Don't Try to Succeed at Your Startup by Failing at Home
Being an entrepreneur is in my blood, and that calling can be an incredible emotional drain, both at home and the office. Unfortunately for serial entrepreneurs, each startup is just as much of a grind as the first and it doesn’t get any easier at home. Finding a balance is an eternal struggle for every entrepreneur.
The best advice I can give to veterans and novices alike is not to be afraid to fail. Even the smartest guys can fail. Even you can fail. In fact, you probably will -- both at the office and at home.
Whether you own a jet or drive a Ford, startup growing pains will take a toll on your home life. I have yet to meet a true entrepreneur who could shut off at night. Entrepreneurs work every waking hour. Even the bedroom isn’t sacred anymore with laptops playing third wheel. Children suffer, too: "Not now, Daddy has to take a call." "Mommy needs to finish an email."
The problem is that your family doesn’t always get to experience the highs that come with being an entrepreneur. They only feel the risk, living with an emotionally consumed and unavailable family member. Sorry, folks, but I have no magic advice here other than communicating and working -- on your relationships.
More often than you’d like, you may be faced with having to choose between a relationship and a venture. I learned the hard way: Business demands are not an excuse, a “get of jail free card,” or something a spouse should just tolerate. Relationships are two-way and you must find the time and force yourself to put energy into your relationships (just as you would for a business) if you want it to thrive.
If you have kids, find the time whenever you can to go to games, practices or school events. Take advantage of the flexibility afforded by being an entrepreneur. Leave early one day. Work late the next. If you have little ones, be sure you’re home for dinner and bath time. You can always fire up the laptop after they’re in bed. And you could use that self-imposed break.
Have a schedule with your spouse to share the parenting responsibilities. Work together to lean on each other so that you make the time to be present. Switch off days for bedtime-story duty. If you’re a morning person, get the kids dressed and ready for school. Be actively involved.
However you decide to do it, figure out how you can make a meaningful contribution at home. You can always find parts of the daily routine to become involved with, regardless of how minor. Your family will remember the engagement not the signifcance of the act. Always remember that you never will get the time back and no business is more important than parenthood or personal partnerships.
Lastly, be physically present and also mentally present. Engage and invest mentally and emotionally. You don’t get points just for showing up. It’s a wasted effort if your mind is focused on a presentation or mentally checking off a to-do list. Don’t show up late, only to stay on your iPhone and leave early. Just like in business, you can’t fake it. Simply being there doesn’t make a family or a business grow.
Sometimes trying to find balance will be nothing short of the hardest challenge you will face, and the attempt will feel like failure. You will miss important quality time with your kids and skip important meetings or opportunities for a much needed date night. That’s just life. In my experience, though, if you keep working at it, you will win some and lose others. But overall the continued effort will pay off and you’ll be able to look back without regrets.
Never give up on trying to balance. You will fail, but learn to adapt and listen to what your family and business need. And remember, in the overall scheme of life, do not forget to take time to recharge and evaluate why you're doing what you’re doing. It may mean acknowleging a few failures, but ultimately you’ll come out a success.
Ron Burr is a technology executive and Internet entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. He founded NetZero, helping it become one of the world’s largest Internet service providers. He is the holder of eight Internet technology patents in online advertising and market research.