I met Matthew nearly 7 years ago, when I was still in the corporate world, and our relationship flourished until I decided to leave my secure career to build my own business dreams.
I can’t tell you how hard things became when I became an entrepreneur.
I went from being a relaxed partner who was home a lot, taking care of the house and putting nice meals on the table…. to a stressed, unavailable, workaholic that didn’t have time to do any housework, regularly burned pizza and couldn’t even make time for my partner.
I’m sure Matt would tell you that he felt like he lost his partner in life but I had a fire in my belly, and I needed to build my dreams.
We argued all the time. He couldn’t understand why I couldn’t do housework and errands whilst I was working from home.
I was crazy stressed all the time, and exhausted, so any time we did spend together wasn’t as fun as it used to be.
I couldn’t see why he didn’t “get me” and understand what I was trying to do and build for US. And boy, didn’t I feel like a bad parent constantly (that’s a whole other post).
He was angry that I wouldn’t spend any time with him in the evenings and that I’d often go to bed on my own after he had gone to sleep.
I remember one particular day, early in my business, when I realised that I was failing at everything but my business. I was trying so hard to be a good Mum / partner / friend to everyone as well as
I broke down and told Matt that I needed help. I couldn’t do the housework anymore. I couldn’t cook anymore. I needed him to take on everything that I used to do.
I was still only just about matching my corporate salary but went from working 40 hours to 80 hours a week.
But he knew that this was the most important part of who I was and who I wanted to become and that I had a huge vision for how our life could be. I needed to have the freedom to become the person I wanted to be and to go ALL IN on my business.
It’s a weird thing to go from a very traditional relationship, to completely opposite non-traditional roles.
But I can’t tell you how hard WE worked to make things work.
Matt learned to cook, and he took on ALL the housework – including the kids homework and laundry. I learned to be all in on my business, and be all in on being a partner and Mum when I wasn’t working. Shutting off was so hard for me when I was running a busy client agency and I actually wanted to work 7 days a week!
We learned to respect each other’s roles – mine as the CEO of our business, he as the CEO of our life.
And we found an amazing way of making it work, even though at times I think we both weren't sure if we'd make it.
We got married 2 1/2 years ago, and our it has been an incredible journey so far.
There is no way I would be who I am, and where I am in business, without having such an incredible husband.
They say “behind every good man / woman is an incredible partner” but he IS NOT behind me. He’s by my side and I couldn't build my business without him.
Sometimes he’s leading me. Sometimes I’m leading the way. But always a team. Marriage can survive entrepreneurship if you’re both willing to make changes.
There were 5 things that we did to make our marriage work better…
1. Share the vision, build your shared dream
If you want to get your loved ones on board with your dream, then you have to get them excited about the possibilities too. Your “business why” is why you do what you do for your customers, and that will keep you working on the right things in building your business. Your “personal why” is your vision for what your business will enable you to achieve in your personal life, and that will keep you moving through the tough chapters. When that personal why is a shared vision with your loved ones you’ll not only have your own strength to draw upon when things get tough, but the support and encouragement of those around you.
As a family we decided on what our vision for our life looked like, and so the decision for me to go “all in” on my business was a joint one.
TIP: Sit your loved ones down and create an inspiration board of how you want your life to look – e.g activities, travel, fun things, big dreams and little moments you can create together. Then you can discuss the importance of you building a business to support those dreams.
2. Redefine the roles
This is probably the hardest part especially if you have very traditional roles like we did! But if you have a shared vision, discussing the need to redefine your roles in your relationship and family should be a little easier to do.
We agreed that I would go all in on the business, and my husband would take on my responsibilities including all the housework, cooking and the majority of my parental duties.
I needed to be “at work” not “working around being a stay at home Mum”. This wasn’t an easy shift, but one we hoped would pay a huge return over time – and it did. By going ALL IN on my business so early on, I was able to make huge shifts forward and this resulted in quick growth and moving through the yucky startup struggles quickly (and paid for extra help to take the load off my husband!)
TIP: Make sure your loved ones know how important their role is / are if they are supporting you in your ventures. You are a TEAM and as such, no one is anymore important than the other and its crucial you make your loved ones feel like they’re part of the success.
3. Identify your support needs
I operate on a launch model for much of the year, meaning that I have intense working periods of 2-3 weeks where I’m running a marketing campaign. This has its advantages (revenue, more time off, getting in the zone!) and its disadvantages (intense work periods, exhaustion, feeling like I live in office).
I made my family well aware of the support I would need during these times to get the best results from each campaign I ran, and they support me with extra help, meals to my office (if things get a little crazy!), and a huge amount of patience and support.
I also identified that my mornings are my most productive time so they are very considerate around those times, making sure I’m not disturbed. We operate a “closed door = no go zone” meaning that if my office door is closed, it means to leave me in peace and quite… but if its open they can come in. Win / win for all of us!
TIP: You cannot build your business on your own, and your loved ones are a big part of your support network so make sure you do ask for the help. They aren’t psychic!
4. Reward and appreciate
It takes time to get to a more comfortable stage in business where you can take more time off, and pay yourself extra salary. For your family, this can often feel tough too – they lose their time with you, and get none of the benefits of the freedom / income you’re working towards.
So when things are going well I make sure I reward my family and show my appreciation.
We have something fun called “launch gifts” – small tokens of my appreciation to my family for their patience and support.
Sometimes its a meal out and sometimes its a small gift, but most of the time its my undivided time and attention.
When I’m at work, I’m at work…. when its family time you can bet i’m not checking my phone, emails, social media or planning out next week’s projects. ALL IN on both. This requires discipline and self-awareness!
TIP: You have to build a high level of discipline when it comes to separating business from personal life. You, and all those around you, will be far happier if your family time is spent not focused on business. Quality over quantity always.
5. Be patient and accept you won’t always get it right
I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog and my tips! You really can have it all if you focus on improving one thing at a time, and for that reason you need to patient.
I think it took us around 18 months to get to the point where we felt like we had the balance right and that we both felt appreciated and valued without having to make too much effort!
There will be arguments along the way, and you aren’t always going to get it right but it will be worth it.
TIP: Have a family business meeting at least every 12 months to share progress with your loved one(s). Making them feel like they’re a constant part of the journey, and all it’s ups and downs, will help keep you on the right path and everyone feels involved.
Finally, I would love to hear from YOU. How you do make it work? Are you having any particular challenges? What was your biggest takeaway from this article?