How I find balance: Joyce Groote

Written by Susanne Ruder

Meeting both business and personal demands has long been a juggling act for women entrepreneurs. Between the long hours, travel, meetings and employee and customer challenges, there’s little time left for personal needs. We asked Canada’s leading businesswomen to tell us how they effectively manage work/life balance. Each issue we’ll bring you the tactics and strategies that help women business owners grow their companies and careers, while still finding a little “me” time.

Joyce Groote is CEO of Holey Soles Holdings Inc., a Vancouver-based designer and producer of injection-molded foam footwear. Holey Soles’s colourful, ultra-comfortable clogs are sold throughout North America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Europe, both under the Holey Soles brand and as private-label products. Product sales now exceed $1 million a month.

Like many successful entrepreneurs, Groote sets business goals and then creates action plans to generate the results she wants. The process has worked so well that’s she’s applied it to her personal life, too. “It’s a different way to look at life, and I don’t know a lot of people who do this,” says Groote. But her efforts pay off. Groote knows exactly what she wants, how to get there, and has a keen awareness of where her balance point lies.

Looking to create more structure in her life, 49-year-old Groote began the process six years ago with a personal “SWOT” analysis, listing her strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. “What a hard thing to do,” she says. “You have to face yourself.” Still, she persevered, and followed up by creating a five- and ten-year plan for herself. First, she decided what was important to her: fitness and nutrition, spiritual and intellectual life, professional interests, and family and friends. Then for each of these four areas, she set priorities and goals, and came up with action strategies for achieving these goals.

In the area of fitness and nutrition, for example, she aims to exercise twice a week, no matter how hectic her schedule is. And though she needs to eat out during frequent business trips, she says, “I try to set parameters, like I’m only going to allow myself to eat French fries once a week.”

The spiritual/intellectual component means “having time for music, time to read, and time for self-development,” says Groote. “I set myself objectives like reading a couple of books a month, one for fun and the other to inspire and teach me.”

And because spending lots of time with family and friends is tough when you’re building a company, says Groote, her goal is to “try and take the time that I do have and make it count.” At dinnertime, for example, “I light candles with my husband, we talk about our day, talk about what we want to do for the next weekend. It’s our time to connect, so we make sure we take at least an hour to do that.”

Just as a business plan helps to keep a company on course, Groote’s plan helps her decide if an activity is worth spending time on. “It’s made many decisions much, much easier, because they either fit [with my goals] or they didn’t,” she says. “It allows me to keep my eye on the ball.”

The key is to get your priorities out of your head and onto paper where you can look at them regularly, or like a typical New Year’s resolution, your best intentions will soon be forgotten. While it sounds formulaic, Groote says she needs that structure. “It’s not to take away spontaneity and flexibility,” she says, “but it gives a much higher probability that what I want to happen, will.”

That’s not to say that once you have a plan sticking to goals is easy. “If I’m on the road or doing PR or marketing or business work, yeah, it’s hard.” When Groot does go off track, she’s quick to forgives herself and resolves to get back on schedule.

Nobody has perfect balance all the time, so you need to look at where you want to be, and fine tune it by making adjustments, notes Groote: “I achieve balance more often than I would otherwise, because I’m cognizant of where that balance is, and when I go too far one way or the other.”

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