By K.C. Neel Falling over to one side as one attempts to balance professional and personal lives is endemic in corporate America. So it was refreshing to see that Debbie Egner has found equilibrium between the two. It wasn’t always so, says Egner, SVP, sales operations, for Starz. It took her years to understand that balance "is something you achieve by prioritizing." She also learned that priorities change, which requires flexibility. Sometimes work comes first; other times it’s you or your family that must prevail. "Eventually you have to learn to say no to things," Egner says. "And that isn’t easy." Thankfully, she said yes to the idea of spending an afternoon with me. We met at a local spa in Castle Rock, Colo., the little town where we both happen to live. A few rejuvenating hours with a massage or facial is something Egner tries to treat herself to every six weeks or so. Another life lesson learned on the road to equilibrium: Carving out a slice of time for yourself goes a long way toward being more productive at work and at home. The spa was the perfect place to relax, unwind, get pampered and get acquainted. Egner convinced me to sit in the "waterfall chair," a wondrous invention that circulates warm water and aromatic oils. We drank green tea and talked about our lives, our families and our jobs for almost two hours. It was a serene afternoon for two people who rarely get the opportunity to sit still and relax. I vowed to take Egner’s lead and start doing this more often. Egner oversees two corporate departments at Starz: point of sale and sales communications. She works with affiliates to educate and motivate frontline personnel to sell digital cable (as well as Starz) to consumers. Egner works closely with the marketing, sales and communications heads to coordinate corporate sales efforts, and she’s also involved in CTAM and WICT. If you think that doesn’t leave much time for her family—her husband Roger and sons Josh (16) and Taylor (13)—think again. On a typical day, Egner will head home in time for dinner with the family. She attends as many sports and school events as possible. Late at night, after the boys are in bed, she’ll answer e-mails using her Blackberry. "I’m not fond of having it," she says of the device, "but it does afford me more flexibility." After our visit to the local spa, Egner invited me and my husband and daughter over for dinner. Before dinner, Taylor went above and beyond the call of a 13-year-old’s duty by playing air hockey with my 6-year-old daughter, Tess. We all sat down to some great grub made by Roger. A native of the Buffalo, N.Y., area, Roger made a local—and delicious—version of sloppy joes. In a world where few families get the opportunity to gather on a regular basis for something so mundane like a daily meal, this was heaven. Everyone contributed to the conversation (even the kids), which tended to center on life in Castle Rock, the local wildlife (both human and animal) and even some politics. Everyone pulls their weight around the house: After dinner, the kids cleared the table, Roger made coffee and served dessert, Taylor made pudding for himself and Tess. Egner says she couldn’t effectively do her job without the support of her family. "When we were first married," Egner says, "both of us were traveling all the time, and work always seemed to come first. When we had Josh—I was working for HBO by that time—we both still managed to work and travel. But by the time Taylor came along, we realized we needed to make some adjustments." They jointly determined to make her career the top priority. Egner had joined HBO as a trainer in 1985. She worked her way up the ranks and was eventually promoted to VP, handling the corporate Cox account in Atlanta. It was a go-go-go atmosphere that demanded a lot of time and energy. It was also more stable than the aerospace industry her husband was working in at the time. "Roger quit corporate USA and started consulting, and later became a real estate broker to provide our family balance," Egner says. He switched gears again three years ago when Egner was enticed by now-retired distribution president Que Spaulding to join Starz in Colorado. Both Egners are glad they made the move. For one thing, they went from a bustling suburban environment to a semirural one where the deer and the antelope play—literally—in their backyard. Time slows down dramatically when Egner reaches her driveway each day. "We bought a house with a 360 degree view of the mountains," Egner says. They have a sweeping view of the Rocky Mountains and surrounding open space. Her job is working out as well. She likes the fact that founder John Sie remains actively involved in the day-to-day operations, and enjoys the company’s entrepreneurial spirit. "I feel like I am getting an MBA every day I go to work," Egner says. Striking the right balance between work and home can still be difficult, and requires making tough choices. But, as she says, "it’s part of the balance we all want to achieve in life."

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