Management & Finance

eCommerceFuel Founder on Work-Life Balance, Priorities

Andrew Youderian is the founder and CEO of eCommerceFuel, a leading online community of established store owners. He oversees a diverse team and manages a growing business with worldwide members. Surely, one would think, he works long hours with little downtime.

Not so.

He told me, “I work from about 9:00 a.m. until roughly 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. I bike back home and hang out with the family. That’s a standard day.”

Youderian values a work-life balance. He takes a month-long sabbatical every year, as does his staff. June and July are idle months for advancing the business.

He and I recently discussed it all — his work habits, priorities, and more. Our entire audio conversation is embedded below. The transcript that follows is edited for clarity and length.

Eric Bandholz: What’s new?

Andrew Youderian: A lot. eCommerceFuel had a big event yesterday here in Austin at your place. Thank you for hosting. It was a regional meetup. We’re trying to ramp up events.

Bandholz: Your focus is on building the community.

Youderian: Exactly. eCommerceFuel has many similarities to an online store, such as marketing and personnel. My average day is to wake up, get the kids ready for school, throw them on the back of a cargo bike, drop two of them off, come back. My wife drops off the third. I then bike into my office. I work from about 9:00 a.m. until roughly 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. I bike back home and hang out with the family. That’s a standard day.

Bandholz: What are your expectations of team members? Do they work from 9:00 to 5:00, too?

Youderian: We have a scorecard that we go through every week. We have a flexible work schedule. All of us are judged by results, not the butt-in-seat hours. That’s a bad way to track productivity.

I’m very productive in those hours. The key for myself and our team members is hitting those metrics. Our role here is not to stay until 5:00 and check out. Our role is to get stuff done, be efficient.

One of the core values at our company is a greater, deeper purpose. Our work is important, but so are a lot of other things. For example, all of our full-time stateside staff get a month’s sabbatical every year. I try to do it, too.

I love working with people that are productive, smart, good at what they do — without going 90 miles an hour all year.

Bandholz: You’ve been doing that sabbatical for a while.

Youderian: We’ve done it a couple of years now. We set it up where someone always covers for someone else. We stagger the sabbaticals, so there’s always someone on call for the essential duties, such as customer service, billing, putting out fires. The stuff that is nonessential and more marketing-focused, such as events, typically has a lot of lead time.

Plus, we’re going to check out for six weeks in June and July. We’re not moving the business forward for that period.

Bandholz: Do they get the sabbatical in addition to vacation time?

Youderian: Yes, usually about three weeks, plus the sabbatical.

Bandholz: So you can do in 10 months what other people do in 12?

Youderian: We’ve been doing this for seven or eight years. We’ve got an amazing community of people like yourself that provides a good foundation.

Bandholz: I struggle with my work style. I sometimes feel unproductive.

Youderian: I’ve been reasonably decent at getting tasks done in the time I have. Apart from the first year or two at the business, I’ve never had 70, 80, 90-hour weeks. The end of the day is where my productivity lags. So chopping off that last hour or two of the day makes sense to me. It’s a good time to see people that you love.

Bandholz: I’m the opposite. I hit my flow around 4:30. When the team leaves the office, I no longer have to be available. I can clear my emails. I’m not distracted. Then I get a text from my wife asking when I’m going to be home. Just like that, the flow’s gone. So interrupted flow is important to me. Do you work from home?

Youderian: No. I bike to an office. But I realized last year the importance of a positive environment. My office was small and cramped. It was in a sketchy part of the neighborhood. The air conditioner was broken.

So this year, I spent a bit more money on better office space. It’s been a game-changer. I’m more influenced by my surroundings than I care to admit. It feels good coming into a comfortable, well-lit, organized space that is well furnished.

Beardbrand has a sweet office. It’s beautiful.

Bandholz: Thank you. It’s a place that I like to be in. Let’s shift gears. How do you balance entrepreneurship and family life?

Youderian: It’s a good question. I’m extremely decisive at work and also generally assertive. Annie, my wife, is less assertive. It’s helpful to be decisive at the company. You get stuff done and move forward. But a personal relationship is different. I’ve adjusted to that, especially on making decisions. It’s hard for entrepreneurs to turn off the work mind.

Bandholz: What’s your advice to entrepreneurs who struggle with that balance?

Youderian: Decide what fires you want to burn. There are always fires in business. You’re never going to put them all out. But it’s worth having some fires at work if it means having fewer fires at home.

I think about what’s essential in our business. What should we spend time on? I’ve spent time on a ton of things that didn’t go anywhere. But you’ve got to test stuff out. You can’t always know what’s going to work.

So as entrepreneurs, it helps to focus on what’s important — what moves the needle. I’ve tried to improve my schedule, get more disciplined with phone calls, for example. Phone calls are important, but they can also blow up a workday or an evening.

As an aside, I appreciated you having Shakil Prasla on this podcast recently. He’s an A-plus human all around. I admired his vulnerability in opening up about his recent business misfortune. It was cool. Many entrepreneurs and business people are trying to make it all work — running the company, raising kids, connecting with friends, addressing their faith, their health. It’s a lot to juggle.

Bandholz: Where can listeners learn more about you and connect?

Youderian: The best place is eCommerceFuel. That’s our community for seven-, eight-figure-revenue ecommerce store owners. I host a podcast there every Friday.

Eric Bandholz

Eric Bandholz

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