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Work-life balance eludes many entrepreneurs. This manufacturing star aims to change that.

By Verne Harnish

Many entrepreneurs want to achieve work-life balance but find that entrepreneurship crowds out other important parts of life, like family, spirit and self. 

“What makes an entrepreneur great is a double-edge sword,” says Gene Kirila, founder and chairman of the coaching firm TREP Systems. “It is the ability to focus on the business and be relentless.”

Kirila aims to turn that around. TREP Systems coaches entrepreneurs, particularly those in manufacturing, on how to keep these four sides of the “life square” balanced—even while confronting obstacles like supply chain challenges. 

“We really focus on the whole individual,” he says. “You can get to the finish line with success, but if you leave your family behind, you’re spiritually broken or you burn yourself out into a health condition, it’s not worth it,” says Kirila. 

Kirila, based in Stuart, Fla., is intimately familiar with their challenges. The serial entrepreneur—who participated in the Birthing of Giants program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in its second year—previously served as founder and president of VEC Technology Composites in Greenville, Pa.

After running that firm for eight years, the manufacturing pro sold it to VEC Technologies in 2001. Before that he launched Efficient Machine Tool Sales, which made Inc.’s list of fastest growing companies, and, as a college student, Pyramid Fitness Industries, which he built to $44 million in annual revenue before selling it. Fortune has named him a Hero of Manufacturing. 

Many entrepreneurs don’t realize their life is out of balance until they experience a problem. TREP Systems performs an assessment to determine where they need help, so they can direct their efforts efficiently.

“Focusing on balance, rather than just making the business better, makes the entrepreneur better,” Kirila says. 

Part of this involves determining what a win would be for each entrepreneur. “Some want the business to win. Some want to have a work environment where employees enhance themselves. Everyone has a different win,” says Kirila. 

TREP Systems has focused mainly on advising owners of closely-held businesses, where the entrepreneur has the decision-making freedom to make changes in their business, lifestyle and overall strategy, says Kirila. He will typically work with each entrepreneur for three to five years, tracking metrics such as the company’s valuation.

Often, what gets them to a win is building out the team they need. “For instance, they may not understand that not having a proper CFO is draining them individually,” says Kirila. 

But Kirila has found that many come around when they understand the business case for building a stronger executive team. “Once they understand how it’s draining their net worth, then they open up the conversation,” he says. 

Verne Harnish
Verne Harnish
Verne Harnish is founder of the world-renowned Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and chaired for fifteen years EO’s premiere CEO program, the “Birthing of Giants” and WEO’s “Advanced Business” executive program both held at MIT. Founder and CEO of Gazelles, a global executive education and coaching company with over 150 coaching partners on six continents, Verne has spent the past three decades helping companies scale-up. The “Growth Guy” syndicated columnist, he’s also the Venture columnist for FORTUNE magazine. He’s the author of Scaling Up (Rockefeller Habits 2.0); Mastering the Rockefeller Habits; and along with the editors of Fortune, authored The Greatest Business Decisions of All Times," for which Jim Collins wrote the foreword. Verne also chairs FORTUNE Magazine’s annual Leadership and Growth Summits and serves on several boards including chairman of The Riordan Clinic and the newly launched Geoversity. He is an investor in many scale-ups. A father of four, he enjoys piano, tennis, and magic as a card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.