One of my favorite, sweet hearted entrepreneurs once said, “The family is coming home from holiday next week – then the pressure will begin.” And she was one of my kinder clients!
Another (years ago) told me he was spending 4 nights out of 7 sleeping on his techie’s couch directing the code he couldn’t write – while his wife was supporting him and his business! I explained that he could not afford a divorce, that it would wreck the business, and gave him a little talk about “date night.”
I’m an entrepreneur – always have been. And yes, I’ve abused those closest to me when I was in the height of the next new thing. The 1st time, the Power Dragon ate me and I couldn’t find any balance, despite pleas from all around me. I was lucky. That venture cost me nearly everything, but the Power Dragon spit me out and my ego never went to that place again. Others are not so lucky.
The 2nd time, with my ego more in check (and I was older, of course—that sometimes helps), despite a belief in balance, the pressure was so high I probably wasn’t terribly attentive at home then either.
So, I understand. I do. Gender isn’t the issue. The entrepreneur’s life partner takes the same risk as the entrepreneur, with almost no control over the outcome, and gets isolated from the person and the daily drama as well. No wonder many first-time entrepreneurs lose their families.
Let’s spend a moment with that life partner. He or she generally knows little about The Business in any depth, and so is excluded from any real understanding of its pressures and priorities. All the commonplace responsibilities that are dropped in the name of The Business fall to the partner at home (or at work, but not in The Business). If there are children at home, they get no good explanation for their parent’s absence – whether absent in person or absent in mind. You know, listening and nodding, but not really there, and sneaking little peeks at the Blackberry while nodding yes.
I caution my clients to pay attention. I assume they will be mostly out of control for the first three years… and that can cost them their family. It is often difficult to get this message through to them, as they have often stopped participating at home in the first few months and cannot hear.
So listen. Life is long. You can learn to pace yourself and the business. You can learn to work smart and not so hard and so long. Yes, the competition is fierce, and technology ventures bring more time-to-market pressure than other industries (or at least we believe they do). Check it out – how much of your pressure is your need to be the centerpiece, and always in control? Are you playing a bigger risk than you need to? Are you forgetting to focus on profitability and not gross revenue? Have you given into terms from larger partner-companies, when you could have set some reasonable boundaries on your deliverables? Are you running the business, and making clear choices, or is it running you? Are you addicted to the adrenaline yet?
I tell you, a disintegrating personal life will hurt your business, and hurt you and your ability to lead, more than you can imagine — in time and money and chaos and in your heart. There is a reading in the iChing about being like a clock in the thunderstorm. Take a minute, just one minute, and think about that.