Starting a business and starting a family are some of the biggest and most exciting challenges a person can take on. Doing these things at the same time is even more challenging, and it can seem almost impossible to handle so many responsibilities at once. I know because I've been in this situation myself.
Back in 2008, I moved from Philadelphia to Jacksonville to start a new position, IT manager, at Johnson & Johnson. Simultaneously, while still working full time at Johnson & Johnson, I completed my MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, started my first company, SiteLock, and experienced the birth of my first child - all in a single month.
It was an incredibly exciting and amazing time in my life, but there were moments when I felt overwhelmed by all of these responsibilities. Eventually, I discovered effective strategies to help me manage a growing business and family. While these may not work for everyone, I offer a few tips from my experience starting a business and a family at the same time for those considering similar endeavors.
Here are a few tips for those who are starting a business and a family at the same time.
1. Find a schedule that works for you and try to stick to it.
When you're starting a business, an eight-hour workday just isn't enough to accomplish everything. But when juggling a family, a full-time job, and a new business, you have to be even more efficient and realistic about your time. Setting expectations and sticking to a structured and routine schedule can help you make sure you have enough time for everything.
In my case, I worked on launching SiteLock early in the morning and on the weekends, worked at my full-time job from 7 am to 5 pm, and then was home in the evening to be with my family. While definitely not a light load, this schedule allowed me to develop my business while holding down a full-time job and spending quality time with my family.
2. Identify creative ways to manage your time efficiently, but be realistic.
Manage your time efficiently and use technology to help you get more done. For me, this took the form of using commute time to schedule calls or connect with out-of-town family members or colleagues. This allows you to spend quality time at home, undistracted by those lingering issues at the start or end of each day. Of course, it doesn't always work out, and at some points you will end up stretched thin.
At these times, especially, you need to be realistic with yourself - a lesson I learned the hard way when I fell asleep while driving. Luckily for me, I was driving slowly at the time and just bumped the curb. Still, this was a literal wake-up call for me to make sure I was not over-extending myself. After all, when you're exhausted (or worse), you're little use to anyone.
3. Find a mentor who's been in your shoes.
I firmly believe that every new business owner should have a mentor to guide them, ideally someone who started their own successful business. Since they were in the same position as you are now, they have the hindsight you're missing. This is incredibly valuable when you're starting a business and are still navigating all the challenges that go along with being a new business owner.
A good mentor will be able to share their past mistakes and successes so you can learn from them and will encourage you and help you succeed every step of the way. I was lucky to have great mentors from my previous employer, SiteLock's investors, and many of my classmates who have had successful startups in the past.
4. Have a strong support system at home.
During the incredibly busy time leading up to SiteLock's launch, I really appreciated how having a strong support system at home. I found that this was even more important than having a mentor and colleagues to support you at work. I'm fortunate to have my wife, Katie, as the kind of leader in our home that I aspire to be in the business at SiteLock. While I am frequently working long hours or traveling, she is making sure our children are developing into great people and are having every need anticipated and met each day.
While everyone's family situation is different, having the right system in place to ensure that you can focus on growing your business while you are at work will help you generate the best possible results.
5. Practice what you preach.
If you're a business owner, it's crucial to look out for your employees and do whatever you can to promote their well-being. This includes establishing a workplace that is supportive of working parents and offers more flexible schedules to help them balance family obligations with job responsibilities.
Taking this step is one of the most important ways you can support other parents who are trying to navigate working, start a business, and raise a family at the same time.
Having a baby, completing my MBA program, starting a new job, and starting a business--all in a single month--was hands down the busiest time of my life. If you're going through a similar busy time--keep going. With the right combination of support, dedication, passion, and yes, some sleepless nights, you can get through, and even thrive in, life's most hectic moments.