The associated risks of starting a company are hard enough when you are young and unattached (though lack of experience and naïveté keeps you brave and motivated). But being in a long-term relationship, married, or a parent adds a whole new level of complications, risks, and motivations.
It is not surprising that VCs like investing in companies led by young, single, male entrepreneurs (some think this is because it is easier to control them and make them work 24×7). But my own experience tells me that the vast majority of entrepreneurs are married and many are even parents. Our wives/husbands/partners are the true unsung heroes. Some of the most successful business people have a great supporter behind them.
Although I’ve mostly been an intrapreneur in my career, during my last venture I was a co-founder. Sadly, the company did not work out and cost me dearly. My wife was my rock through it all! There is a reason I call her my “angel investor” – she is my biggest supporter and the best BS detector. Having someone really smart to bounce thoughts off of is an absolutely invaluable asset.
Here is what I have learned so far from my own marriage and business successes/failures:
- Business is second to family. No business is worth sacrificing your family for, and in fact, power, support, and inspiration can be derived directly from your “home team”.
- Communication with your partner is crucial! Especially when things go awry, walking around angry and frustrated will not help you or your marriage. But, if you communicate and use your partner as an advisor, you will get to a much better place faster.
- As the saying goes – perception is reality. Be honest with yourself, err on the side of caution, and set appropriate expectations. Allowing assumptions leads to painful consequences.
- Carve out time every week for your partner. No business conversations, emails, text messages, or voicemails allowed – just you and your better half.
Lastly, one of the biggest bonuses for an entrepreneur/intrapreneur with a great partner at home is that it forces you to think more clearly and learn how to sell your ideas. Almost every idea I could not explain well to my wife turned out to be a steamin’ dud.