When you are launching a new venture, it can sometimes feel like balance is a complete myth. Michael Schultz knows firsthand about working long, crazy hours, having worked in the restaurant industry since he was 12 years old. He has worked for big names such as Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Wolfgang Puck, and in 2015, opened Goddess and the Baker, a well regarded cafe in Chicago.
This spring, when he launched his new company, a specialty food and beverage chain called Fairgrounds Coffee & Tea Brew Bar, Schultz wanted to make work/life balance a part of the company’s mission from day one. While it’s something that’s incredibly valuable to Schultz now, he says that wasn’t always the case.
His wake up call came seven years ago, days before his first daughter was born, when he wasn’t able to attend his wife’s last ultrasound appointment. When he met her in the hospital afterwards, he recalled that she asked why he was there, since he had meetings that day.
He found himself thinking about all the moments that he had missed, and he told her that he would quit his job with Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Though they had a baby on the way and had just bought a new house, he knew that he couldn’t stay on the path he was on. “I said, ‘I want to create opportunity for others. I want to build a business that inspires people, makes them feel valued and feeds that entrepreneurial spirit,” Schultz said.
Schultz has three pieces of advice for entrepreneurs who have a similar goal in mind.
1. Contribute to your community.
Schultz says he wants the spirit of giving back to permeate every aspect of his company. “Each team leader has a budget for doing random acts of kindness,” he says. “The success of our company can be judged when we impact people’s lives in the community in which we operate.”
The first Fairgrounds location will open on March 29 in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago. Twenty percent of the store’s opening day sales will go to the A.N. Pritzker School. The second location, set to open in May, will be in the Chicago Athletic Association hotel. The Chicago Children’s Choir will be that store’s charity partner, and will also receive 20 percent of the first day sales. Members of both the Chicago Teachers Union and employees of Chicago Public Schools will have a standing 10 percent discount at the city’s stores.
Schultz says that there are plans in the works for charity partnerships with every new location that opens, starting in Los Angeles this summer, with Houston, Minneapolis, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Miami following.
2. Be a leader in all aspects of your business.
“I take 30 minutes every day to meditate to regroup, refocus and center my energy. That is a behavior we encourage with our team members in trying to help them to create balance in their lives,” Schultz says.
His first priority is to instill in his employees the value of taking time for themselves, even if it’s something as simple as reading a book or talking a walk to take a break during the day, he says. “Having great balance between family, health and business allows you to achieve higher levels in all of them.”
3. Don’t play the “what if” game.
Schultz says it is impossible to move forward and maintain any sort of balance if you find yourself consumed with regret. “There is a moment that comes in everyone’s life you look back and you think about what could have been,” he says. “Don’t put yourself in a position where you can look back and say, ‘What could have or what would have happened [if I had done this’]. Take that leap and have that courage to believe in yourself.”