Monday, April 14, 2014

For Better or For Work: A Survival Guide for Entrepreneurs and Their Families

Rob Walling's wife, Sherry, gave a talk at MicroConf Europe last year, about various personal and family related aspects of business and entrepreneurship.  In some ways, that was the talk that stuck with me the most from the conference: I can always read technical advice on the internet about various aspects of running a business, but the personal aspect of a bootstrapped business - or any business, really, is extremely important, and the window into the Wallings' lives as he has grown his businesses was very interesting.  From the outside, it's pretty easy to see that he's been successful, but she talked about some problems they've had along the way. I think that resonated with many of us in the audience who have families.

I finally got around to reading this book, which is one she highly recommended.   I too would pass on the recommendation, as the book had many interesting points of view.  The author, the wife of a successful entrepreneur, not only includes some of her own anecdotes, but has included a wide array of stories and people from all kinds of businesses.  This is important, as there are no two stories exactly alike, so what works for some does not work for others, and it's important to be cognizant of the differences.  I also appreciate about the book that there are not always nice, neat answers even in good, happy relationships.

Here are a few quotes that I highlighted:

There may be no faster route to upsetting your spouse than behaving as though your time is more valuable than his—even if from a revenue standpoint that happens to be true
Extremely important to remember!  You can't always think in monetary terms, because money is a good way to value things in a market economy, it doesn't always capture what something is worth.
By refusing to spend the family’s money on the company, the spouse telegraphs her belief that the entrepreneur is pursuing a lost cause—and, by extension, that she has no faith in him.
This is the other side of the above comment.  To me this issue of trust and faith is pretty important: I'm not a born entrepreneur, so I am not entirely confident in my own abilities.  I haven't spent our money on my business project, but I do invest time.  I don't know how it'll turn out, and have some of my own doubts.  When the person you love most voices strong doubts, that can really cut you down.

Home-based businesses are a big tease. They dangle the entrepreneur before his loving family (Dad’s home!) and then immediately snatch him away (Dad’s locked his door!).
I've given up on getting much work done at home while my children are small.  it's just too difficult to push them away.  It's important to have a space where you can just concentrate, without seeing the disappointment on their faces when daddy says "no".

I feel strongly that experiences—the kind that forge memories or expand horizons or provide fleeting epiphanies—should not be postponed, no matter how demanding the company. ... But when families discuss what to sacrifice due to limitations on time and/or money, I think vacations should be off the table.
As I age, I've come to think about things in terms of what I'll remember in 10 years.  It won't be the small things, but the great experiences that we've had together as a family.

There are lots of discussion points, things to talk about and consider together.

In conclusion - for me a successful business would represent economic freedom for myself and my family, but it's a journey we share, and not one I'm willing or able to make alone.  Out of lots of business books with bits of trite advice, this one really stands out in that it discusses what really matters most.

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