There is a belief among many entrepreneurs that in order to achieve success in business (most especially in a startup), one must completely focus on and devote all of his/her time to the business. That is, for instance, means using weekends and holidays as extra work days and/or (in some cases) includes considering radical actions – such as dropping out of school or quitting a job to pursue a business idea. To do these, they say that an entrepreneur needs to be single.
While much of this is true, the latter has stirred-up debates among the business community. Case in point: It is impossible to balance a business and a family.
The reality is – entrepreneurship is not simple and never easy nor pretty. As a matter of fact, in sustaining and keeping the business alive for the typical one to two-year startup runway, alone, most entrepreneurs lack the right amount of resources and thereby, resort to holding down day jobs while chasing their business dreams.
It might sound like a smart move to subsist on earning income to bootstrap your company and hopefully make it grow; but at some point, the bills need to be paid. Unfortunately, these bills might start to pile up and things could get even more complicated if, besides the business and the day job, you have obligations that require regular gainful employment – such as a family.
Now, finding the balance that can satisfy both these sides of the equations – that is, pursuing that which you are passionate of and at the same time working full-time as a family man – tend to raise differing opinions from entrepreneurs. And to some that are going through the same balancing act, it can be a lot confusing and quite intimidating – but, is it possible?
Gordon Light – a great entrepreneurial example of a husband and a father who manages a startup business while working as a full-time electrical engineer – who produces a podcast that interviews successful entrepreneurs in the very same position, says “yes”.
However, to Martin Zwilling – an American executive businessman, entrepreneur, and author – successes in both business and relationship are, arguably, not mutually exclusive as “they both take focus, commitment, and a variety of skills, all the strengths of a good entrepreneur.”
But surprisingly, although their beliefs contradict each other – Zwilling’s opinions, when asked about achieving the balance, have certain commonalities to that of Light’s:
Practice your ability to compartmentalize your roles. Find the off switch on your cell phone, says Zwilling. It’s easy, as an entrepreneur, to find yourself on duty 24/7 but, to be able to focus to important relationships; it requires the ability to put aside the burdens of work at the end of the day.
Additionally, Light suggests to constantly demonstrate and build the reputation of always “being there” by being “fully present” when around with the family. For example, be present for school engagements or set a regular Friday date night with your spouse.
Be accountable for your decisions. An urgent crisis is inevitable for any business. However, you should not let it become the priority in your life to the detriment of your balance. Always remember that you are in control of the business and not the other way around – your choices, priorities, and sacrifices have direct impacts to your family, be responsible in how your decisions will affect both sides of the coin.
Make time to communicate. Keep an open mind and listen effectively to the people in your business and relationships. Also, do not only connect but, give value to the conversation – suggests Light. This way, you surround yourself with people with shared goals and experiences and create a strong support that helps strike and maintain the balance between your work and family.
These key parameters seem to be the very obvious things to do. After all, everyone needs a support system and there is nothing wrong with working hard to gain the finer things in life, especially when it’s for your family. But why are these two things very hard to balance?
Sometimes, it all comes down to priorities. Mostly, people consider entrepreneurship as a lifestyle rather than a job. But being married and raising children are also lifestyles. It is not because the chosen priority is wrong but, some people just fail to recognize that it is hard to balance real lifestyle than balancing a job with a real lifestyle.
Furthermore, often times, people choose entrepreneurship as a lifestyle without making sure that those around are prepared to accept the balance and its consequences. That is when everything can go wrong – there can be an abundance of financial strains, lack of communication, and neglect. And overtime, the occasional stony silence and slammed door can derail a cherished relationship or worse, end it.
“People start companies to do their own things when marriage is about doing things together,” said Ted Khalaf an experienced divorce lawyer. Speaking from experience of handling divorce clients, he added, “So often, the start of a company spells the end of a marriage.”
But divorce can only be a problem if you let it. So, before concluding what lifestyle you will choose, understand the balance that it will require. Success in one sphere of life at the cost of the other is never a healthy sign because, in the long run, family happiness and a decent personal life determine one’s successful career. Balancing work and life might be very intimidating but, no one says it is impossible.