Tyler Prince | Crain's Connecticut

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Tyler Prince

Background:  

Salesforce is a cloud computing company based in San Francisco that specializes in customer relationship management. 

The Mistake

Thirteen years back, I was 35 years old working as a technology consultant crisscrossing the globe, working with clients all sizes. I had very little work-life balance. I was a father of three young children at home. I was burning the candle at both ends.

I felt invincible. I poured everything I had into my career and my customers. I didn’t have perspective that allowed me to think beyond my work life.

The defining moment came when I was on a cross-country flight and I was operating on two nights of no sleep. On the third night of not sleeping, I collapsed in the airplane.

I was feeling dizzy on the overnight flight and I stood up. I thought if I splashed water on my face that I would be fine. I remember collapsing in the galley. There were six people kneeling over me and they had hooked the oxygen to me. I regained consciousness, and they wanted to make an emergency landing in Minnesota.

But I said “No, I've got to get to Toronto. I have a customer meeting.” I thought, I’ll go there and take a nap. So I had the customer meeting and I flew home and went to a doctor in Chicago. I was asked about my lifestyle and diet. Basically, it was about working and not sleeping.

Then they ran more tests. I go for a colonoscopy, thinking maybe it’s an ulcer. I wake up to find my wife crying next to me. I’m told I have a tumor the size of a lemon in my colon.

I had no idea. I didn’t feel sick. I had no perspective.

Even though it was a tumor, it had not impacted any of my other organs. I went through a significant surgery. I was one of the fortunate ones.

On the third night of not sleeping, I collapsed in the airplane.

The Lesson:

I overlooked the importance of being healthy. I didn’t go to the doctor, because I thought it’d slow me down. I couldn’t be in town long enough to go see a doctor. I wasn’t prioritizing my health. And it took something that dramatic to realize the mistake. I was completely rundown.

[Now,] I’m an advocate of well-being, and it comes in many different flavors.

I’ve become empathetic to people who are going through medical challenges. I have a unique perspective on how to focus and prioritize, so they get back to a healthy work environment. I think I convey a message and a position that it’s important to work hard and delight our customers, but it’s also important to give back.

Balance is something I preach; you should prioritize your health and it's important to take vacation. I’m fortunate to work in a company that makes that a priority.

Follow Tyler Prince on Twitter at @Tyler_SFDC.

Photo courtesy of Tyler Prince.