How a Vacation Saved My Family

Article by:
Neil Greer, EO San Diego
Neil Greer
EO San Diego

Neil is the co-founder of Impact Engine, Inc., an online advertising technology company created by interactive ad agency principals, rich-media veterans and software professionals. E-mail Neil at [email protected].

As entrepreneurs, we’re taught early on to separate our work and home life. Recently, I bucked that trend. When things in my personal life were misaligned, I looked to my professional life to carry me through. The result: I created harmony at home and became a better entrepreneur in the process.

I’ve been married to my wife, Lisa, for 15 years, and we have three young children. When I’m not playing the role of husband and father, I’m running a software business. For the longest time, things at home and work were balanced. Recently, however, I discovered that my family and I were not achieving the same level of teamwork that I was achieving in business. In fact, the opposite was occurring. Disagreements over day-to-day issues were becoming commonplace, and it was obvious we were not on the same page. Fundamentally, the conflicts we were having were at odds with our core values. Somewhere along the line, we lost sight of what we were trying to accomplish as a family. I remember thinking: “If I was achieving desired results at work but not at home, where am I failing?” I took a step back from the situation and noticed the following issues: fatigue, not working together as a team and an overall lack of systems for communicating and getting things done.

Lisa and I soon realized that our home operations practices had become outdated since our children were born. As a result, we were experiencing new problems. As we discussed solutions, it dawned on me: Why not take what worked in the office and apply it at home? After all, I already had multiple systems in place to prevent or resolve these exact same issues at work. If I could apply that methodology to my home life, everything would be back to normal!

I decided to work on the issue of fatigue as a starting point. I announced to my family that we were going on a 12-day vacation to Maui, Hawaii, USA. I planned to resolve the other family issues throughout the trip by using the following systems I enforce at work:

  • Host a 10-minute team huddle twice a week
  • Simplify all communication and create a “to do” management platfor
  • Initiate e-mail and mobile communication
  • Distribute tasks irrespective of titles (meaning I can be tasked, as well)

I knew bringing work practices home was a risk, but I felt confident in our plan. As an entrepreneur, I’m a big fan of putting teams in situations where success or failure must occur by design. Using this management approach, I created an outline of the tactical steps my family would need to follow to pull off the vacation:

  • Create an online “base camp” for the family

  • Create a project called “Maui Vacation”

  • Create to-do lists broken down by each category (e.g., logistics, activities)

  • Assign tasks within the to-do list to each person; i.e., at work, each employee is allowed to assign tasks to another team member. I was surprised by how this procedure made my family feel like they were operating in a flat hierarchy

  • Check off tasks as “done” when completed (via mobile phone or computer)

  • Meet on the topic of Maui Vacation two times a week for 10 minutes, and once a week for an hour

  • Upload all travel-related documents into the online base camp so we can access them on the road

Once these processes were applied to our vacation, we began to work toward a common goal. We started communicating, cooperating and getting things accomplished. Arguments became a thing of the past, all because we learned to work as a team. Since the vacation, Lisa and I have been using this newfound approach for just about every family project. We’re even finding ways to say “no” to activities because we now have an improved sense of visibility on how full our family-project bucket is at any given time. As a result, we’re no longer fatigued.

As an entrepreneur, it feels great knowing that the tools I have in place help achieve business success. As a husband and father, it feels even better knowing that when I apply the same tools to my family, I get long-lasting results. By taking work practices and bringing them home, I was able to strengthen my family and put us back on the path toward unity.

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