our clients, support one another, build successful families and raise strong children, serve our communities, maintain healthy bodies, minds and spirits, and have fun. It is super-challenging to pack it all in – but we manage to do it with rigorous scheduling, communication, strong support for each other and a willingness to regroup, make changes and say no when our commitment to “have it all” gets out of hand (which is probably the hardest part).
--Jennifer Wilson, Co-founder and owner, ConvergenceCoaching
I have definitely not achieved work/life balance, in that I work far too much and I bring far too much of my work home with me, mentally and emotionally. That said, I don’t think work/life balance is the right goal for anyone who has fully embraced the profession. The profession is a part of who I am as a person and the desire to achieve “balance” assumes that I have the ability to separate the personal from the professional. I do not. I do believe that work/life harmony is achievable. This is more than semantics. Since I am personally inseparable from my profession, I must make sure that the aspects of who I am that are not part of the profession are harmonized with those aspects of who I am as a member of the profession. That means, I must treat my clients as I would treat my family and friends … and vice versa. As human beings first and as a person for whom I am playing a role (husband, father, accountant, trusted advisor) second.
--Joe Woodard, CEO, Woodard Companies
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