Tightrope: Better take a break, or you'll break down

— -- Dear Gladys,

I have a successful online business that is five years old. This is the second time I have owned an online company. The first I built and sold during the original dot-com craze. I got married nine months ago to what I thought was an understanding woman. It takes a lot of time and energy to build a successful company, but I am having a hard time explaining that to her. She complains a lot about the lack of time I devote to her. When I have a little extra time, which is seldom, I am dog-tired and want to rest. What can I say or do to get her to understand that the life of an entrepreneur takes a lot of time and energy?

Dot.com guy

I can't think of a thing that you could say that would make sense, but pay attention to a couple of stories to see if one or both might shed any light on a possible answer.

During this past summer a Chick-fil-A restaurant opened in a shopping center near my home. A few weeks before opening they mailed coupons to local residents offering a free chicken sandwich.

While out running errands one Sunday afternoon with my daughter Sharon, we decided to stop by for lunch. As we approached I could see that there were no cars in the parking lot. That should have been a hint. Nonetheless we parked the car and proceeded to the door only to be met by a sign: "CLOSED ON SUNDAY."

Sharon was quite surprised by this. I used the opportunity to take a stroll down memory lane and tell her about the time when almost all retail establishments recognized Sunday as a day of Sabbath and rest from work. They honored and respected that day by closing.

I called the restaurant several days later to ask why they were closed and a manager told me that they always close on Sunday to give their employees an opportunity to spend time with family and to have a rest. Are entrepreneurs and businesses beginning to recognize the importance of a time of rest from work? Sounds pretty good to me!

Then there is my friend, whom I will call Willis, who had received many awards for business success. He represented the ideal model of what a successful entrepreneur looked like.

About a year ago his wife called to say that he was in the hospital in intensive care, fighting for his life after suffering a heart attack. Now of course, I will not mention the fact that his wife had some of the same complaints as your wife, that he had no time for her and the family and that he was tired all the time. And I won't bore you by telling you that Willis had the same philosophy as you, that to have a successful business you have to steal time from yourself and your loved ones.

Willis managed to recover well enough to leave the hospital and finish recuperating at home.

One day while driving down the avenue where his office is, I slowed down due to heavy traffic and lo and behold, there on the sidewalk was Willis, just two weeks out of the hospital. With shoulders slumped, he walked slowly with his briefcase up to the office door. Or to put it more precisely, he appeared to be dragging himself back into his business. Willis had lost a lot of weight, and he looked 20 years older than his 58 years.

Later that afternoon I talked with his wife. We decided an intervention was needed to save his life.

We convinced him that rest is an absolute necessity. Willis agreed to take a couple of weeks off to go to New England with his family where he was able to completely relax. In addition, he agreed to cut down on the long work days. And Willis acknowledged that reserving at least one day of the week for complete rest would be good for his health.

For the past six months Willis has occasionally worked those long hours, but he has kept his word about taking a complete day of rest from work.

There needs to be a time of deliberate withdrawal from business in order to remind ourselves how good life can be. We need to have a time completely separate from the hustle and bustle of life. Set aside such time so you can be with your family.

It doesn't matter how successful you have been in the past or will be in the future if you can't make the time to relax. You can take a lesson from Chick-fil-A and shut yourself down for a day of rest, or you can take the road of my friend Willis, and allow your declining health to force you into it.

Gladys Edmunds' Entrepreneurial Tightrope column appears Wednesdays. Click here for an index of her columns. As a single, teen-age mom, Gladys made money doing laundry, cooking dinners for taxi drivers and selling fire extinguishers and Bibles door-to-door. Today, Edmunds is founder of Edmunds Travel Consultants in Pittsburgh and author of There's No Business Like Your Own Business, a six-step guide to success published by Viking. Her website is www.gladysedmunds.com. You can e-mail her at gladys@gladysedmunds.com.