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Ever Wonder How Those Women Who ‘Do It All’ Manage to Do It?

Ever notice how the phrases “running a business” and “running a household” both involve the verb “running”? Not “walking” and definitely not “sitting around relaxing.”

Ever wonder how some women manage to do both the business thing and the family thing?

So did the folks at Intuit Inc., the Mountain View, Calif., software company responsible for such basic business programs as Quicken, QuickBooks and TurboTax.

They decided to sponsor a contest in which female entrepreneurs would submit their best tips for balancing business and family, and they would publish the best two dozen or so in a brochure that would be distributed free.

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Intuit got more than 500 submissions late last year. The contest was open to small-business owners who have been in operation for at least six months and that employ 20 or fewer people.

“We did get many, many, many, many, many entries,” Intuit spokesman Jeff Larson said. The company was looking to help with the specific challenges faced by female entrepreneurs, who are expected to own half of all small businesses by 2000.

To find the best suggestions, Intuit sought help from Debbi Fields, who built the cookie empire that bears her name while rearing five daughters. Fields has since sold her stake in closely held Mrs. Fields Cookies, although she still consults for the Salt Lake City-based company.

Intuit “talked to me about women and balance, and that’s something that we’re all in the process of finding,” said Fields, who lives in Memphis, Tenn., now with her family.

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“I don’t believe that anybody has mastered it, but we’re all looking for information on ways to do it better,” Fields said in an interview. “I don’t believe in the process of parenting that there’s such a thing as perfection, but there’s nothing like that one-on-one time.”

Fields said the idea that people are the most important priority is what appealed to her in the winning entry she selected, submitted by Diana Sneckner of San Antonio:

“The most important lesson I have learned from running a business and raising four children as a single parent is an adage I made up which says, ‘Put people over things, never things over people.’ Remembering this always keeps me balanced,” wrote Sneckner, owner of Avant Models & Casting, which represents nearly 100 models and actors and coordinates fashion shows in Texas and Mexico.

As with the 27 other entries in “Women in Balance, Recipes for Success,” Sneckner’s advice is long on attitude but short on specifics.

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The women in this small brochure talk up the importance of establishing priorities, setting limits, being organized, staying flexible, taking advantage of technology, celebrating family cooperation and looking for humor.

If you’re looking for detailed discussions of how they got the kids to school while landing a major client, it’s not in this brochure. However, it does provide encouragement and the reassurance that it is possible to run a business while walking in balance.

“The best way is to make it fun,” Fields said. “Because if you’re not laughing, it’s not worth it.”

Here are a few examples of the tips in the “Women in Balance” booklet:

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* “Setting limits on work time and learning to say no gracefully. . . . Doing what you’re good at and hiring someone to do the rest. Maintain perspective--enjoy and appreciate today, but plan for tomorrow.” (Sherry Dysart, Sherry L. Dysart & Associates, Fort Washington, Md.)

* “Prioritize and plan. I make sure my kids and husband are part of the prioritization and planning process. At the end of the weekend, we review schedules for the coming week. Drive time is quality time for us. We talk about their day, family issues, etc., while I am taking them to school or work.” (Steffanie Czaja, beauty consultant, Columbus, Ohio)

* “When with family, be completely with family. When working, be completely at work. Develop the habit with each day.” (Rosita Brown Long, Health Research Consultants, Oklahoma City)

* “Managing and delegating, instead of doing it all, is my key to balance. . . . My housekeeper cleans, my husband shops and my son clears the dishes. Now if I can just teach the cat to use the can opener.” (Laurel Sprigg, Laurel Sprigg Custom Interior Sewing, San Francisco)

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The “Women in Balance” brochure is available from Intuit by visiting https://www.quickbooks.com or by calling (877) 213-7477.

Has your company developed an interesting way to help employees balance work life and family life? Write to Balancing Act, Business News, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053. Or send e-mail to nancy.rivera.brooks@latimes.com.

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