By Tim Mittan
In The Pocket Business Coach: Creating and Enjoying an Entrepreneurial Life, much of what I talk about is how entrepreneurs deal with starting and growing a business all while trying to balance a personal life that often includes a spouse and a family. There are obligation that need to be met by the entrepreneur that are not just financial. They must also remember to be a good husband or wife as well as father or mother all while venturing into this fun world of launching a business.
I joke that 90% of what I do is marriage counseling. Fortunately or unfortunately that has been the trend with most of the clients I have seen over the years. When someone wants to start their own business they usually do not think about how it will impact their life at home. They usually only look at the financial side of the launch, and forget about the personal side. This trend follows along every type of household and family; culture, race, or sexual orientation does not matter. What I learned is that communication is key. Entrepreneurs sometimes get so caught up in everything they are doing in their business that they forget to tell their spouse or partner what is going on. That is never a good thing.
In a chapter titled “Family Matters,” I write about some of the issues business owner or potential business owner face at home with spouses. In one such instance, my client decided he did not want to face his wife and wanted me to do it for him. He just failed to let me know that I was the one that was going to break the news to his wife. Here is his story…
I was scheduled to meet with a client who needed some basic information about starting a business. I figured he would want to know about obtaining a tax ID number, business planning, hiring employees, finding funding, or challenges like that. I was not prepared for the questions that were really plaguing him. When he told me he was scared to talk to his wife about his plans, my reaction was to avoid the personal questions, to tell him that he should be able to figure that out for himself. But when I looked into his eyes, I could tell he needed an honest answer. From that point forward I have always tried my best to answer any and all questions that come my way except for ones that I am not qualified for.
This particular young entrepreneur came to talk to me about opening a gym. It was to be an athletic venue where patrons could do rappelling and Olympic-style training. He wanted to open it in the area of town where he and his family lived because he knew there was no such facility there. He loved that type of physical training and had managed a similar company earlier in his career prior to getting married and moving away for school. After he asked a few questions on how to open that type of business, and my thoughts on the best locations, he asked out of the blue, "How do I tell my wife what I want to do? She doesn't understand me. She believes I need to be working full time, but I really want to have my own business. I don't even know how to bring it up to her." I was speechless. I had no answer for him because I was only looking to provide business advice on his new venture. I ended up giving him some non-committal remark about spouses being generally supportive, making sure he explained his plans carefully and thoroughly, and to tell her about the potential. With that information she should get on board with the idea.
I thought that would be the end of that conversation. However, about two weeks after the initial meeting I received a phone call from him asking if he could come in and see me again with more questions. This time when he came in he brought his wife. I assumed she was there to learn more about what he was doing. Instead, I quickly found out he wanted me to explain to her what he was doing and why it would be beneficial to them as a couple in the long run, and how he could go about it with my help and become a success. This was the first she was hearing of these plans. She was caught off guard and so was I. I found myself in a position I really didn't want to be in because I could tell immediately from the look in her eyes how upset she was at her husband and at me. I had not done anything that I knew of except support him, but I had also given him encouragement to go forward and look at something that could potentially, in her eyes, ruin their world. She had no problem expressing that to me, or telling me how upset she was that he wanted to ruin their world. I looked at him to see if I could find an easy way out, but he had this pleading look on his face for me to make it better. I tried to do just that.
I encouraged her to look at the venture from her husband’s standpoint and how happy opening and running this type of business would make him. I asked her if she was confident that her husband had the ability to train people. She knew that he was good at that because he was doing it at his current job. Her main concern was not knowing how he was going to be able to start his own business in a town where they knew few people and make a success of it. They wanted a family, and she needed and wanted security. I started asking her a series of questions: What were her fears? Why did she not think that it would be successful? How did she see herself playing a role in the business? Then I went on to talk about financial rewards that can happen when a business succeeds. I also emphasized the freedom in his schedule that he would have once he was able to hire an additional trainer. I pointed out that he wouldn't be working as much on the weekends, which would give them more time together in the long run. I did state that it would be a struggle at first, but if she helped it would not seem so bad. I asked if she was working and had benefits. She was and did have benefits, but was not bringing in nearly as much as he was, and it would be a burden on the family if he just quit his job.
After an hour of talking, he was happy that everything was out on the table; she was a little less annoyed with the whole thing, but I could tell that she was not a happy person and she did not really want to be a part of it. Unfortunately, I don’t always learn the outcome of my work with clients, and this was one of those cases. I do know that the business did not start, at least not where he said it was going to.
From that point on my style or questioning during coaching changed in the initial session. I now always ask if they have someone to consider at home. If so, I want to know if they have talked to them about what they want to do. With the answers to these questions, we can then start an open conversation about their entrepreneurial venture and how to involve their spouse, partner, boyfriend or girlfriend.
To read more of The Pocket Business Coach you can order a copy from Kendall Hunt Publishing or Amazon.com.
I would like to invite you all to come hang out with me at the 2014 NACCE Conference in Phoenix. I will be hosting a book signing at 4:00 PM on Monday. Have a cocktail and come say Hello! If you do not get a chance to buy your copy in advance I will have plenty on hand for you to purchase there. I also invite you to read more twitter and blog posts at www.mainfocuspro.com. You can contact me through my website or at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you all in Phoenix!