It’s hard to gauge just how many hours the average American works each week, let alone the average business owner or CEO. There’s no question that becoming successful in business requires putting in many extra hours.

That’s certainly true of the four leaders the Business Record spoke to for this article. They all estimated they spend well over 40 hours a week working or volunteering.

Managing those demands while still attending a child’s baseball game can be tricky, they say.

“I think to be honest about it, everybody struggles with it,” said Larry Zimpleman, chairman, president and CEO of Principal Financial Group Inc. “That’s just a reality.”

We picked their brains on how they manage their personal life, what mistakes they’ve made and what advice they have for other area leaders.

Their solutions to finding a healthy work-life balance vary, but the core message doesn’t: It’s important to do so.

Felix Gallagher | Principal, PharmServ Solutions

Age: 38

Family: Wife, Sara, and 12-year-old son, Felix Jr.

How many hours per week do you spend onwork and community involvement?

It’s tough to say, Gallagher says. “Ultimately, I offer myself to the organization as much as I can without letting it interfere with other priorities.”

What is your philosophy on how to maintain a work-life balance?

Understanding that family always comes first. The prioritizing between the needs of the family, work and volunteerism, which I consider obligations, can sometimes be tricky. I’m fortunate; my family affords me the flexibility to engage in some other activities in the community, but they also let me know when I’m not spending enough time with them.

Whether it’s a basketball game that I need to show up after they tip off, or whether it’s a family event that I may need to drive to separately or leave early, they are usually very understanding of that capacity. The challenges come from the mistakes made, and I try to learn from them. If you don’t have an understanding family or you overtax their understanding, you don’t have peace at home.

When a work issue comes up that conflicts with a family event, how do you determine which comes first?

It’s understanding that family is always the No. 1 priority. And understanding that my family will always let me know, or usually let me know, if I’m removed too often. I do as much as I can for as many as I can, and just hope they understand when I can’t.

What is the biggest mistake you have made in your work-life balance?

My biggest mistake was I was so involved with my career early on that I didn’t bring my son home from the hospital when he was born. Being a pharmacist, there weren’t enough people to cover the pharmacy, and there wasn’t anyone to cover (that day). I had to stay in the pharmacy, and my mother-in-law took my wife and son home after he was born. I was there for the birth and everything, but it was just bringing him home from the hospital. That’s definitely something I wish could be taken back.

That was the awakening of sorts. That’s when I realized that work is what I do so I can enjoy the things in life that are important to me.

After that, I’ve learned that there’s a behavior pattern, especially with my son, when work obligations or volunteer commitments take up too much time or time away from the family. I notice my son and I are not connected like we normally are. The conversation when I get home isn’t there. The playfulness or the affection is just not the same. I was once told that the best investment a father can make is not video games or the material things, but simply time. I find that to be very true.

What advice would you give to others?

It’s really several pieces that all fit together. It’s get up before everyone else, go to bed before everyone else, do something you enjoy every day, and plan your year to make sure you have time to do what makes you happy.

Larry Zimpleman | Chairman, president and CEO, Principal Financial Group Inc.

Age: 61 Family: Wife, Kathy, and three grown children

How many hours per week do you spend on work and community involvement? 

Sixty to 65, but that can be higher or lower.

What is your philosophy on how to maintain a work-life balance?

I’ve got a fairly long history of trying to maintain a reasonable amount of physical activity; in my case, that’s mostly running. There is a family component and a physical component. I would say the physical component works best for me typically in the middle of the day. I fundamentally believe that I’m better in the afternoon, I’m more productive, I’m more alert if I actually get away from the office in the middle of the day. I’ve always looked at it as kind of an investment in order to make myself more productive for the rest of the day.

The other thing I would say, I think this whole work-life balancing thing has become more challenging in the last five to 10 years with mobile devices. If I need to check email, it’s easily done anyway, so I can go spend an hour watching my child’s dance recital because I know when I get done with that I can quickly check email if I need to. And on the other hand, you’ll get these people that think they have to respond within 1.5 minutes to every email. so they’re checking their email every minute or two. I think you can just discipline yourself to recognize that these devices can actually improve your productivity, but only if you use them in the right way.

When a work issue comes up that conflicts with a family event, how do you determine which comes first?

I think this is easier for more senior people within larger organizations to deal with. This is one that I have a lot of empathy for the small business owner that has this type of situation.

I don’t try to go crisis-to-crisis. I don’t try to go moment-to-moment, like every problem has to have my involvement.

What is the biggest mistake you have made in your work-life balance?

Thinking back to when my three sons were children, I guess if I had a do-over, I’m certain there was a time when they were 5 to 8 to 10-years old, and I was traveling quite a bit for business. Maybe did I travel more than was absolutely necessary, did I maybe take on too many trips, was I maybe away from home during the week a little more than might have been ideal? Probably. We did focus on trying to have quality time. I coached lots of youth teams in baseball, basketball, all that kind of stuff.

What advice would you give to others?

It would be to take some time away, give yourself the luxury of some time away. You are going to find you are most effective, and your subconscious helps you to think through some of these issues. It’s just the most important thing you can do, no question about it.

Kim Felker | Office managing partner in Des Moines, Deloitte & Touche LLP

Age: 43

Family: Husband, Jason and 11-year-old son, Zane

How many hours per week do you spend on work and community involvement?

Fifty-five to 65.

What is your philosophy on how to maintain a work-life balance?

I just think that it’s so very individualized. Work-life balance means something different to different people. I think if there’s something important you want to do, you make it work. I feel like exercise is important, so you make time for that. All my son’s sporting events are very important for me to go to, so I make time for that. My other philosophy is you have to have a good support system at home and at work. So you have to have a good team in both places, if you will. And at Deloitte, we have a very team-oriented atmosphere. If someone is out on vacation, someone else will cover for them. 

When a work issue comes up that conflicts with a family event, how do you determine which comes first?

I know I have had to cancel vacations and personal travel plans because of work before. I probably have skipped some of my son’s baseball games for something that came up at work. I think each moment is a little bit different. How much of a crisis is it at work? Because my clients are also very important to me. So I think each time something comes up, you have to make a decision. Can I go to my son’s baseball game and deal with the crisis after that? But there are multiple times a week that those things come up, and you just have to make a decision on what’s right for you.

What is the biggest mistake you have made in your work-life balance?

Maybe not the biggest mistake, but the biggest “aha” moment for me probably was right after I made partner, my dad passed away (in 2007). And my dad is the one where I get all of my work ethic from. He was also a worker bee. He had a very strong work ethic, and after he passed, I think I took a step back and said, “You know what? Am I spending enough time with my family?” Because family is so important to you. You are not saving lives at work, or at least not in my job I’m not. So can the client issue wait until the next day?

And I think that’s probably what made me kind of re-evaluate my values and work-life balance. And also think about: People in my job kind of look up to you as the leader of the office, and how do you manage your work-life balance? You want to make sure that reflection they see is somebody they want to emulate.

What advice would you give to others?

Do what you feel is right and make sure you are creating that work-life balance that is meaningful to you. Because it’s so individualized. 

Steve Zumbach | Attorney, Belin McCormick law firm

Age: 63

Family: Wife, Kathy, and two grown children

A Father’s Mistakes

You can’t have it all, says Steve Zumbach, an attorney with the Belin McCormick law firm. That’s the lesson he and his wife, Kathy, learned the hard way.  

When they had their daughter, Stephanie, and, two years later, their son, Matt, the Zumbachs were ambitious people working ambitious jobs. 

“Because we were both ambitious and both focused, we simply assumed - incorrectly - that we could excel in our professions and we could excel raising our children,” Steve Zumbach said. “What we did not do was take the time – and more me than Kathy – to think through how do we manage this very difficult task of having both parents pursuing careers and simultaneously being good parents.”

One day, Kathy asked Steve to put the diaper bag in her car for the next day. He mistakenly put it in his own car, and didn’t realize it until he got to the office the next day, carrying the diaper bag, and saw his phone light blinking with a message from his wife.

“I could almost feel the anger coming out of it,” Steve says now.

Eventually, they made an adjustment. Kathy quit her job as a speech pathologist to be a stay-at-home mom.

Steve says that decision was one of the most important things he and Kathy could have done for the family, but he also recognizes that such solutions aren’t possible for all families.

So if you can’t have it all, is it possible for both parents to have successful careers and be good parents? Yes, Steve says. His daughter, Stephanie Hu, and her husband, Jinho, are doing it.

How? They run the house like a business, Stephanie says, by having well-defined roles and responsibilities. They set clear expectations with their bosses and each other. If one of their two children is sick, then work can wait. But if a huge presentation at work is required, missing an event at school has to happen.

It takes “ruthless prioritization” and realizing the difference between after-work events that you can miss versus those you can’t. Something has to give, Hu says, but if you have your priorities defined, it’s easy to feel confident that you are picking the right priority and reduce guilt about missing some things.

And in her case, a key to the whole process was picking the right partner. The sentiment echoes that of Facebook Inc. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, who has been quoted as saying “The most important career choice you’ll make is who you marry.”

As far as Steve Zumbach is concerned, his daughter is much better than he was at doing the “little things” with her children. Although Steve credits his wife with being there whenever the children had events or needed support, he realizes he didn’t do that enough.

“I never coached Little League. I never coached soccer. I missed swimming meets. And I rarely played games or did things that were just fun,” Steve said.

He stops short of calling it a regret, but says, “Those are things, looking back, I probably could have done better.”