The importance of a healthy work/life balance

After my last column, I asked our general manager to give me some feedback on my first couple of ‘Catering Today’ columns. His main comment was that he felt my writing was a bit impersonal and that readers might like to know a bit about the person behind the words and business ‘advice’.

So, this time, I’m kicking off with a few lines about me! 

Why is this important?

Well, I guess that knowing some personal details about the writer means it should be easier for the reader to relate to the person writing. It puts me and my experience in context.

I’m 55 and have worked in food, hospitality and catering for what feels like forever. I consciously chose it as a career because I loved cooking.

I was managing director of Corney & Barrow Wine Bars Ltd in the City of London for over 10 years from 1993 -2004 and have owned my own business in a remote Scottish Highland village for the last 15 years. I love food, the outdoors, animals and sport. I am currently training for an Ironman Triathlon; this is my fifth one.

Training for Ironman is a big commitment and relies on me having a very accomplished and dedicated team supporting me both in the business and in my personal life. I am lucky that my husband heads up our team and he has been super supportive of my Ironman dream. Having enough of the right people around you is the only way you will get a healthy work life balance, even if you aren’t aspiring to do an Ironman Triathlon! Having dreams and encouraging your team to have dreams, is critical to sustaining long term commitment, energy and effort.

Creating a healthy work life balance is crucially important. It’s easy for the ambitious to undervalue quality time.  I know this because I did exactly that and it proved counterproductive in terms of my own performance and it certainly didn’t make me someone the best people wanted to work for.

I created a pressure cooker which was not sustainable and led to underperformance. I was burnt out and so was my team many times over the years.

I have learned the hard way. Long term, your business will only be as healthy as you are and having something in your reserve to deal with the unforeseen, is only common sense. In businesses both large and small, the senior management team is the most valuable asset. Nature the team and use them wisely. 

One of the main roles I currently fulfil is as the marketing director for the business. I really enjoy this aspect of my work.  I am currently preparing to do a series of marketing workshops with our management team to help develop their understanding and skills in this area. Developing the team will help them support the marketing activity and me, which is even better. This in turn will lead to greater individual fulfilment and increased productivity.

The modules I’ve designed are;

An introduction to marketing. What is it? What are the benefits? What are our USP’s? How do you identify your target market? How does market research help? The importance of nurturing your customers and delivering on the promise.

Building a brand. What tools or methods can you use? It covers:  Planning, preparing, budgeting and executing.

Measuring the results. Monitor and review.

Next time I check in I’ll let you know how these were received and what difference I see it making to the individuals and the business. I will also let you know how the Ironman training is going on as I head towards race day in May!

Not long now.

By Sarah Heward, co-founder of The Real Food Café in Tyndrum, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs in Scotland. The rural café welcomes some 200,000 customers a year.

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