Check out these work-life balance tips from Inc.’s Meg Cadoux Hirshberg, just for entrepreneurially driven couples.
MARCH 08, 2012
In this week’s Guru Review, our featured guru was Inc.Magazine’s Balancing Acts columnist and contributing editor Meg Cadoux Hirshberg, whose new book For Better or For Work provides a practical and insightful guide to the very tricky art of balancing entrepreneurship and family.
Meg has generously supplied OPEN with a list of the “20 Simple Rules For Domestic Harmony When One Spouse is an Entrepreneur,” drawn from her book. (She advises that male and female pronouns are alternating.)
For the entrepreneur:
1. Don’t act like the boss at home. Suppress the instinct to issue commands, and instead consult with your spouse and, when appropriate, your children.
2. Give your spouse a voice. Big business decisions affect your family. Make sure to discuss them with your spouse.
3. Don’t squeeze your spouse in. Avoid those rushed calls five minutes before your next meeting or flight. Your spouse will feel frustrated when the conversation is cut short or drowned out by activity in the background.
4. Visit your spouse’s universe. While you spend your day consumed with the company, your spouse is doing other things. Spend time in her world by joining her at a conference or listening to her presentation.
5. Resist dumping your worries. Don’t keep your spouse in the dark when it comes to bad news, but be sensitive to his limits.
6. Turn off the smart phone. Be disciplined about carving out technology-free stretches of time with your spouse and family.
7. Treat your spouse like your most important client. The same way you win over clients with true attentiveness, be attentive to your spouse, and remember that she is your number-one life client.
8. Acknowledge your spouse’s role. Your spouse plays a critical role in the family; tell him that!
For the spouse:
9. Give the entrepreneur some space. You’ve both had exhausting days, but he carries the responsibility not only of the family’s financial security, but also that of his employees. Give him time to decompress before handing him the bills and the crying baby.
10. Cultivate self-reliance. Your wife may be routinely working long hours as she builds the business; find activities you find personally fulfilling that don’t require her presence.
11. Be a sounding board. Offer informed opinions and, if nothing else, be a sympathetic ear when your entrepreneur-spouse needs someone to talk to.
12. Establish systems. Create relative stability with shared calendars and family meetings, helping you prioritize needs and effectively allocate your limited time and money.
13. Give the entrepreneur the benefit of the doubt. You may not agree with every decision he makes, but demonstrate confidence in him as he works to build the company.
14. Act like an owner. Look for opportunities where your interests and talents intersect with the company’s needs. After all, you have a financial stake in the business as well.
For the couple:
15. Set the bar low, but set it somewhere. You may not be able to take vacations, but make sure to grab those small moments for a cup of coffee or a walk around the block together – to share life’s grace notes and headaches and remind yourselves about why it’s all worthwhile.
16. Prioritize each other’s communications. Respect one another’s time, and hold off on sending emails and making calls about trivial matters. Save communication during the work day for matters of true importance, but make sure one another’s missives move to the top of the queue.
17. Befriend other company-building families. They have been on the same entrepreneurial rollercoaster you’re on and can likely offer advice from their own experiences.
18. Take the long view. Accept that you are both in for a long series of disappointments mixed with an occasional triumph. Brace yourselves emotionally.
19. Work together for a cause. Just because you’re not business partners doesn’t mean you can’t collaborate on a venture that matters to you both, like organizing a fundraiser or launching a nonprofit.
20. Take frequent inventory. Recall all that you’ve created together – the wonderful, horrible, heartbreaking and hilarious stories. Take a moment to appreciate the grace and grit you’ve had to summon to soldier through it all.
“Entrepreneurship is a lonely endeavor,” Meg says. “And not just for the entrepreneur. The spouse, too, feels isolated, and often looks with envy at friends and relatives with reliable incomes, paid vacations and medical leave. From the overwhelming number of letters I’ve received in response to my column—from both entrepreneurs and spouses—I know people are grateful for solutions, and for the reassurance that they are not alone.”