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If you want to be a better entrepreneur in 2018, be a better person

If your business survived another year, you should celebrate that. But, are you a better person because of it?

A recent poll showed that the top New Year’s resolution for 2018 was to be a better person. But what does that mean exactly? And how does it apply to startup culture? How can you be a better founder or team member?

As a Registered Dietitian married to a startup founder, I think one way you can be a better person and a better entrepreneur is by caring about your health and the health of your team. And I’m not talking about just a number on a scale. I’ve had a front row seat observing the rollercoaster of emotions, sleepless nights, and stress that go hand-in-hand with being a startup founder. I’ve seen how being focused on building a business often causes entrepreneurs to neglect other areas in their life, including their mental health, financial health and physical health.

Talk about the pain.

We like to talk about why entrepreneurs succeed beyond all odds and sometimes we talk about how they fail, often citing reasons like a huge competitor or poor funding. However, it’s rare to hear an entrepreneur admit failure due to health reasons. Sure, in middle America we don’t always like to talk about our struggles, our challenges and the need for support systems, but we are due.

Since I’ve launched Healthy Under Pressure, I’ve had a number of startup founders who have reached out to me privately wanting to talk. This is both encouraging and reflective of how much talking about mental and physical health is needed in our local startup community.

Give more than a free lunch.

When you think about startup culture, what typically comes to mind? Free shirts, colorful furniture, or perhaps the beer fridge in the corner? Maybe it’s the catered lunches and “meetings” at the bar down the street. Sure, these are great perks and increase employee morale. Many of my friends in the startup community are great at marketing, software development or business development, but what they’re not good at is providing a culture of wellness.

Obviously, you need to do what’s right for your startup and within your budget, but there are many affordable ways you can promote wellness in your startup. Talk to your employees about health. They might be “crushing it” this week in their job, but ignoring their family. Encourage them to share what they are feeling about work, home and life.

When I used to work in corporate wellness, I noticed that health had a direct impact on job performance. During your sprint, you can still encourage healthy habits and be mindful of your choices. Celebrating code releases with pizza is great, but if you are deploying code every week with pizza, then you may as well call your team the Ninja Turtles because it will get slower.

Surround yourself with people who push you to be better.

Either in your hires or your other relationships, it’s important to connect with people who will push you to be better. You are the product of the people you spend the most time with, so it matters who you surround yourself with. It’s not just a workout buddy that you need to push you; you need people who deeply care about you.

2017 was a challenging year for us. Back in August, Ben and I traveled to Copenhagen to explore the food scene there. The last day we were visiting Copenhagen, we learned that our neighbor’s home had exploded killing my neighbor who was inside at the time. Later we learned that our house/dog sitter and employee at Social Assurance, Sarah, was a real hero that day.

She just had just returned to the house after taking her cousins out for ice cream to celebrate the first day of school. She parked in our driveway and then walked her cousins inside their house which is directly east of our home. A few minutes later, our neighbor’s home to the west of us was in flames. Sarah quickly and calmly was able to remove our dogs from our home and take her cousins to safety while dodging the flames and the bullets that were blocking the entrance to our street.

Not only is Sarah an amazing marketer and graphic designer, she’s also an amazing person. Sarah pushes us both to be better people and we so are so incredibly thankful for her actions that day.

Not only should these people push you to be better, but they should be different from you. We often socialize or recruit people like ourselves, but a more diverse team with multiple interests can challenge in a positive way. Perhaps you have a marathoner on your team, a golfer, a biker or gym rat? Getting your team to share their experiences and rewarding their interests will strengthen your startup and help us all to become better people in 2018.


Amber Pankonin aka “RD amber” is a Registered Dietitian and nutrition communications consultant based in Lincoln, Nebraska. She specializes in recipe development, freelance writing, and food photography. Amber shares her love for food and nutrition at Stirlist.com and is the host of Healthy Under Pressure, a podcast that highlights the stories and struggles of entrepreneurs and busy people learning to live healthy under pressure.

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