The worst business decision you can make

25 August 2014
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MANILA, Philippines – There are many poor decisions one can make in business. To sacrifice quality solely for cost savings or to ensure speed to market; to refuse to listen to a customer’s needs; to price your product or service too high versus competitive benchmarks; to illegally bribe for business gain. It’s a long list indeed.

There is, however, one decision that many of us in business can make, that stands above the rest as the worst decision of all. It is a decision I unfortunately made myself one time. And I fortunately recovered from this poor choice and learned it was a mistake never to be repeated.  It’s a decision that is highly personal, affecting not only the business at hand but our own selves…and impacting, quite frankly, the rest of our lives and our families.

Wow. So what is this monumental decision?

The decision to sacrifice one’s health for the sake of work. To completely neglect every good principle of taking care of our bodies under the guise of “stress” or “long hours” and run ourselves into the ground. Literally and figuratively.

When asked what surprised him about humanity the most, the Dalai Lama replied: “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.”

It’s embarrassing to admit but I made this mistake. A former corporate fitness trainer. In 1999-2000 I was in my mid-30s, feeling the first signs of a slowing metabolism and caught up in the climb up the corporate ladder. I let myself go and found excuses for not exercising. You see it is not like one has to make a choice between health and working hard — you can do both. It’s a choice. It’s discipline.

One day I was typing an innocuous email when I suddenly noticed my fingers sticking to the keyboard. I went on for a few seconds before I looked down. And the keyboard had blood all over it. I had a massive, spontaneous nosebleed.

My secretary in a panic called the company doctors who immediately took my blood pressure. And therein lay the culprit: I was far from healthy and far from my days as a trim and buff fitness trainer. My resting BP was 210/140. I was on my way to an early grave. And for what? To sell more soap?

As I look back I am so happy this happened to me. I got the wakeup call so few get until they are at their own funeral. Or it’s too late to regain one’s health. I decided to make health a priority —because I realized a healthy Jim Lafferty was good for business. I found an hour a day to exercise. I ate healthy. The weight came off. I could run marathons again.

And my career exploded. It’s not like I did not work hard. I did and do. But my stamina went up by 50 percent. I never got sick. I jumped out of bed each morning. My brain was sharper. I was, simply, better. I got promoted into bigger and bigger jobs. With fitness came career success.

A Sound Mind in a Sound Body

The data is clear. We ran a study in Poland. Fit employees who watched their health and regularly exercised took on average one sick day per year. Those who did not took on average, eight sick days/year! That’s a seven-day swing. What does losing seven days per valuable employee cost a business?

General Motors ran a long-term study on worker productivity. They found workers who were physically fit made fewer errors on the production line by a significant margin. Fitter employees mean better products coming out of the factory.

And what about the tragedy of losing someone too soon? I recall in 1991 seeing a study that showed the cost in FMCG to replace a senior brand manager. The cost back then was nearly $700,000 to train and develop a new person to replace. What would this cost be today? Certainly over a million dollars. And what about the more senior levels? It is only a higher price.

How many funerals have I been to, how many gravesites have I stood by, sobbing over an unhealthy colleague who is gone far too early — in their 40s and 50s — bodies just worn out?

Yes, this is the worst decision any of us can make on a business. To use hard work as an excuse to let ourselves go. We cheat ourselves. And we cheat the company. We cost more in healthcare costs. We are sick more. Our productivity drops. We aren’t as sharp as we should be. We may even checkout too early in the game.

It’s a simple choice. Choose your health. And choose your business. It’s an “and” question not “or.”

It really isn’t hard work. It’s not. It’s knowing some smart insights into diet and it’s finding maybe 30 minutes maximum a few days per week to exercise smartly. This can make a world of difference. All you really need is a desire to change and some help on getting there. Some smart tips.

There are many people out there to help. If you are really serious to make a change now and you want to learn from fellow executives how to juggle the demands of work and health, Catalyst 360 is hosting a one-day “Executive Wellness Bootcamp” on Sept. 20 in Makati. Contact info@catalyst360.com.ph to learn more or call 631-4859/(0926) 301-3300.  It’s designed for executives. Trained by qualified executives — people who have been there.

Do it for yourself. Do it for your company. Do it for those you love and who love you. And avoid the worst mistake you can make.

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