I’ve been involved in three start-ups, the most notable being SellerDeck (then called Actinic Software). When I joined, I remember my wife and I being delighted at the best benefit of my new role – it was local and therefore seemed to offer more opportunities for spending time with my family.
Well, that was the theory, anyway. Of course, as anyone who has been involved in a start-up will tell you, the reason why it’s good to keep your work premises local is because if you don’t, you won’t have any life outside work at all. Start-ups consume everything – your time, money, enthusiasm and, if you aren’t careful, your family’s hopes and dreams as well.
Thankfully, we all survived to tell the tale, so here (along with a big helping of humility) are my five top tips for creating a business and growing a family at the same time.
It is widely acknowledged that the enemy of marital and family harmony is stress, especially on the money front. Unfortunately, pressure (and financial pressure in particular) is one of the guaranteed by-products of commercial activity. It’s vital to face up to this before things kick off and to identify what is really important.
I wanted the thrill and challenge of growing a business, but not at the cost of losing my family. I was fortunate to work with, and for, people who shared that value, and as a mum- (or dad-) preneur I’d recommend you do the same once you take on staff.
When you are thinking of building a business, do something you enjoy. Be careful, though, nothing undermines commercial judgment quite like a sense of destiny. Just because you have invested emotionally in some product or activity, it’s not a given that others will want to buy it.
Family life and business life both generate endless task lists. It doesn’t matter if you are a single- or two-parent family, with, or without kids, you will need to be well organised. In business there are some things you have to do on time or you can end up with penalty or even a criminal record (such as messing up your VAT returns and forgetting to file solvency statements) and there are family duties (such as attending a child’s birthday party or visiting a sick relative) that left unattended, you could end up regretting when it’s too late.
A stiff upper lip isn’t great for relationships. Perhaps at times it’s right to shield employees and loved ones from issues they don’t really need to be concerned about, however, poor communications lie at the heart of many relationship breakdowns. That’s why it’s wise to share your concerns. Even if your family can’t help, they can at least understand what’s happening. Look for a business mentor to help you stay on track and advise if things get tough.
Try to retain an optimistic outlook. Although you will face numerous challenges to both business and family, Google offers plenty of examples of people who have trodden this path before. Our British culture tells us that failure is a bad thing, but it’s a lie. As long as you learn lessons, you’ll emerge stronger. My advice is to enjoy the good times while they last and remember that when things look bleak – they won’t stay that way.
Blog by Phil Rothwell of ecommerce software specialist SellerDeck.