February 7, 2012

Who Is The Boss: Spouse Or Your Business?

People feel that marriage and entrepreneurship are poles apart; but that is not true. During the initial years, a startup is like a toddler and would require 24x7 care. You will be totally immersed with gruesome work pressure that you would not get time for your family. Once you decide to start your own business, you will not have time for your spouse and family, due to the long working hours, you would have to bring the work home, you might miss out on the growing years of your kids, and so on.  “A venture is like a baby and once you decide to start a business, you cannot think of anything else. But family support is very important,” says Kanchan Yadav, Co-Founder and Director, GENPRO Technologies.

There is no point building a successful company if you have no family to share the success with. A successful company is not a replacement for a happy personal life. Imagine going to a family function alone with all the relatives enquiring about your spouse, and while you are juggling their questions with plausible answers, your spouse is busy preparing a business plan or attending a meeting with important clients. This is the condition most of the spouses of entrepreneurs go through. Not only is it frustrating, it takes the charm out of the whole point in getting married. Your family is no less important than your company, as it is your family which takes care of you when you are sick, not the company.

Generally the best time to start a venture is when you are straight out of the college; you don’t have any responsibilities for few years, and even if you don’t earn for some time it would be fine. But, once you are married you have an additional responsibility to take care of. “It depends on whether the spouse is also working. Every business has its ups and down, and if one person is salaried, it would act as a cushion for you till your venture becomes profitable. But like the two sides of a coin, it has its flip sides too. A working spouse would be used to working within specific times, would have limited responsibilities and might not be able to understand the pressure, the stress, the problems the entrepreneur is going through,” adds Kanchan.

But it would not entirely be a smooth sail without the support of your spouse and family. “To become a successful entrepreneur, you have to be a smart planner who plans the timing, both for family and work. If you do this perfectly, then no doubt you will be successful entrepreneur shortly. Your spouse and family will support you when you are undergoing work pressure, thus making you a great entrepreneur,” says Subrat Parida, CEO & Founder, Wallsys Info.

Once you are married, you should have a set of rules that you should never break; like not bringing the work home. You can look at things that can be cut short; like there is no point having a five to six hour long meeting, and not being able to come to a conclusion. Try to keep the meetings short, crisp, and to the point. Try to cut down on the travel and try video conference. If it is a travel that you just can’t avoid, then see if you can take your family along; atleast you can spend the travel time with them, and after the meeting is done, you can take a few days off and devote your full time to your family. “Once you are married you have someone to share your problems with. You can discuss the happenings openly with your partner,” says Baranikumar S, Founder & CEO, Mobiwhiz Technologies.

You are lucky if your spouse shares the same vision and even more, if he or she is the co-founder of the company.  There are many companies which have been founded by married couples: Cisco Systems was founded by Len Bosack and Sandy Lerner; VMware was founded by Diane Greene and Mendel Rodenblum, Bebo was founded by Michael and Xochi Birch; Campfire labs which is co-founded by Naveen Koorkula and Sakina Arsiwala; babyoye.com which is co-founded by Sanjay Nadkarni and Arunima Singhdeo; and many others

Your spouse should be understanding enough to see the entrepreneurial fire in your eyes. “I got married while I was working, but I took the decision to quit my job and start Mobiwhiz. I try to keep a distance between work and home. I am very particular on never to bring the office work to home and try to take out time for my family,” adds Baranikumar.

So does the marital status make a difference especially for women entrepreneurs while approaching investors? “Not really. I don’t see any gender issue with most professional funds. The business and revenue models and the entrepreneur’s passion is what really counts. Of course the funds want to know your long term game plan and the fact that you will stick on to the venture for atleast five to seven years. To a women entrepreneur, the investors might ask a few questions on the long term plans, family dynamics, which I believe are fully justified,” says Nidhi Saxena, President & CEO, Karmic Lifesciences.

Thus, being an entrepreneur has its own set of problems, but if your spouse and your family is supportive, they will stick with you come rain or draught. Though you would be occupied with a lot of work, it is important that you take out time for your spouse and make sure that the entrepreneurial status does not take a toll on your family life.

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