The ever-challenging attempt to attain true work-life balance is far more challenging than described


Published: 2018.08.29 03:12 PM

The thrills and worries of owning and running a family business are unique – a set of pressures that only those who’ve been there can comprehend. The old adage: “It’s lonely at the top,” is easy to flip upside down: “It’s lonely buried underneath.”

Stress for entrepreneurs and executives comes in ocean waves – with riptides of success that suck you into the dream of a big payoff that is unique to each person, business, market and perspective.

Although the American economy is thriving and many business sectors are at an all-time high, the small- to mid-sized business struggle is real. Among CEOs, entrepreneurs and business leaders, it’s a common conversation to discuss waking up in the night, mind-racing and worrying about details of the operations, money and staffing.

Health-care services offer a particular entrepreneurial tight spot, dependent, as they often are, on reimbursements and 45-day accounts receivable (AR) cycles, rather than the typical 14 to 30 days. We often ask: “When will we turn the corner?

When will the air stream in, instead of trickle?” Indeed, the health-care revenue cycle can be a stagnated, seemingly never-ending nightmare.

Most business leaders and entrepreneurs run small to mid-size businesses with local or regional reach and if lucky, thousands or maybe millions in revenue. No matter the status, at some point, most entrepreneurs wear every hat from top-to-bottom and “do it all” from CEO to receptionist to janitor. Therein lies the problem and the breakdown. People in these roles believe they can do it all. Add the pressures of personal life coupled with the tolls of meeting payroll, taxes, loan payments and routine overhead costs – it can feel unmanageable.

With additional factors and anyone’s desired life-balance, it’s easy to succumb to the reality of straining to meet and sustain a happy life.

The ability to delegate, to simply say, “No,” and to know when to seek help is mission-critical to every entrepreneur.

Consider these sobering facts:

  • More than 38,000 people commit suicide annually in the United States
  • Depression is typically the root cause of suicide
  • Women attempt suicide three times more often than men, but men comprise 79 percent of suicides as they choose a more violent method with a higher chance of success
  • Suicide is not always caused by depression. It can also be a response to a critical situation, such as bad business decisions, a medical diagnosis, losing a job, romance gone awry, etc.


The list is seemingly endless.

Among the super successful, the reasons for depression and the feeling of hopelessness can include these common traits and feelings:

  • Perfectionism
  • The pressure to make life and success look easy and not let anyone see the struggle of reality
  • Loneliness
  • The price of success – Successful people are mostly surrounded by peers and mentors, parents, friends and colleagues who set expectations of achieving “more” at any price.

During a recent night of anxiety and worry for me, I looked at my 11 year-old-daughter and asked, “What do you want?” She replied without taking a breath, “I want to make you happy.” In that moment, I realized my work is not me and I won’t allow it to consume me. My kids are me. My husband is me. My hobbies are me. My choices are me. My company does not define my happiness, whether we are hitting all-time productivity highs or surviving slumps.

As we approach the 10-year anniversary of the business and things are going well, I can reflect on the wild ride of launching a company, earning awards and accolades and the roller coaster of ups and downs. I’m still out there, riding the waves and recognizing that there are things entrepreneurs can do to help keep their lives from spiraling out of control.

But if things feel desperate, it’s important to know the key reason why successful people become depressed, contemplate suicide or go through with it: They are human. We are human.

Here are some tips to help yourself when life is stressful:

  • Love your loved ones.
  • Keep connected with friends and family.
  • Create your village so they are there when you need them.
  • Create an identity separate from your company. Pursue hobbies, volunteer, travel, coach a kids’ sports teams, etc.
  • Exercise, eat well and get enough sleep.
  • Ask for help – it’s not a weakness. It’s a strength.
  • Live with grit. Don’t let failure, mistakes, bad hires or business hiccups define you.
  • Learn from experience and move on.
  • Be honest. Your people will connect with you, and follow you through dark valleys all the way to the business peaks.

Erin Gibbs

Erin Reilly Gibbs is CEO, founder and owner of American Vein & Vascular Institute Practice Management . The company oversees American Vein & Vascular Institute — a network of vein and vascular clinics owned and founded by her husband, Dr. Gordon Gibbs.  The companies have more than 50 employees, operating in Pueblo, Parker, Canon City, Vail Valley, Littleton and Colorado Springs in Colorado and in Arlington, Texas. The management headquarters are located in the heart of downtown Colorado Springs. Recently, Erin’s team was selected for ColoradoBiz Magazine’s Top 100 Women-Owned Companies and the entire organization was a 2014 winner for Colorado Companies to Watch. She can be reached at [email protected] or 719.242.8650.