Work & Family – Making it Work
Balancing Business And Personal Life
A talk with Neil Austrian, president of Doyle Dane Bernbach, one of the largest ad agencies in the world and the top winner of advertising awards.
On an average working day, how much time do you spend with your family?
I live in Connecticut with my wife and three children, ages 15, 12, and 9. I’m usually in Manhattan by 8:00 in the morning, if I’m not traveling. Three out of five mornings, I have a breakfast meeting with someone at the agency. I usually leave work around 6:30 and am home by 7:30.
When I get home, I spend about an hour on the phone to the Far East or California, places where it’s impossible to talk to people during our workday in New York.
We all eat dinner together, even when it’s after 8:00, and the kids have already had a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I end up playing with the kids until it’s time for them to go to bed.
What are your favorite extracurricular activities?
What we do as a family. We all ski. We spend a couple of weeks in winter doing that in Colorado. We all play tennis. We have a little outboard that we take out for water skiing, fishing, or just having a good time. Every vacation we’ve taken since the kids were born, we’ve taken as a family group.
How long a vacation do you take?
I’ve never had more than two weeks at once. It’s usually three or four times a year, maybe a week at a time.
Do you have time to read?
I make time to read. I read history or lighter works that take my mind off business. I also enjoy reading biographies of those who have held high political office here and abroad. I enjoy talking with people involved in polities. It’s an intriguing area for me. Of course, I read widely about both advertising and marketing-and almost everything else that relates to my field.
You work hard. Have you resisted becoming a workaholic?
The temptation is there. I could let myself work seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and I’d enjoy it. At the same time, I’d never know my family. I’d wake up some day and wonder what it was all for. I’ve found I can balance it. I get the job done at the agency and get the job done at home.
Do you have a few principles that help you run your personal life?
The basic one is to treat people decently and fairly. In any business, your success depends on how well your people perform, not just on how well you perform. You must have people who want to work with you. They have to respect you, if not like you. The key is to treat employees decently and fairly, just as you would want to be treated.
The Two-Career Marriage: Four Ways It Can Work
• Two equal partners share responsibilities. Careers come first for each, while household chores are done-or put off-jointly. Caution: The partners cannot permit their competitiveness to intrude on the marriage.
• One partner assumes a subordinate position. When a boss marries his secretary, both know their marriage roles. Problem: Shifting roles in any relationship may cause it to founder.
• Personal emotions supersede career drives. Marriage partners sacrifice business opportunities to spend more time with each other. Difficulty: This obsession can become an excuse for not succeeding at work. And this can be a serious mistake because personal pleasure is often related to professional success.
• Spouses are so aware of each other’s needs that they constantly move toward one another. This is the best way of achieving a mix between marriage and career. Devotion to both is mutually reinforcing.
Any of these arrangements will work, however, if both sides are satisfied with the relationship.
Personal. Redefine your aims and outlook to adapt to a shifting situation.
Joint discussion. Listen, as well as talk, to your mate. Agree to change if you heard a valid argument for it.
Direct demand. Make one only when you are certain that you are right. Example: If overwork is threatening your home life, decrease the job level, particularly if you are doing work that should be handled by your colleagues.
Taking Work Home From the Office
Any executive with a challenging or demanding job has the problem of taking work home. Sometimes it’s necessary. But do it too often and you can jeopardize your health, your home life, and even your effectiveness on the job.
Dangers: When you rely on taking work home, you tend to put off work during the day. You run the risk of becoming less effective during regular hours.
Take work home only to meet a tight deadline, handle sudden extra work, or compensate for the loss of working time you counted on. If you carry a loaded briefcase more than twice a month, look for ways to delegate more
tasks. Streamline your work and distribute the least important part to your subordinates.
If you do bring work home, try to maintain a normal return-from-work routine. Example: Shower, eat dinner, spend time with the kids. Then, instead of relaxing later, find a private place to work.
Teaching Your Spouse Your Business
Business owners should have their spouses work in the company four weeks a year. Preferred: One week per quarter. Reason: If the owner dies or becomes incapacitated, the spouse will know how to handle key situations and people. Included: Lawyers, accountants, bankers, consultants, major suppliers, and creditors.
Living With A Workaholic
Intense, driven and competitive workaholics prefer labor to leisure and family pleasures. The addicts generally are active, happy, and healthy. The real victims may be the spouse and children.
Divorce or severe family stress is common among workaholics. The spouses must accept the situation if the marriage is to continue. And they must be prepared to live with a person who is unlikely to change work habits, no
matter how many promises he or she makes.
To live with a workaholic:
• Keep contact with his work life. Children should visit his office, store, or lab. Books and toys related to the parent’s profession can keep the youngsters involved. Caution: Workaholics can engender similar traits in their offspring. Help the children learn the merits of play and relaxation.
Simplify domesticity. Since the workaholic mate seldom helps around the house, shop by phone or online, order gifts online, and so forth. Use online banking to pay bills. Cut kitchen time by using convenience appliances such as a microwave oven, food processor, etc.
Go along on business trips. Take the children along, too, when possible.
Get on the calendar. Workaholics are obsessed with schedules and lists. Make appointments for lunch and dinner. Have the children make them, too. It will help get the message across that the family finds that it needs more attention from the workaholic.
Anticipate spending time alone. Have a social life. Accept invitations, but inform the hostess you’re likely to show up at the party or dinner by yourself.
Business Techniques For Home Management
Everyone is basically organized. People make the mistake of assuming that clutter is synonymous with disorganization. False. If you can find the item that you are looking for, you are basically organized.
When you are not organized: Reevaluate your system if it takes longer than five minutes to find something.
Separate the problem into components: Instead of attempting to organize all of the closets at one time, choose one closet, then ‘decide which shelf or area to work on first.
Set time limits, and stick to them: Devote an hour two or three times a week to organizing. Once you are properly organized you will be able to maintain your system by devoting only 10 to 15 minutes a week to it.
To synchronize the family: Use a calendar that is prominently displayed and within easy reach of the smallest member of your family. Each member should have his own easily distinguishable color pen.
Other time-saving tactics:
Car pooling. Essential for the busy parent with active children.
Shopping and cooking in bulk.
Using public transit (if feasible). It allows you to do something else (make notes, etc.) while traveling.
Hiring part-time help. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Example: A teenager to run time-consuming errands. Recommended: Use another person only to do those tasks that you have put off the longest.
Trading tasks with a friend or neighbor. The person who hates to do laundry may not mind ironing.