How to Care For Your Relationships While Starting a Business

  •    Anne is a marketing consultant who specializes in content strategy. Before becoming her own boss, she led the marketing team for a Fortune 500 brand.

As an entrepreneur, you sacrifice plenty for your business, especially during the early stages. You work long hours, skip out on social events, and sometimes even heavily invest your own money. And often times, you aren't the only one making sacrifices. Those closest to you, especially your spouse and children, are also affected. They may give up their financial security and quality time with you, and feel the sting of canceled plans during moments when they seem to play second fiddle to your business.

Most fights in any relationship revolve around money and spending time together—subjects under even more pressure for entrepreneurial families. The good news is that if you care for your close relationships, they can bolster your success. Take Brent Hatch, CEO of Profire Energy, as an example.

“I would not be where I am with this company were it not for [my wife] Darlene," he says. “She took the calls from creditors. She gave up vacations—endured the long hours when I couldn't come home." And now that his business attained success, Hatch is so convinced of the importance of supportive relationships that he interviews spouses when hiring key employees. So, how can you best support your relationships while nurturing a new small business? Read on.

Work-Life Balance Strategies for Entrepreneurs and Their Families

Below are strategies to help you balance your business responsibilities with your relationships.

Three ways to care for the important people in your life:

  • Communicate openly and regularly set expectations. Schedule check-ins about your working hours, what you're working on and how long each phase is likely to last to keep unhappy surprises to a minimum. This will help your spouse understand and support you while also giving them a hint at when they'll see the light at the end of the tunnel.

  • Schedule quality time. When you're piloting a business, it's easy to let time get away from you, so plan when you'll spend time with your family and stick to it. Consider planning hobbies or leisure activities that everyone, including you, enjoys so you can look forward to them and are more likely to honor the plans. "When couples share a genuine passion for the same pursuits, they spend time together naturally, united by enthusiasm, adrenalin, and maybe even good-natured competition," explains Meg Cadoux Hirshberg, wife of Stonyfield Farm CEO Gary Hirshberg and author of For Better Or For Work: A Survival Guide for Entrepreneurs and Their Families.

  • Lend your partner support. Supportive partners make an entrepreneur's life much easier, so ensure that support goes both ways—especially if you have children. Take the kids out for some quality time with just you while giving your partner time to themselves to do whatever they please. Tip: Encourage them to do something for themselves rather than using the time to get housework done in peace.

Five ways to face challenges as a team:

  • Discuss your comfort levels with financial risk–and work to understand why. While you may feel comfortable taking risks because you have some degree of control over making the rewards happen, keep in mind that your partner may feel differently and with good reason. Take time to understand how they feel and why, so you and your partner can navigate your differing points of view.

  • Map out a timeline of where you think your business will be and when. Also cover what life will look like during each period. Do this with your partner to ensure that you both understand what you're signing on for. Revisit, revise and recommit to this plan together whenever necessary.

  • Involve your family members when you can. They should have some skin in the game, so they feel they're part of it rather than competing with it. Can your spouse weigh in on your marketing plan? Could your children help you pack shipments?

  • Keep the goodwill flowing. Recognize and show gratitude for everyone's sacrifices and efforts.

  • Celebrate successes together. Continue the teamwork vibes by recognizing and celebrating business milestones as a family. Hirshberg encourages entrepreneurs to strive for "those magic moments [when owning a company] make possible a family's most remarkable experiences."

When your family can understand, participate in, and enjoy the fruits of your business, you're more likely to maintain their support and pursue your higher purpose: fostering a healthy and happy lifestyle now and creating a legacy for the future.

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