Photo courtesy of Zech Strauser

Zech Strauser definitely has his hands full. As a new dad, he is balancing operating a growing Strauser Nature’s Helpers in northeast Pennsylvania and raising a baby, Briar, with his wife, Mary. But he also is starting a clothing line, just bought a farm and is getting more into the real estate market. When he starts to spread himself too thin, he knows it’s time to pull back.

“Whenever I get there, I just say, ‘Whoa, whoa, back to working with your managers.’ I have to bring it back to reality,” he says. “I’m not saying those other ventures are not a reality, but they’re like 5 and 10 and 15 and 20% of my time, not 30, 30, 30 by any means.” Here’s Strauser’s average day.

I’m a new dad, so my morning routine has changed and I’m moving a little slower. I wake up about six o’clock, but it could be three o’clock and I’m just up for three hours or two hours. When I’ve got high stress loads or different things going on, my sleeping patterns are very irregular. However, if I get that good six or seven hours, which is about 60% of the time, I’d say, it’s 6 a.m.

Unfortunately, I do a lot of things you’re not supposed to do, which is look at the emails early. 2020 has been a year of that where I feel I’m glued to my phone, more than I ever been. I’m trying to break that by keeping my phone out of my room. I was talking to my wife this morning and I said, ‘What time is it?’ because I just don’t have my phone. It’s this constant thing in my hand, so I’m trying to get the phone out of my hand because I’ve also noticed my daughter is just staring at my right hand. She’s eight months old and she’s gravitating towards that. It’s quite freaky.

My office is 11 minutes or 16 minutes away – depends on the direction you drive. But if I want to hit more lights, do more people watching along the way, I go 16 minutes. If I have to get there fast, I go 11 minutes. Even pre-COVID, I was not the traditional go to the office at six, seven, eight in the morning and bang out an eight-, nine-, 10-hour day at the office.

When the company was a million bucks, I started going into the office a little bit. Then the company’s 2 million bucks, I start getting into office even more. As the company grew and as we went regional, I started being more mobile and being truck bound. I can have a two-hour meeting in a parking lot in my truck. I haven’t spent probably much more than a combination of five hours at my office building desk since February.

I do not read emails or texts or multi-task things while I’m meeting. I’m going to pay 100% attention. I’m going to look out the window at a hydrangea tree or something. I’m going to focus on the discussion or what we’re working on or the document we’re sharing on the screen.

Right up until lunch, it’s more meetings, more emails, more texts and I have no hard and fast lunchtime. I will admit I feel better when I get in that space at times of having a set lunchtime.

One of my weaknesses is firm stops, which is something I’m working on. You have to be more than ever now firm stopped because someone’s waiting on another line for you. I had a meeting with two of my managers at four o’clock, but then I got on the phone with a big potential new customer, I said, ‘It’s quarter to four. I can squeeze that call.’ Sure enough, it wasn’t a 15-minute call. How foolish. Do you really think you’re going to call a customer about a new project for 15 minutes?

Toward the end of the day, dinner is 50/50, because we’re just figuring out how to be parents. It’s about feeding her and then she’s gone asleep. We more so are eating a little later, like seven to eight, because that’s when she goes to bed. But then 50% of time where we’re trying to eat right next to her. Just trying to get her to go to bed and then we’ll take care of us.

At night – nine, 10, 11 o’clock – I can be hammering out scheduled emails. Some are going to get them at 6 a.m. or seven. Scheduled emails are the best thing since sliced bread. Because you don’t look like the weirdo emailing people at 11 at night.