I first wrote this post because I kept trying to find information on how the spouse of someone who is beginning or starting their own business feels. But I was only able to find information on what happens, what feelings come up and the obstacles that come up from the entrepreneur point of view. So I decided to write my own experiences and see if they would be helpful to someone else out there. Here is what I wrote:
I’ve read many articles on how being an entrepreneur is an extremely difficult and stressful thing to be. While I do not disagree with this, I actually agree with it 100%, I feel as though not much is said about the family and/or spouses/partners of said entrepreneur. As some of you might know, Kat is an entrepreneur. She started her own business, and everyday I see the joy that it brings to her. I won’t go into much of her story, as it’s her story and not mine, but a couples years ago she decided to pursue her passion and make it into her career. She provides many services for families or individuals dealing with end of life transitions, or in other words she is a Death Doula.
While it is an extremely stressful journey for the entrepreneur, I believe that family and/or spouses/partners go through the same journey with them. Here are some things I’ve learned from my journey as a partner to an entrepreneur:
1. Budget Budget Budget! This is so very important. No matter how much savings are put away, believe me when I say that it will not last. There are so many expenses when starting a business you don’t think you need, but boy do you! I’ve learned that having a budget to see how much is spent where makes it much easier to cut things you don’t need. This also allows you not to go crazy with fear about spending & it also clears any suspicions that you have that your partner might be spending way too much on candy and chocolate.
2. Leftovers & Hidden Gems. If you aren’t used to eating leftovers you will be for the first few years that your partner is working on their business. Kat and I have mastered the leftovers, her more than me at times. This will also improve your cooking skills, as you’ll be using them often during this time. We have also gotten really good as finding really good restaurants that are cheap yet serve great food. Whenever we don’t have the energy or time to prep & cook we have many options for a nice inexpensive night out. We’ve definitely mastered $5 meals.
3. Take alone time when you need it. This is very important! Sometimes you find yourself needing time away from the world, take it. Kat & I have big families and that means always being on the run. At times we forget that alone time is needed, so we’ll go for a walk or just lounge and watch some Netflix. This is not only important for your relationship but also your sanity.
4. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, even if you aren’t the one starting the business. This one took me a while to wrap my head around. How was it that I could feel so overwhelmed by a business that wasn’t even mine? Well it happens at times. It’s okay. Your partner might be having one of those weeks were they might get stuck in there head trying to figure out whether business cards are more important than a website. Guess what, neither are more or less important, both are needed yes, but a business, especially one like Kat’s, is best done by actively doing the services. A business will never be “perfect”, there will always be room to improve. You will have many discussions about this, and you might feel like you are talking to a crazy person and that’s okay. Chances are you both are now crazy together.
5. Talk to the your spouse/partner about your fears. This one is so simple and can save so much time, but just don’t realize it. I’ve learned that by actually letting Kat know what fears show up (instead of assuming she can read my mind) at times during this journey helps her understand what I am going through as well. It also helps us both realize that most times we have the same fears. Is it supposed to be this hard? How is our money situation? Do we have time for anything this week? Have we fed the cats? It definitely brings you closer knowing that you are not alone in this journey, despite what some articles might say.
6. Mood swings happen. Remember that crazy person you were talking to? Well you have now become that crazy person. Yea mood swings happen, and you will get them too. Sometimes things don’t go the way you want, maybe you wanted to take a mini vacation and that won’t be possible this year or you wanted some shoes or a new tablet or whatever, but you can’t because business expenses and life expenses don’t allow for it. What happens, we go back to our childhood when we were told no to a candy we wanted and throw a tantrum. I’ve done it. Just because your aren’t the entrepreneur doesn’t mean you don’t give up things in the journey, you do. You both do. Finding alternatives, like taking a Spa Day instead of a vacation, helps with getting through the mood swings. And a spa day is always fun!
7. Patience. This my friends is a virtue. Along with mood swings coming and going as they please at times, I have learned to have patience not just with Kat but with myself. Starting a business is a LONG journey. There are many roads to take, many obstacles, and many fake shortcuts. Along with that, a business evolves all the time. There will be times were you just lose faith and might even contemplate moving everyone; you, the cats, the fish, the hermit crabs all back home, but patience is a very important part of the journey. I’ve heard and read many sayings where right when you want to give up and lose hope is when you are at the turning point towards a great break through. I’ve experienced this many times with Kat, and patience has been what gets us through it.
8. A social life is a lost term on you. Not that I had much of it before, but after such busy weekdays a social life becomes much more work that you just don’t want to deal with. Not only is it because I live far from all my family or friends, but the energy that is needed to get ready and go out is something I don’t have. After long weeks all I want to do is go over our budgets, figure out what we are going to be cooking or eating and cuddling with the cats while watching some Netflix. Don’t get me wrong, hanging out with friends or family is still done, just in a more relaxing way.
9. It’s okay to say no. Now this one might not seem as hard, but it can be. Many times, while starting a business, you will see many distractions that come to your partner. Why this happens I’m not sure. As the partner, sometimes it becomes your job to point out the distractions and say no. That may be to a side job, a vacation, an outing with family, or a simple night out. Kat is always trying to make me happy, and sometimes to her that means putting her business aside for a splurge. No matter how much you might want a vacation or some new shoes or make-up don’t ever let yourself become their distraction. Say no, because in the long run it will make all the difference!
10. Before you know it, you’re the administrative personnel for the business. One day Kat & I were talking about her business, what she eventually wants it to be and how she’s going to get there. With my love for organizing and spreadsheets and emails I realized that I would love working with Kat on her business. While it might be a while until I fully leave my job to commit fully to her business, the idea of us working together has a really nice ring to it. As a partner, you realize that you know everything about the business, how it started, the struggles and the achievements. Suddenly it’s also become your baby. You want to see it succeed and you will do anything to make sure it does. For me, it was in the form of taking on the administrative duties, that doesn’t necessarily need to happen for everyone. You’ll soon find out how you fit into your partner’s business, it could just be as their number one supporter, and how much you contribute to it in your own way.
What I’ve learned from all this is that, even as partner, you walk right along side the entrepreneur on their journey to begin a business. You are not alone, and most importantly, your partner isn’t alone either.