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BUSINESS PULSE: A SPECIAL REPORT : Climbing Ladder to Success Leaves Little Free Time


A Meet Charlotte Hampton, a confirmed workaholic.

The Newport Beach executive works more than 50 hours every week, including several hours most weekends. When not at the office, she is often thinking about it. To pull down her six-figure salary, she often must travel on long, tiring business trips.

Hampton, a single mother, seldom dates. She hasn't seen a serious movie in more than two years. She feels guilty for not having more time to spend with her 5-year-old daughter, Catherine.

Welcome to Orange County's workplace--a fast-paced treadmill of long hours, keen competition and career opportunity.

Hampton, 43, did not start out wanting to work. She was more addicted to the beach than pursuing a college curriculum leading to a career. She studied history and anthropology and looked for a husband.

She married and also entered the work force, but with no real goal. Hampton worked as a receptionist, a lingerie saleswoman for a department store and project accountant for a small developer. She even got a teaching degree but never taught.

Then 17 years ago she met John Stoneman, who was in the midst of starting his own business, JES International, a limited partnership that sells a diverse line of packaging products used by the electronics, medical, and meat-processing industries.

He was looking for someone to help out in the office, and Hampton fit the bill. Hampton quickly became caught up in the excitement of building a business. She worked long hours and received considerable encouragement from her mentor. She participated in the decision-making and worked her way into more important jobs.

"I've been able to ride on his coattails," Hampton said.

In 1984, Stoneman left JES to operate a manufacturing company he had purchased. Before doing so, he promoted Hampton from general manager to president of the firm. She started running the company's day-to-day business.

Hampton said her motivation to succeed in this top job was heightened by the skepticism of some of her former co-workers, all of whom were men and older than she.

"It puts a bee in your bonnet," she said.

Also, Hampton said, when she was promoted to president she recently had been divorced from her husband of 10 years, which underscored for her the importance of maintaining her financial self-reliance.

Now as president of the small international sales company that does $7 million a year in business, Hampton's time is rarely her own. She often must travel overseas. When here, she works overtime to keep a handle on the many facets of JES' business.

"There is always something to do and something to finish," she said.

As head of a small business, she has far wider variety of tasks to tackle than her big-business counterparts. Besides developing long-term business strategy, Hampton must deal with personnel, budget and other line functions. She even has her own sales accounts.

Few chores are beneath her. On a recent Saturday, Hampton said, she helped move furniture at the office, bringing her daughter along.

Even when she is not in the office, Hampton is thinking of the next project. Frequently on Saturdays she rises at 6 a.m. to put in a few hours of paper work at her town home in the well-to-do Bluffs area of Newport Beach before her daughter wakes up.

As a single parent, Hampton feels guilty that she does not spend more time with Catherine. Recently pressed for time, she was unable to plan a birthday party for her daughter. Instead she took her on an excursion to Disneyland.

Hampton said that with the pressures of work she has trouble unwinding and getting into Catherine's world. "When I get home, it is difficult to slow down and listen to her," she said. "I'm not big on playing."

Juggling her family and business life is not easy. Each morning she drives her daughter, with the girl's favorite stuffed toy bear in tow, to a day-care facility and picks her up each evening. When she travels, her mother watches Catherine.

Hampton said that when she is traveling, she enjoys hobnobbing with customers and clients and squeezes in sightseeing. But at home, she said, she has no time to spare for dating or socializing with friends.

"I haven't been to a movie, other than to see 'The Little Mermaid,' for two years," she said. There are rewards, of course. Hampton said her high-paying job--she made more than $100,000 last year--allows her to provide plenty of comforts for her daughter and herself. She enjoys furnishing her home and buys quality clothes in pricey stores.

"I wanted a certain lifestyle," said Hampton, a tailored dresser who drives a Jaguar.

As the business grows, Hampton hopes to delegate more responsibility to other employees. One of her goals, she said, is to lighten her work burden so that she can slow down in five years or so.

She yearns to learn more about the art and music that she has experienced in her travels. Hampton said she would eventually like to shorten her workweek to four days so she can pursue other interests, perhaps a master's degree in fine arts.

"I would rather be a broader person," she said.

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