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How to Be a CEO When You Have a Chronic Illness

5 Mins read

Have you ever wished that you could be in multiple places at once? It’s a dream shared by many entrepreneurs finding their way, trying to fill too many roles, and juggling countless responsibilities.

For Natalie Suppes, this idea isn’t a mere statement but her day-to-day reality. As the CEO and Founder of S&S Creative – a trailblazing digital marketing agency, host of the enlightening podcast “Sick and Successful,” and a dedicated mother – Natalie truly embodies the essence of wearing many hats.

The process of becoming an entrepreneur isn’t a simple journey. Add a chronic illness into the mix, and the challenge increases tenfold. Yet, despite what could be seen as a setback, Natalie stands strong, destined to prove that success doesn’t carry a uniform identity. She uses her experiences to inspire a community of entrepreneurs and business owners to fall not for the unreachable image of perfection, but for the achievable image of their best selves.

In her podcast, Sick and Successful, Natalie offers valuable tips and practical advice to other entrepreneurs facing similar health challenges. 

How to be Sick and Successful

Manage Your Time and Energy Wisely

Natalie emphasizes how important it is to know your boundaries. Whether it’s setting up your day-to-day schedule or interacting with clients and business partners, you have to recognize your limitations. To manage your illness effectively, you should prioritize essential tasks, limit the number of back-to-back meetings, and schedule time for rest and recuperation.

Here’s how you can do it:

  • Prioritize Essential Tasks: Not all tasks are created equal. Some are more critical to your business’ success than others. Learn to identify these tasks and allocate your most productive hours to them. Performing these tasks when you feel most energized ensures you’re delivering your best, which then results in quality output that drives your business forward.
  • Limit Back-to-Back Meetings: Jumping from one meeting to another can be a surefire way to accelerate burnout. It gets especially challenging when you are battling a chronic illness. So, instead of cramming multiple meetings into a single day, aim to space them out. Offering room between meetings allows you time to rest, prepare, and refocus, ensuring you’re at the top of your game for each interaction.
  • Create Time for Rest and Recuperation: While ambition might fuel the desire to work tirelessly, it’s essential to remember that your health needs attention. Carving out structured time in your day for rest not only allows your body to recover but also helps refresh your mind, boosting your creativity and drive for the rest of the day.
  • Balance Creative and Administrative Tasks: Spreading creative and administrative tasks throughout the week can help maintain a balance. Allocate specific times for creative tasks like brainstorming and designing, and others for administrative duties such as responding to emails or planning. This balance can help to avoid monotony and keeps you motivated and engaged.

Delegate, Collaborate, and Empower

As a CEO with a chronic illness, delegating tasks is not only helpful but necessary. By collaborating with trusted colleagues and empowering them to take on responsibilities, you’ll alleviate some of the burden that comes with overseeing every aspect of your business. As trust grows, you can delegate more and more tasks, allowing you to focus on your core strengths and responsibilities.

Consider these steps to help navigate this process:

  • Identify Tasks for Delegation: You might be accustomed to doing everything yourself, but you have to recognize that some tasks can be assigned to others. Start by identifying tasks that don’t require your personal attention; these could be administrative duties, social media management, or even specific operational tasks within your business strategy.
  • Build a Trustworthy Team: Surround yourself with capable and reliable people to whom you can delegate these tasks. Choosing individuals with the right skills and work ethic is essential. Over time, as the bond of trust strengthens, you’ll confidently hand over even more crucial tasks.
  • Embrace Collaboration: Collaboration isn’t merely about getting tasks done; it’s about tapping into collective creativity and expertise. By fostering an environment of collaboration, you can catalyze innovative ideas and unique solutions that drive your business forward.
  • Empower Individuals: Empowerment goes hand in hand with delegation and collaboration. When team members are empowered, they take ownership of their responsibilities, solve problems independently, and contribute meaningfully to the business’s growth. Additionally, it builds their confidence and enhances job satisfaction.
  • Utilize Tools and Technology: To manage tasks and track progress efficiently, consider using project management tools and platforms. These technologies will make delegation and collaboration easier, more transparent, and more fruitful.

Stay Flexible and Listen to Your Body

Living with a chronic illness often means learning to master the art of flexibility. Natalie champions this understanding. By maintaining a flexible schedule and being attuned to your body’s needs, you can protect your health without compromising productivity.

  • Create a Fluid Schedule: Establish a work schedule that allows for adjustments and flexibility as needed. Dedicate at least one day each week without any scheduled meetings or rigid commitments. This buffer allows you to reschedule tasks or meetings when you’re unexpectedly not feeling your best.
  • Observe Your Health Rhythms: Most chronic illnesses have patterns or cycles. Over time, you’ll become familiar with your own rhythms. You may recognize that certain times of the day, week, or month are more challenging than others. Use this knowledge to your advantage and structure your workflow to align with these patterns.
  • Be Kind to Yourself: Above all, learn to be patient and kind to yourself. You’re navigating the challenges of entrepreneurship coupled with a chronic illness. Some days, your plans might not work out exactly as you hoped, and that’s okay. The important thing is to listen to your body and respect its needs.

Prioritize Self-care

When living with a chronic illness, self-care is essential. Eating nutritious food, exercising within your limits, and taking breaks are vital components of your overall wellness plan. Taking care of yourself will help maintain your motivation, creativity, and ability to give your best as a CEO.

  • Nutrition on Point: Maintaining a balanced diet is essential for everyone, but it takes on an even higher importance for those managing chronic conditions. Eating the right food can help to control symptoms, improve energy levels, and generally promote better health. Consider consulting with a dietitian or nutritionist to help create a meal plan that suits your lifestyle and business demands.
  • Regular Exercise: Exercise is not just about maintaining physical health; it’s also essential for mental well-being. Engaging in regular, gentle exercise like walking, yoga, swimming, or stretching exercises can help manage stress, improve mood, and boost energy levels. Remember to always consult a healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise regime.
  • Rest Properly: Proper sleep is vital to the body’s ability to heal and recover. Developing good sleep habits, and ensuring your sleep environment is conducive to quality rest, will seriously benefit your overall health.
  • Mindfulness and Mental Health: Stress management is a key aspect of managing chronic illness effectively. Mindfulness activities like meditation, deep breathing, or journaling can help to maintain a positive mindset and manage stress. Prioritize taking care of your mental health, and don’t hesitate to seek professional help if needed.
  • Schedule Time for Leisure: Amidst the chaos of growing a business, don’t forget to make time for hobbies or activities you enjoy. Relaxing, having fun, and detaching from work-related matters periodically can refresh and rejuvenate your mind and body.

Natalie’s insight and inspirational journey prove that there are remarkable opportunities for people with chronic illnesses in the entrepreneurial world.

Take Action: Your Journey to Success Awaits

Now that you’ve peeked into Natalie’s secrets to being sick and successful, it’s time to apply these insightful tips to your own journey. Remember, your challenges don’t define you, but the way you face them does.

Remember, in the realm of entrepreneurship, there’s no one-size-fits-all – it’s all about embracing your unique journey and making the best out of it. After all, as Natalie has shown, you can be both sick and successful.

Natalie Suppes is an accomplished founder and CEO of S&S Creative, a multiple 6-figure digital marketing agency. With her Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) Degree in Marketing and International Business, Natalie has built a solid reputation in the industry. She brings over 15 years of experience, having worked with multi-million dollar organizations, to her own company. Take the next step now. Visit S&S Creative to learn more about how Natalie and her team can assist you on your entrepreneurial journey. Looking for more inspiration? Make sure to tune into the podcast, Sick and Successful,” for a dose of resilience, courage, and raw determination.

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