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Limeade CEO: Entrepreneurs should monitor biometrics, think like athletes

(Story by Jacob Demmitt originally appeared in Puget Sound Business Journal)

Henry AlbrechtLimeade CEO Henry Albrecht leads what is now one of the region’s fastest growing tech companies, but like most startup veterans he still talks about the “dark times.”

It was back in 2006 when he launched the employee health engagement business a little ahead of its time. He wanted to track workers’ health and wellbeing so companies could boost employee performance. But that was back before the whole world seemed to have a Fitbit and an insatiable desire for more fitness data.

After four years, Bellevue-based Limeade still only had five employees. That’s the time many entrepreneurs are tempted throw themselves entirely into their work to try to drive growth. Instead, Albrecht decided to “drink the limeade” he was selling.

“Stress management, exercise, balance, relationships, sense of team. Those are all Limeade dimensions that we help other companies improve. I think we had to rely on many of those in the dark times,” Albrecht said. “I’ve seen it and it’s sad when people think they have to work 110 hours a week because they’re in a startup. That’s really short-term thinking and it’s not sustainable.”

Albrecht, who spent a year playing basketball in Portugal after college, said athletes-turned-entrepreneurs like himself tend to be pretty good at striking that balance.

In sports, you have to push yourself but also monitor your body constantly. Athletes know there’s only so far they can go before they’ll pull a muscle or break a bone. So they listen to their bodies’ feedback, and lighten up when they need to.

Albrecht said Limeade was founded on the idea that the same concept applies to the business world, too.

He said biometrics, like blood pressure, can sometimes tell you when something is wrong. Other times it’s harder to quantify. But the key is to always monitor it.

“If I’m not sleeping well, I’m working too much. If I’m arguing too much with my friends and family, I’m working too much,” Albrecht said. “When you’re in a job and you see it spilling over and negatively affecting your outside life, and your relationships, and your health, that’s a good indication that maybe it’s the job that needs to change.”

Limeade is now almost a decade old, has a staff of about 150 employees and was named Deloitte’s 2014 fastest-growing tech company in Washington state. Albrecht is a finalist for Ernst & Young’s 2015 Entrepreneur of the Year award, but even now his top priority is striking that work-life balance.

“I’m not going to say we’re totally immune to that but I think we’ve developed a strong coping mechanism,” he said. “You have to find the right amount of hours per week. For me, it’s 55ish. But it’s not 100. That’s is not sustainable for very many people in the world.”