Eileen Fisher on Putting Family First

The iconic clothing designer on the challenge of being there for your kids while you're running a company.

In conversation with Inc.com, Eileen Fisher talks about life on the entrepreneurial path and navigating a successful business on one hand and family life on the other. For those not familliar: Eileen Fisher founded her line of elegant and relaxed women’s clothing in 1984. Now, her clothing line is a 54-store enterprise with 900 employees. Eileen Fisher has been recognized as one of the 25 best small-to-medium companies to work for.

On work-life tension, she notes:

I had deadlines. I was running around doing exciting things, or on the phone, or reading reports. And somehow stopping all that to play with dolls was confusing to me. I felt like I didn’t know how to do it. The hardest thing was being present for my kids. Some of my son’s first words were “crinkle rayon.” It’s kind of funny, but also sad.

Her advice for young professionals, especially women: Slow down and be where you are—especially be with the people around you:

Make sure your most important relationships stay on top. And take care of yourself. When I didn’t do that, it was chaos. I would also say, be present where you are. When you’re with your kids, be with your kids.

Her tips for being present with family also translate into her work. Collaboration and kindness are key measures of success for the Eileen Fisher brand—as Fisher mentions in Mindful‘s feature story, “She Wears It Well.” She tell us:

I have a deep sense that I didn’t create this business alone. I listened, I heard, and we worked together. Working in a collaborative way made it so much better.