I know some entrepreneurs with successful businesses and others who seem to have a great relationship with their families, but I can’t think of many who have both. Some people would argue that these two successes are mutually exclusive, but I’m not convinced.
Individually, they both take focus, commitment and a variety of skills: all the strengths of a good entrepreneur. Assuming a person wants both a family and a business, the challenge is to achieve a balance that can satisfy both. This holiday season is a good time for all of us to do a reality check on our own efforts.
From my observational experience, as well as my personal struggles on both sides of this equation, here are some of the key parameters of that balance:
- Start with a solid family and business foundation. A successful business won’t lead to a great family relationship and vice versa. Don’t assume that your focus will change once your startup gets past the initial struggle. Keep in mind that your loved ones often see your business enthusiasm and energy as negative reflections on them.
- Be realistic about what brings happiness to you. Many entrepreneurs, especially women, gravitate to entrepreneurship because they see it as the way to balance work and family demands. That could mean they are forgoing happiness on the business side. Some men want a family relationship, but the business is what makes them happy.
- Find fun things in and out of work that are high priority. These don’t have to be expensive or hard-driving activities like sports competitions. They can be simple in nature, like being present for school engagements or regular Friday night “date nights” with the spouse. Practice consistency with both fun and high priority elements.
- Assess your ability to compartmentalize the two roles. Achieving a balance requires an ability to put aside the burdens of work at the end of the day and giving your full focus to important relationships. Separation of work and home are fuzzy for an entrepreneur, and it’s easy to find yourself on duty 24/7. Can you find the off switch on your cell phone?
- Be accountable for decisions you make. Remember, as the entrepreneur you are in control and the business is not. Don’t let the urgent crisis of the moment become the priority of your life to the detriment of your balance. Keep in mind that the sacrifices you make for the business also impact your family.
- Say “NO” and “YES” with equal frequency in both roles. Be honest in how your decisions will affect others in either role. Be in control of your priorities. The first step is to track yourself on these responses. Most people don’t recognize that they may have a habit of being negative in one role and positive in the other.
- Communicate well and often at your business, as well as with family members. You need to keep an open mind and listen effectively to people in your business and to people who are in your relationships. Pay attention to body language, emotion and time spent speaking versus listening. Talking is not communicating.
Most people consider entrepreneurship as a lifestyle rather than a job. Being married is a lifestyle and raising a family is a lifestyle. Recognize that it’s harder to balance two lifestyles than it is to balance a job with your real lifestyle.
Also, mixing business with pleasure is one thing, but mixing business with family yields an altogether different and often volatile dynamic. Running a family business or “FamilyPreneurship” is even more difficult and can derail or splinter cherished relationships.
Before you conclude that entrepreneurship is your chosen lifestyle, make sure you understand the balance it will require and make sure those around you are prepared to accept that balance. A failure in this regard will likely result in some fireworks you hadn’t anticipated.
Image credit: CC by Keoni Cabral