You know that the financial and emotional roller coaster of starting up is rough on you, but have you really thought about what it's like for your spouse?
In a recent Kauffman Founders School video my Inc.com colleague Meg Cadoux Hirschberg (who has been married to an entrepreneur for 30 years) offers an analogy for what the entrepreneurship experience is probably like for your better half.
“Once while my husband and I were driving down U.S. 1 in California we realized that the experience was a great analogy for the difference in how the entrepreneur and the spouse experience a startup,” she says. “Because the driver, who was him, is actually in control of the vehicle and therefore they don’t really experience all the twists and turns because they can prepare for them. Where the passenger is the person who’s getting jostled and thrown about and therefore they are the ones who can start to feel sick.”
There are several ways to respond to this reality. Some couples aim for full disclosure, reasoning more information means less stress. Others feel ignorance can be bliss and opt to have the entrepreneurial member of the pair spare his or her spouse all the grisly details of the startup journey. The Hirschbergs first chose the latter approach but found it didn't work for them. Instead, in the video, Meg Hirschberg suggests sharing at least some of your business' basics with your partner using these three principles.
1. Choose your moment
The time to reveal your plummeting bank balance to your better half isn't the moment they walk in the door from a terrible day at work or right as they're about to peacefully drift off for the night. “You want to set a time when the two of you can sit down together, maybe 30 minutes a week if you can, to review what happened that week and things that may have changed in the business. And it becomes a time when your spouse will feel free to air some of his or her concerns or questions," Hirschberg recommends.
2. Have a plan B
Entrepreneurs might need to be wildly (probably irrationally) optimistic about the likelihood of their venture succeeding in order to get anywhere, but when it comes to your partner, he or she will probably be happier spending a little time pondering the possibility and practicalities of failure.
Hirschberg says that, for an entrepreneurial couple, figuring out, “what they will do if the business fails, what the entrepreneur will do, how the family may recover financially... can really put the spouse’s mind at ease. Because even if something happens, they know that there’s a pathway that the couple has chosen to take.”
3. Attend board meetings
This one might sound odd — wouldn't it feel weird to have your spouse sitting in, after all? — but Hirschberg insists the practice has worked well in her marriage. Why? “The information that’s given in a board meeting is delivered dispassionately and stripped of emotion. And the spouse can hear it in that context and see how the entrepreneur presents it and deals with the challenges in a very businesslike setting,” she explains.
Looking for more tips to keep your marriage strong despite the stresses of entrepreneurship? The wife of VC Mark Suster has also offered some great advice.
How much information about your business do you share with your partner and how do you share it?