If you have a startup can you succeed if you place personal health and family above business?

Scott Miller ‏@sbmiller5: if you have a startup can you succeed if you place personal health and family above business?


I was talking to a fund of funds manager. He was overweight and had a nervous tic. His CFO once called me and said, “James, I don’t know if this is right or not but he’s buying obscure illiquid options so he can mark his fund’s value higher at the end of each month to get a positive return. Without that he’d be negative each month. Is this legal?”

I said, “I have no idea. But you better quit anyway.” So my friend quit and became CFO at a billion dollar fund. He’s doing very well.

A month later the fund of funds manager decided to close down his fund. He was about 100 lbs overweight and had a nervous tic so it was hard for him to speak. I asked him what he was going to do next. His face was red and he was sweating. “I don’t know,” he said, “I’ve got to spend some time getting my health back.”

So he did. I ran into him about four years later. He got his health back. I couldn’t believe how beautiful his new wife was (his prior indulgence was all hookers in his office). He was running a business advising huge family offices how to allocate their money and he would take a fee for that. This avoided all the administrative overhead (nightmare) of running a fund. My guess is he was making several million a year. He seemed really happy. At one point during the dinner he even enjoyed a good laugh when someone made a joke at my expense.

In other words, health always comes first. And not just physical health. Clearly my friend (actually, he hated me and once threw a chair at me in rage, but that’s another story) was lacking in physical health. When you don’t have physical health you don’t have energy, you get sick, you get lazy, you lose momentum, your mind gets sluggish, and all sorts of things that prevent you from being good at your business.

Your competitors are not your friends. They don’t call a timeout and wait for you to get better. They slit your throat while you are already lying black and blue in a dark alley and then they take your wallet and rape your kids. That sounds pretty dramatic. But it’s what happens.

But you also have to have good emotional health. My friend (who hated me) surrounded himself with a lot of bad guys who would take advantage of him (or procure prostitutes for him). He didn’t seem to have any real friendships. Mentally, he was so obsessed with being up every month that he almost slipped into a Madoff. Thank god he stopped his fund when he did or he would’ve spiraled into a scam. He could no longer focus on what good strategies he should invest in. I have no way to judge his spiritual health. I hope he was working on it. But who knows?

This doesn’t mean you have to be as ripped as Mr. Clean or a spiritual Buddha to run a business. But when you run a business your most important themes are to help the following people and make their lives better:

– your customers

– your investors

– your employees

– your partners

– your vendors

Family is part of this also. But you have to decide where your family lies in terms of your emotional and spiritual health.

For each of these groups, they need to feel good just by being around you. If you are coughing on them (physically or metaphorically) they will feel worse. And so will your business.