Building a transformative company requires heroics from many people. Taking an idea to greatness requires extreme--Herculean--efforts.

We all know that  starting a company isn't for the faint of heart. If you want to do something game-changing, grow 1,000 times bigger, transform an industry, or change the world, there are likely to be difficult trade-offs.

Sometimes  these tradeoffs will be worth the cost, and other times they won't. I'll never forget how the founders of Grubwithus, one of the companies in my portfolio (now known as GOAT), slept in a car when they were trying to raise seed funding. That said a lot to me about their focus on the company and the sacrifices they were willing to make to ensure it would be successful. 

Of course, not every founder has the freedom to make those kinds of choices and to take those kinds of risks. While building a startup requires many demands and sacrifices, founders must also be mindful of their family situation and take what's best for their loved ones into careful and constant consideration.

A business succeeding at the expense of family is a failure. If you achieve wild success but have lost your spouse and your children, what's the point?

Know what--and who--is most important.

Many years ago I was recruited to be the No. 2 person at a hot startup. The job was supposed to be in the Bay Area, but then the new CEO, a former Microsoft executive, wanted to relocate the business to Seattle.

My wife had zero interest in leaving Silicon Valley. She didn't want to hold me back though, saying I could commute there and come home on the weekends. "It's a startup," I said. "There are no weekends." I politely declined the job and went to a company that was in a different phase and allowed me to be with my family.

A business can never succeed without the support and understanding of a founder's loved ones. At the start of founding a company, founders should ensure that their partners are fully aware and bought into the challenge. As always, communication with your loved ones is key. There are certain times, an IPO road show for example, where balance will become even more out of whack and it's best to highlight what will happen in advance.

Use this method to choose between work and family.

Choosing between work and family demands can ignite hard decisions, but there are right decisions to be made and you can figure out this balancing act. Sometimes it's painfully obvious.

When my daughter was a baby she contracted e.coli and was gravely ill. She was in intensive care for eight weeks and we weren't sure she was going to make it. My wife Irene took a leave of absence from work. I worked part-time.

Other times, you need a framework to help you with the day-to-day conundrums. Brad Smith, the CEO of Intuit, articulated this dilemma very well when he spoke at one of our Webb Investment Network Summits. He described two categories of moments in life: "rubber ball moments" and "crystal ball moments."

If you drop a rubber ball moment, it'll bounce and come back. With a crystal ball moment, if you let it drop, it'll shatter and they never come back. "Our key in life is to make sure we know which is which," he said.

He offered examples in his own life with his two daughters. One was a dancer who had 15 dance recitals a year. She wanted him at every one, but he couldn't deliver on that. "I knew if I let one dance recital drop it would bounce and next week I'd be at another one," he said. "She would be hurt, but it wouldn't be forever."

A high school graduation, by contrast, would be a crystal ball moment. It only happens once. "I never ever prioritize work over a crystal moment, but I have to make tradeoffs at times when it's rubber. I'm very very clear about which those moments are," Smith explained.

Technology has made many of the daily choices both easier and harder. In a world that's connected 24/7, in which we check email after dinner (and sometimes during dinner), and we can work from home when the kids are off from school, there's no longer such a thing as on-hours and off-hours. Our work and personal lives often collide.

The best way to make it all work is not to silo off these distinct parts, but to weave them together into a custom tapestry. If you do that, and if you are truly doing what you love, it trumps the desire for balance and it achieves something better--synchronicity.

Published on: Jan 23, 2018
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