Life Lessons: Ian Walker

Learning how to maintain your work-life balance

When 24-year-old Ian Walker co-launched the company that would become Left Coast Naturals in 1996, he quickly began racking up the "crazy" work weeks many entrepreneurs face: 14-hour days, seven days a week.

"You're in survival for the first little while, and you kind of have to work those hours," he remembered. "And then you're growing and you're taking off and you still have to work those hours. And then you realize 'Oh my gosh, I've got a whole bunch of debt so I'd better make this work.'"

Ten years into the business, married and with a newborn son, Walker began to fight to get his work weeks down. But the changes didn't come quickly. Walker wrestled with restructuring the company's leadership and trusting employees to run affairs he'd always handled. "It takes a lot longer than you think."

Walker said it wasn't until his second child was born, his marriage ended and he took on half the child-care responsibilities that he ramped up his fight for balance.

"When you face losing something – maybe not seeing the kids so much – then you start to grab onto those things," he said. "It sort of dawned on me, if I'm lying on my death bed, I'm not going to be lying there thinking that I didn't work enough, but I could be lying there thinking that I didn't see my kids enough."

After that realization, Walker accelerated the hiring process for a vice-president of operations who would shoulder many of his earlier responsibilities. Walker said he was then able to start taking Wednesday afternoons off and every second Thursday, so he'd have more time with his kids. Walker also began to see that he needed some time for himself and began seeing a personal trainer twice a week.

Walker said the payout has been tangible: building a closer relationship with his kids and now feeling more energetic and physically fit.

Walker's advice to his fellow entrepreneurs and workaholics?

"Right now, it feels like you have to do this and you have to do that, but step away from that and pretend it's 20 years from now or you're 80 years old, sitting in your rocking chair, reflecting on your life. What seems important then?"

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