Make Your Well-Being Part of Your Business Strategy

BY Michelle Di Gangi Head of Small and Medium Enterprise Banking Bank of the West

Aug 26th 2021

In a world whiplashed by the delta variant, I’ve thought a lot about two recurring themes for business owners: self-care and networking.

Four out of five business owners said in a survey released early this year that they were experiencing symptoms of poor mental health—including inability to focus (66%), anxiety (64%), sleep disruption (63%), and depression (37%). There’s been plenty of talk in this environment about work-life balance and the need to take care of ourselves, so now I want to take the conversation to the next level. Your well-being is essential to the resilience, longevity, and performance of the business you own and love, so shouldn’t you approach caring for yourself strategically?

Success Depends on Well-being

The pandemic has been a slow boil for everyone. This summer it seemed as if the lid blew off. Gymnast Simone Biles, tennis great Naomi Osaka, tennis star Novak Djokovic, and other elite athletes shined the light on self-care in a way that only superhero athletes can. Sports highlight the tension between the unwavering pursuit of a passion and the need to take care of physical and mental well-being. When Biles withdrew from events and Djokovic opted not to compete in mixed doubles, their pause—amidst intense scrutiny and pressure—reminded the world it is possible and important to prioritize your mental well-being.

I liked what US Olympic water polo player Ashleigh Johnson said in a conversation with Vogue: “I’m constantly setting goals and aspiring to meet them but in a kind-to-myself type of way.” In a stellar performance as goalie, Johnson helped the US water polo team win gold in Tokyo.

Like hard-driving athletes, business owners face this same anxiety day in and day out, and that stress has only been compounded by the isolation and uncertainty of the pandemic. How we respond to professional pressures—whether on a sports field or in a boardroom—is a very personal decision. We’ve all read a lot lately about relief valves—journaling, meditation, taking in a long run. What helps me unwind is hiking.

But for small business owners, well-being deserves to be treated as much more than a hike or a Friday off to recuperate. It’s about developing a sustainability mindset and being intentional with how you take care of yourself, so that your business (and your relationships with family, employees, and business partners) can thrive.

Your Wellness is a Business Strategy

Consider taking a strategic approach to your wellness. One strategy I find valuable is being intentional about my network. A good network can help you grow personally and professionally and is also an invaluable resource for self-care.

The pandemic reminded many how a network can be an emotional safety net, source of inspiration, as well as a channel for business and career development. As a colleague and entrepreneur Ilhiana Rojas Saldana said recently, “Every time that I talk with anybody, it’s about understanding where they are in their career and what they need help with. What are they trying to accomplish? I actually keep a notebook, so when I find other people in my network who could support them in some way, then I make those introductions. Many have found job opportunities, or career opportunities or professional development opportunities through those connections.”

Networking is one way small business owners can take care of themselves in a more strategic way. If you’re looking to expand your network, here are seven of my favorite organizations, including several working hard for gender equity and financial inclusion:

  1. Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center: Established in 2014, the Center serves entrepreneurs from around the world through free workshops, training, and events. You’ll find guest speakers like Deepak Chopra, who recently hosted a session on how entrepreneurs can cultivate mindfulness and well-being.
  2. Pacific Community Ventures: PCV combines affordable loans with pro-bono advising and tools for small businesses, including its PCV Small Business Support Circle, a growing coalition of people, companies, and organizations invested in the success and resilience of small businesses across the United States.
  3. Inner City Advisors: ICA is part of an ecosystem of partners in the Bay Area that work to support local entrepreneurs, providing coaching, connections, and capital to grow Bay Area businesses and close the gender and racial wealth gap.
  4. National Association of Women Business Owners: NAWBO provides a range of resources, including virtual and in-person events that facilitate education, support and networking with women business owners and organizations in the US and globally.
  5. Professional BusinessWomen of California: The organization offers women’s networking events and skills development resources in pursuit of its vision to achieve 50/50 gender representation in business.
  6. We the Change: Comprised of women leaders of Certified B Corporations and other purpose-driven enterprises, We the Change is advancing women’s leadership, prosperity, and well-being. The organization promotes sustainable business practices and works to increase the flow of capital to women-led enterprises.
  7. Working Solutions: The largest micro-lender in the San Francisco Bay area for early-stage businesses and start-ups, the organization has invested $22 million into the community through microloans and grants since its inception.

This year’s Small Business Week is focused on resilience and renewal. In the wake of 2020, and with so much uncertainty ahead, both themes are sure to stay front and center for the foreseeable future. Business owners—like elite athletes—should consider prioritizing self-care as part of their business strategy for longevity. This is a good time to remember that your business depends on your well-being, and there are great organizations whose missions are to support you and your business on your journey.

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Michelle Di Gangi Head of Small and Medium Enterprise Banking Bank of the West

Michelle runs the Small and Medium Enterprise line of business, which has grown substantially since she joined Bank of the West in 2008. Her leadership in the banking industry has been well recognized by American Banker, and by the San Francisco Business Times, which named her one of the Bay Area's Most Influential Women in Business. In the wake of the pandemic, Michelle is driving the bank's effort to increase its focus and support for women and diverse entrepreneurs. An avid hiker and skier, Michelle unwinds spending free time outdoors in the Sierra mountains.

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