6 Ways To Protect Your Start-Up’s Most Valuable Asset: You

It started with just an idea. With time, effort and planning, you turned it into a viable venture. Now, your start-up business is proving itself in the marketplace, attracting customers and generating real sales. What are you doing to protect your start-up’s most valuable asset? What is it, you ask? Look in the mirror.

[Related: 7 Skills You’ll Need To Start Any Business]

Anybody who knows anything about me knows that I take health, fitness and nutrition very seriously. As I am fond of saying, I workout because I am a professional athlete in the game of life, and I play to win. For me, it’s not about vanity or the numbers on the scale, but about my ability to perform, compete, and bring lasting value to the people and things I care about, including my business and professional pursuits. The things I enjoy, the goals I want to accomplish and my ability to bring my very best to my commitments and relationships, depend on my treating life, health and strength as the valuable gifts they are.

Similarly, as the founder, CEO and visionary of your new start-up, your company is dependent on you. So it follows that you have a responsibility to your employees, your investors, your customers and vendors, and most of all, yourself, to protect that asset. That means:

Take your health seriously. Schedule your annual physical now if it’s been more than a year since your last one. More importantly, do what your doctor says is necessary to maintain optimum health and to support your demanding entrepreneurial lifestyle. Don’t have a personal physician? Get one.

Get and stay fit. Dealing with the demands and stress of being an entrepreneur requires endurance, strength and energy. That means committing to a healthy diet and making exercise a non-negotiable. Schedule at least three workouts a week on your calendar just as you would any business meeting–and keep those appointments. No excuses. Get professional help, in the form of a personal trainer and/or a nutritionist, if necessary. Think of these not as expenses, but as investments.

Get serious about making necessary changes in habits and lifestyle. Stop smoking. Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum, if you drink at all. Cut out processed foods, unhealthy fats and excess sugars. Add more lean meats, fruits, vegetables and plenty of water. Does it costs more to eat healthier? Perhaps. Are you worth it? Absolutely. And you’ll be worth even more as the size and value of your company increases.

Get adequate sleep. There will be times when you have to pull double- and triple-shifts to get the job done, but those should be kept to a minimum. Establishing a 6-hour minimum sleep rule, going to bed and waking up at the same scheduled time daily, is critical for maintaining physical health and mental focus. (Admittedly, I’m still working on this one.) Look for opportunities to supplement your sleep diet with some power naps along the way.

Come up with a plan for managing stress. Pressure, tension and conflict can’t be always be avoided, but they can be managed. Explore methods such as meditation, prayer, deep breathing or just daily quiet time to keep stress from getting out of hand and impacting your health, which includes mental and emotional wellness. Need professional help from a counselor or therapist? Get it.

Take time for you and you alone: An hour a day. One day a week. A weekend each month. And at least one real vacation a year. It won’t be easy, but it won’t happen if you don’t make it a priority.

Whenever you are tempted to neglect yourself for the sake of your business, ask yourself–what would happen to my company if I became ill or died, or even just functioned at less than my best? Taking care of business must include taking care of you. Entrepreneurship can be a grind; it is not for the malnourished or unfit. You owe it to your business to be at your very best at all times.

Here’s what I know: There are few things sadder than a talented entrepreneur with a brilliant start-up idea suddenly dying or falling prey to a debilitating health condition before he or she can reach the peak of his or her powers and realize the full potential of the business. You know that saying, “Health is wealth”? It’s true.

Black Enterprise Executive Editor-At-Large Alfred Edmond Jr. is an award-winning business and financial journalist, media executive, entrepreneurship expert,  personal growth/relationships coach, and co-founder of Grown Zone, a multimedia initiative focused on personal growth and healthy decision-making. This blog is dedicated to his thoughts about money, entrepreneurship, leadership and mentorship. Follow him on Twitter at @AlfredEdmondJr.