For Better or . . .
Which is more challenging--marriage or business ownership? We asked two successful women entrepreneurs to discuss moments when marriage and business conflict and how they deal with it.
"[My husband] is very supportive," says Azadeh Farahmand, 44, CEO and president of Global HealthNet , a Dallas company providing online electronic transaction solutions for the health-care industry, with revenues approaching $2 million. But Farahmand knows when her husband, Steve, is uncomfortable with how their busy schedules affect their child. "He begins to highlight or magnify certain issues with raising our 5-year-old daughter, or he may negate me in conversations in front of our family and friends." Farahmand admits, "Our marriage has become a laundry list of policies and procedures, an institution that needs a CEO."
"This is typical," says Azriela Jaffe, the author of the book Permission to Prosper: What Working Wives Crave From Their Husbands and How to Get It! (Prima Publishing). "Notice Farahmand first describes her husband as supportive and complimentary but then expresses concerns over his lack of supportive behavior at times." What's important, Jaffe says, is that Farahmand's overall feeling from her husband is one of support. "Too many wives blow occasional friction out of proportion, telling themselves and others: 'My husband is so unsupportive!' Farahmand is smart enough to know that those sporadic moments of negativity signal that her husband needs something from her."
Sandy Lish can relate. At 38, she has her hands full running her company, The Castle Group Inc. , a $2 million Boston events management and public relations firm, as well as being a wife and raising two children under age 4. While her husband, Dave, is extremely supportive, she admits: "He really seems to be out of sorts when I come home later than planned. There's a certain tone when he replies, 'OK,' when I call to let him know I'm staying late."
Because Lish's husband gets home before she does, she acknowledges it must be irritating for him when dinnertime constantly changes. "Getting everyone fed, read to and bathed can be hectic," she says, but adds that, when she stays late at work, it's for something important. She admits to feelings of guilt and frustration when coming home late: "I've begun calling when I'm closer to home rather than earlier, since the estimated time of departure is prone to change. That way, there's less disappointment on his end and less guilt on mine."
"It's great Lish can intuit when 'OK' isn't really OK," says Jaffe. "That shows she's still attuned to her husband's needs. She needs to learn his lingo and differentiate between him being just disappointed or really angry because she's failed to keep an agreement."
Learning to Compartmentalize
Until recently, Lish says mornings were another tense time. "Over the past couple of months, we've gotten good at working out a system so we can get out the door reasonably [on time]." Their system includes discussing the night before where they have to be when and who will drop off the kids, shower first and so on. To make things easier, Lish takes Fridays off. "Staff and clients know how to reach me, and I check in frequently, but I don't schedule meetings or go in to the office."
Farahmand has learned to compartmentalize her life since becoming a parent. "My husband and I rotate morning and after-school duties," she says. "I turn the switch off from work-related issues when I leave work." Farahmand says a maturity in her marriage helps. "If [Steve] does not agree with me or the other way around, we move on. I don't expect him to stop what he's doing because I disagree with him, nor does he expect the same from me."