It took me a long time to realize that my dad was a successful entrepreneur.
My dad started a modest vacuum and sewing machine repair shop late in his life, after retiring from a long and successful corporate job. The business kept him busy for years, and for most of that early time, I used to shudder at the thought of taking over the “family business," mostly because regardless of how hard he worked, it was clear the business would never make him rich.
Later in my career, I came to appreciate the fact that while his business was not putting us in the company of the Walton heirs, it did pay the bills and, more important, allowed him plenty of time to spend with his family, which included being home for dinner every night and going to each of our brain-numbing little league games.
When I speak with entrepreneurs these days, a major challenge for those with a spouse and a family is balancing the strenuous life of an entrepreneur with that of a parent. This often comes on the heels of reading a success story of an entrepreneur who has devoted his or her life to their business, working endless hours committed to its success.
While this work ethic is certainly pertinent and applicable to entrepreneurs generally, when it comes to parent entrepreneurs, it might be time to consider new goals and priorities. Here are a few tips for balancing entrepreneurship with parenthood for my fellow “mommapreneurs” and “pappapreneurs.” If nothing else, I hope my personal experiences serve as validation for how you priortize your lives.
1. Consider different priorities.
The struggle to prioritize your time between the abundance of responsibilities and intense challenges of a business with those of a family can be overwhelming. It is easy to default to a position that your family is a "fixture" in your life whose permanence provides flexibility and elasticity with your time, and that your business is the delicate flower that, if not properly cared for, will wither and die.
This is completely backward. Here is the thing, when a business fails, you can always start another or (gasp) get a job, but when you neglect a family, the damage you do is irreversible. Always prioritize your family first, and never feel guilty for it.
2. Learn to delegate.
Most entrepreneurs are extremely individualistic, often needing control and micro-managing their business. With a family, however, you need to be more willing to delegate the daily operational responsibilities that consume most of your day. Doing so not only allows for more time with your family, but also frees you to do the important strategic thinking and planning for your business.
You might also consider bringing on or promoting partners in the business. Equity stakeholders are often more inclined to look out for the business, which again provides more time for you to focus on other priorities. Bringing on a partner should not be taken lightly, and if the prospect sounds intimidating, consider the fact that a talented, reliable and trustworthy business partner could ultimately help the business.
3. Measure success differently.
Instead of looking at your business as the source of your immeasurable wealth, yacht and Tesla Model S, look at your business as the source of your immeasurable time, which can be far more valuable than any material position you could buy. Once you understand and reprioritize your goals, your benchmark for success will be much easier to measure and enjoy.
4. Stop comparing.
Stories abound about entrepreneurs who work tirelessly in their successful ventures. Answering emails until 2 a.m. and sleeping in the office are just a couple of the traits often cited as characteristics of a successful entrepreneur. Indeed, single entrepreneurs have much different priorities, and to a great extent, different energy levels, resources and outlooks.
When you choose to start a family, your license to spend weekends at the office is revoked. This is not such a bad thing – just ask any young entrepreneur who has not seen their own bed in weeks.
5. Nobody is perfect.
A business cannot be the best at everything. It cannot be the lowest price with the highest quality and have the best delivery times and highest availability. Often, the best strategy is to focus on one or two business traits to differentiate itself or concentrate on specific unserved market niches.
It is also not possible to be the best entrepreneur and the best parent, because both require a minimum 24 hours per day (often more) and all of your energy. Instead, be proud of the fact that you are the best of each, given the circumstances you face, and in the end, strive to be a better parent than entrepreneur.
When I started Wild Creations many years ago, I was single and carefree. It was easy for me to jump in a delivery van and drive 13 hours to meet a client or take a week off to attend an important industry trade show.
Now that I have a family, I look for business opportunities that allow me to pursue my entrepreneurial passions while balancing my time between biweekly Little Dragon classes and youth gymnastics. I probably miss out on a number of amazing and lucrative business opportunities from time to time, but in the end, I will always be more proud of my cheap, plastic "Dad of the Year” trophy than any of the business awards that sit upon my shelves.
What tips do you have for balancing family and entrepreneurship? Please share your valuable feedback with others in the comments section below.