Posted on December 18, 2015
Married to an Entrepreneur: The Real Facts
So you’re spouse wants to be an entrepreneur. Or maybe they already are one. What does that mean for you? Well, I’m here to tell you the real facts about what it’s like to be married to an entrepreneur – the good, the bad, and the ugly. First, let me start by saying that being in a relationship with someone who wants to own and run their own business is AMAZING!! This person is brave and braveness is a great attribute to have in a life partner.
According to our good friends over at Merriam-Webster, the simple definition of entrepreneur is “a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money”. I love how they call it a “simple” definition. HA!! The full definition is “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise”. So just in case you haven’t caught on, risk is the name of the game. And brave is what your spouse is. What I have to tell you, is that you have to be brave, too. Some days that’s like a walk in the park. Other days, you want to get in your car and drive to the edge of the earth and never return.
I feel very lucky to call several of my friends, both women and men, also spouses of entrepreneurs. I called on them to give me their thoughts, and what they provided me was a mirror to my own life. So when I use the word “facts” to describe this lifestyle, I mean it.
Fact #1: There is no such thing as a 9 to 5 entrepreneur.
Yesterday was our 10th wedding anniversary. When we got married, I came up with the brilliant idea that we would take off our wedding anniversary and spend the whole day together doing fun, different, cool stuff. We’ve done this at least 7 times. Better than a great batting average, so I’ll take it. As my career flourished and I rose through the ranks, I amassed a ton of vacation. Taking one day off was easy peasy. For my husband, it can be like moving mountains…some years its like moving mountains when all you have to use is one finger (read: next to IMPOSSIBLE!). And yesterday was just like that. We had an 8:30p dinner reservation. We made it by 8:31p. And that was the first moment that he got to take a breath all day. My friend Katie says, “The boss works more than anyone.” Rachel says, “He will spend as much time with me as he can – eating dinner together or having our morning coffee together but then he will stay up super late after I go to bed or get up at 4:30 in the morning when he can’t sleep cause he is thinking about all the work he has to get done.”
An entrepreneur will pack more into 24 hours than is humanly possible. My friend Heather puts it best saying, “You work is always with you – you never get to ‘clock out’ and forget about work until you clock back in.”
Fact #2: It’s not just about your family, it’s about their team’s too.
I’ve managed many people over my career. I’ve had the chance to know my team members professionally and personally. As a fundraiser, my job was always about the bottom line. Without money coming in, nonprofits don’t provide services and they can’t employ people. But an entrepreneur’s team is different. Your spouse will worry about his/her team’s families just like they do yours. When business is great, it’s great for their families too. When it’s not great, your spouse will take on the burden. They are the leader. They know their employees trust them, that’s why they went to work for the company. The flip side to this is that the team members who work for entrepreneurs really are working to build your spouses dreams. That’s huge to me! The team really does become like a family.
Fact #3: You will become an expert in your spouse’s business.
As my friend Heather, who is an entrepreneur and married to an entrepreneur, puts it, “Even if you have another career, you will get sucked into working for the business. And it’s unpaid work, of course.” It’s true!!! My hubby owns a glass and mirror company. I know how to install a frameless shower door. That handle on your shower door that you open every morning, yep, I know how to screw one of those on so that you don’t ever see the screws. My friend Michelle’s husband, Scott, is in the boardgaming business…I know, I think it’s cool too! She uses her vacation time to help him out at his conventions and a huge trade show they participate at in Germany. I think my friend Emily puts it best, “It’s not his business, it’s the family’s business. While this seems intuitive enough, it’s sometimes easy to forget that our family depends on the success of the company.” Not only will you become an expert, but in turn you will become one of your spouse’s greatest salespeople. You will tell every single person you know about what your spouse does. You will figure out ways to bring it up in conversations. You will look for connections that could be a fit for the business. The business will be like another limb, always with you.
Fact #4: Your role will be CLEO: Chief Listening and Encouragement Officer
Remember when I said your spouse was a brave person. And I said you were too. Well, sometimes in the midst of all this bravery while they are “managing the risk”, your partner will be faced with challenges. There are times when you will play the role of adviser and you will actually have the opportunity to give advice. And then there are the times that you have to keep your mouth shut and not necessarily say what you are thinking. Heather says, “Work becomes very personal since it’s your finances, risk, and reputation on the line. You life revolves around your business(es).” And because it’s so personal, the listening and encouraging becomes necessary. Now, I will be the first person to tell you that I have flat out told my husband what I think he should do many times. A few, okay let’s be real, more than a few of those times I probably should have done more listening than advice giving. My friend Rachel says, “He’s doing it for you, your family and your future. Don’t harp on him and make him feel worse.” Neither Rachel nor I have ever been accused of being wallflowers, and we certainly aren’t advocating for that, but it is true that sometimes the listening part of your CLEO role will be the most critical.
And I love how my friend Emily puts it, “The responsibility of being an impromptu counselor – to listen, not necessarily advise – can come up at any time. It doesn’t matter what else is going on at that moment, if that is the moment that my spouse is finally willing and able to open up about what has been stressing him out, then he becomes the priority. It’s a challenge to balance my response (i.e. instead of multi tasking or asking him to wait) and refocus my full attention on him in those moments, but has proven to be one of the most important and supportive things that I can do as his partner. It helps him thinking through the situation and 9 times out of 10 results in resolution or a plan that he couldn’t get to thinking through the issue on his own.”
Fact #5: Time with your spouse and family will be invaluable.
Of course, time with your spouse is always invaluable, but when your spouse is on 24/7 eating, breathing, and sleeping their business, time will be the greatest gift that you have. My friend Kelli, who has two kiddos under four and is expecting another one, and has her own full-time career has been able to see the big shift. Her husband just recently started his business. Prior to this he had always been in corporate America (or as I like to call it the land of health insurance, lower taxes and vacation days 😉 ). Kelli says, “I have learned that life with a partner is much easier than life without a partner. Life with Dave around was relaxing and for the most part stress free minus the stupid arguments here and there. In the past, I never had to manage my stress level because I had a companion riding the roller coaster with me, but when he opened his company I have learned that I DO ACTUALLY get stressed. Being with the kids 90% of the time by myself has opened my eyes to the silly arguments that I use to have with Dave. I no longer care about that anymore. I just care that he spends the time that he does have at home with his family.”
Shane and I schedule time together. It goes on our calendars and we try to protect it. We turn down invitations with others so that we can spend time with each other. Sometimes I go to work with him just so we can hang out (he spends a lot of time driving so I’m not interrupting work).
Fact #6: Being married to an entrepreneur really is pretty damn great!
Yes being married to an entrepreneur is hard, really, really hard. But it is really, really great!! Michelle uses the word “blessing” and Emily says it’s a “gift”.
While owning your own business doesn’t necessarily mean spending everyday playing golf or at the spa, for many there is a great deal of flexibility. Scheduling meetings around spouses careers or kiddo stuff is easier when you’re the boss. Emily who has a very demanding career, also spends a lot of time volunteering. She says she “can’t express in words what it has meant for him to have flexibility to be able to support my career and support our home life when I’ve been focused on work or volunteer work.”
Your spouse employs people which in turns builds our economy. Pretty cool, if you ask me!
Sometimes you get to travel to super cool places because of their work. Michelle gets to go to Germany every year! The glass convention is held in Las Vegas…not a bad gig for me.
Once you get the bug, it often turns into more businesses. When I started this blog, Shane said “go for it!”. There was no hesitancy, no worry, just a big yep, take the risk. Heather and her husband are serial entrepreneurs. They have bought, sold, and built many companies. And their daughters are watching this. They get to watch their mommy and daddy take risks, be brave, and reap the rewards.
It really is true. The greater the risk, the better the reward.
Emily says it best, “It takes strength and unconditional trust from both parties. Running your own business is not for the faint of heart!”.
Now, I know that it may look weird that all of my subject matter experts happen to be female. For the record, I asked several of my guy friends whose wives are entrepreneurs, but didn’t get their feedback. So to all of you women who are reading this who are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, I suppose your husband will be too busy taking care of the house and kids to respond. Go get em girlfriend!
I want to thank my friends Katie, Rachel, Heather, Michelle, Emily and Kelli for sharing their thoughts with me! These women are all badasses in their own right, and their spouses should consider themselves lucky to have such great partners!!! Check out their entrepreneur’s websites below!
As you all know, I have dedicated my life to serving God. I believe in His purpose for me. A huge part of that purpose is being the wife of an entrepreneur. Just like I pray for each of you reading this blog, I pray for my husband’s company, his team members, his clients and his vendors. I have every single bit of faith that even when things get challenging with the business, that God is directing our steps.
What are you experiencing being an entrepreneur or spouse of an entrepreneur? Would love to hear in the comments below!!
PS – Don’t forget about my giveaway running now through December 24th!