“Honey, I am quitting my job to launch a business startup.” The uncertainty around this statement is unsettling enough to make your spouse confused and unsupportive. Without really breaking down the reality of the new situation in the home, your decision may not make any sense to your spouse. Your job as a startup entrepreneur starts with convincing your spouse to believe in and support your idea.
Entrepreneurs sometimes underestimate the effects such startup commitments can have to family instability and how destabilizing this can be to entrepreneurial focus. Will Schroter, Co-Founder & CEO of Fundable.com notes, “Working at a startup is a grind that takes every ounce of your energy to create something from nothing. If you come home with even an ounce of energy to spare, it’s a gift. So, if you walk through the door at home, and you’re presented with an entirely new war to fight, it sucks. No one has enough energy to fight one battle during the day and another at night. You can’t fight two wars, and given enough time, those wars will destroy you.”
A business in its startup phase can put tremendous toll on family time and finances. This could sometimes be fatal for relationships. Jessica Bruder, writing for Inc.com, notes, “Though there has been scant research on the topic of entrepreneurs and divorce, many founders say that the overwhelming pressures and demands of launching a company have wreaked havoc on their marriages. What’s worse, a failed marriage can all too easily destroy even a thriving entrepreneurial business.”
With all the doubts and uncertainties around startups and new businesses, the question then is, how do you get your spouse on your side of the deal? How do you go about pitching the idea to your spouse, who is actually your emotional venture capitalist to enable them provide their emotional capital?
Communication: The importance of communication cannot be overemphasized. It is your responsibility as the entrepreneur, that your spouse understands your passion for and competence in the startup you are getting involved with. Ensure your spouse understands the big picture and the thin slices of the enterprise. This requires that you must have done your research and as much as is possible, have a road-map they can relate with. This shows them some level of seriousness and ticks the right boxes. Since you need the investment of their emotional capital, you may actually need to do a startup pitch to them, just like you would to a financial investor! If you want your spouse to be your startup’s biggest cheerleader, you’ve got to show them that you are a serious athlete who is in the game to win.
Patience. Give them time. Do not assume that they would buy-in immediately you present the idea to them. Remember, it is your dream not theirs. So give them time to process the information. And still give them time if they don’t seem to come around quickly. Some people are sticklers to the seeing is believing mantra. They may not believe your words but they would undoubtedly believe your action. This may take some time.
Finance. This is tricky, especially when you need the financial support of your spouse. Considering the possibility that your startup adventure may prevent you from supporting the family financially for a while, this needs some real discipline. It is important to separate the family’s finance from your business finance completely. Also, be realistic with your spouse as to the cash flow potential (not account profit, cashflow!) of the business. Where this is overestimated, your spouse may find it more challenging to adapt to the new reality.
Compromise. Entrepreneurs need to imbibe the discipline of creating time for their families. Your spouse may be understanding at the start, but where you show no regards to your family time commitments over a period of time, they wouldn’t be blamed for reacting by being indifferent to your enterprise. Remember that your business and your family are two separate parts of you. This may mean walking away from some projects especially during the holiday period and during family engagements. Also, for your finances, it is important to plough back profits to your business, but this should not be to the detriment of the basic needs of the family – food, clothing, shelter, education, to mention a few. This is where a family financial plan is important, as it simplifies the financial obligations and how those obligations can be met.