Start-ups are hard on founders but they're also really, really hard on the significant others of founders.
This reality, while always true, is having a bit of a high publicity moment right now with the publication of VC Brad Feld's new book Startup Life, co-authored with his wife Amy, about surviving start-up life with your relationship intact. Feld's forthrightness on the subject seems to have inspired other high-profile members of the start-up community to weigh in, including fellow VC and former entrepreneur Mark Suster.
Suster recently took to his blog to offer lessons he learned through hard experience as a founder for others trying to balance starting a company and keeping a marriage together. But he isn't the only one with advice to share. Apparently his wife Tania, herself an accomplished professional, has some tips as well, penning her own how-to guide on the subject, which Suster affectionately republished.
The post is packed with a dozen solid tips and is absolutely worth a read in full if your better half is starting a business (founders feel free to forward to your partner). Here are a couple of the best:
Get electronic access to his calendar. Mark granted me read/write access to his calendaring system. I don’t call when I see he is in a board meeting or meeting important investors. I found that often the reason I need to speak to him was to figure out social plans, travel schedule or to block stuff out when he has important kid-duty stuff. I use the calendar for scheduling so I don’t have to bug him about when he is free. We have a deal that in exchange for not bugging him about scheduling I’m free to make important plans around his calendar.
Respect and develop a positive working relationship with his co-workers. Often the spouse ends up getting involved in assisting with admin like whether or not expenses were filed, sending in credit card statements and the like. So having a direct connect to the finance manager is important. You can just cut out the middle man! Inevitably work stories and team frustrations find their way back home so having an appreciation for the people in the office can make you a better listener.
Pick your battle times. Say “we don’t need to discuss this now, but we need to schedule time to discuss X as its really important.” That way you aren’t hitting him up on an important topic when he might be stressed out about company layoffs, fund raising or some other major stress at work. He can then find a calm time for a heavy conversation that is planned in advance.
Respect his need for down time. If he loves mountain biking or poker night – or in Mark’s case obscure foreign films about blind Iranian shepherds – then make sure your over-stressed partner gets to do something that truly relaxes him once a week. If your spouse or partner is anything like Mark, he will inevitably try to over-plan his time off. Help encourage him not to. Downtime is critical to de-stressing.
Interested in more details on these ideas or the other eight tips? Then check out the complete post.
What's your top tip for keeping your relationship healthy while growing a business?