Make Sure You’re Cheating Fair

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I believe that a) work-life balance is a myth - we are all "cheating" something to make something else work, and b) our businesses and professional lives will only rise, and (sustainably) thrive, to the level of our relationships.

So, here's a question – does your family view your job/business as a mistress or a child? If you're not sure, see which of the following best describes your professional life:

A mistress is separate from and detrimental to the family. Involvement with her takes time away from the essential things, causes you to be distracted and distant, and will almost always lead to self and family destruction.

A child is loved by the whole family and brings people together over the mutual desire to nurture and care for it. Everyone understands and recognizes the value that a child brings to the big picture.

Recently, I experienced the most stressful time of my career when the product that I invented was featured on Shark Tank. The entire process - from the first e-mail, to preparing and presenting my pitch, to dealing with the overwhelming amount of interest after the show aired - took a great deal of focus and energy and was a very long process.

All of this left little time for family life and, without intentionality, my work could very quickly have become a mistress. I know, because it had happened far too many times in the past.

But, armed with experience and determined to not let past performance predict future behavior, my wife and I had previously set in place some "guardrails" that would serve to minimize the personal impact of my busy professional life. For example:

  • We invested in a small cabin in the woods where we hike, go 4-wheeling, and seek outdoor adventures. No matter what else is happening, we spend at least two weekends a month decompressing at the cabin.
  • We have Sunday dinners for the whole family at our home. We are lucky enough to have all of our children and grandchildren local, so most Sundays the whole crew gathers to reconnect.
  • Whenever possible, I bring my wife and two teenagers who are still living at home on business trips with me. Some of our best memories are made on the road. But, far more important is the fact that my family gets to see what I do, and they know why I do it.

In addition to these things, I've put more effort into mentoring and delegating at work to create more margin in my life.

Is the system perfect? No. Do loved ones still sometimes feel like they're taking a backseat to the business? Yes, but less and less since we put our "guardrail" stakes in the ground.

What are your guardrails? What systems or habits have you put in place to ensure that your professional ambitions don't eclipse your personal life? If you can't think of any, it may be time to reevaluate.

Time cheated away from work can almost always be recovered. Time cheated away from family can never be relived.

Joe Altieri is the Inventor and CEO of FlexScreen. His product – the world’s first and only flexible window screen - was featured on ABC’s hit show, Shark Tank, where he hooked a deal with the proclaimed “Queen of QVC,” Lori Greiner.

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Joe Altieri is a third-generation entrepreneur, inventor, speaker, and the President and CEO of his own multi-million dollar company. He learned the value of company culture and building strong teams by watching his father and grandfather operate successful businesses.

During his 20+ years in the window industry, Joe recognized the inherent problems with traditional window screens and dealt personally with constant customer frustrations. Always an outside-the-box thinker, he knew there had to be a better way, so he set up shop in his garage and got to work. After years of trial and error, FlexScreen, the world's first and only flexible window screen, was born.

Since its introduction into the marketplace, FlexScreen has gained international attention and earned multiple industry awards. Most notably, FlexScreen was catapulted to the forefront when Joe appeared on ABC's hit show, Shark Tank, in January 2020. Three of the five Sharks battled for a piece of FlexScreen with Lori Greiner, the Queen of QVC, ultimately winning the deal.

Joe is a firm believer in giving back, and he is generous with his resources and his time. Several years ago, he was honored and recognized as one of Pittsburgh's Volunteers of the Year. He lives in Pittsburgh with his wife of 25 years, Alisha. They have four children, four grandchildren, and two very pampered Cane Corso's.

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