Just Ask Me: Her husband doesn’t support her entrepreneurial aspirations

Here’s my latest “Just Ask Me,” column from The Daily Muse (www.thedailymuse.com)  Here’s the link to the actual column, and here’s the piece in full.

Help! My Husband Doesn’t Support My Business Idea

by  — June 6, 2012 — 2 Comments

Dear Fran,

I have been dreaming of having my own business for years, and in the last few years I’ve come up with an idea for a business in the health and wellness space that I think is a winner. Of course, due to the demands of everyday life (mortgage,student loans, a baby on the way), I’ve been working in a corporate job for almost eight years. But I’m finally ready to take the plunge and at leastbegin to explore my entrepreneurial side. I know it’s not realistic to quit my day job anytime soon, but I realize that if I don’t get my business underway, well, it’s not going to get underway on its own.

Here’s the real issue: My husband of five years is not fully supportive of this idea. He is a very structured person and looks at the house repairs, the cost of a new baby, and any number of practical things as perfectly good reasons for us not to go down the path of owning a business. He always promises that “someday” we can look into it, “someday” we’ll have money to invest in our own business, but that now is just not the right time. I understand that we have things coming up in our life, but if we don’t do something soon, another eight years are going to fly by.

I have no idea how to begin to resolve this conflict—it’s something that neither of us can really understand the other’s perspective on at all. Where do I start?

Eager Entrepreneur

Dear Eager:

I certainly don’t want to discourage you from pursuing your dream, but I must remind you of three statistics that you probably already know. The first is that half of all marriages end in divorce. The second is that the chances of succeeding in a small business are less than 1 in 10. And the third is that you’re about to increase your family by 50%, leading to an increase in demands on your time, budget, and energy of about 500%.

That said, the health and wellness space is growing, and with a great idea, plus very careful thought and planning for your marriage, family, and your business, you might be able to increase the odds of success on all fronts.

The first thing I want you to do is make a date with your husband to begin discussing this. Make it several weeks or a month from now so you both have a chance to prepare, and so you (or maybe both of you) have a chance to read a book called, Not Tonight, Dear, I Have a Business to Run, by Dr. Patty Ann Tublin. (Full disclosure—Patty Ann is a friend of mine, but seriously, her book speaks to the exact issues you’re up against.)

As the wife of a serial entrepreneur, I know firsthand that creating a successful business requires a commitment of time, energy, and effort beyond anything you may imagine. You may find yourself working harder than ever, and your family and relationship may suffer in ways you can’t even conceive now. Consider, for example, how resentful (not to mention tired) you’ll be if you find yourself doing laundry at 3 AM, because you’ve failed to negotiate an even distribution of domestic chores. To guard against this, Dr. Patty Ann suggests creating a “family plan” as well as a “business plan.” You might begin by thinking about these questions:

  • Are you so excited about the prospect of having your own business that you’re discounting your husband’s right to resist?
  • Can you create a business plan that starts with relatively less risky steps to help you analyze the market, find your customers, discover their needs and thoughts about your business idea, and then alter your strategy if your customers tell you to do so? Ideally, this will help both you and your husband feel more comfortable about the prospects for success.
  • Are you assuming that he will ever (or never) be willing to make personal, relationship, or lifestyle adjustments to support this?
  • Are you used to discussing openly with him questions related to your relationship, family, and lifestyle?

Next, to get you thinking about the vast array of financial, time, office, lifestyle, personal, relationship, and family issues that will impact both of you, check out Dr. Patty Ann’s “Discovery Exercise One.” Here are a handful of questions to get you started:

  • How much initial capital investment will be required?
  • What is the length of time before you can expect positive cash flow?
  • Can you test the waters while keeping your current job?
  • How stressful for you would this business be? How can you learn to deal with stressbetter?
  • How demanding will the working schedule be?
  • Will you have to sacrifice anything important to your physical, emotional, and spiritual health to succeed in this business?
  • How does this business support your short- and long-term goals as a couple?
  • How could this business improve, solidify, or sustain your relationship?
  • How could this business jeopardize or deteriorate your relationship?
  • How might this business interfere with caring for your children, or other family members’ daily needs?

As you begin to discuss this with your husband, remember that in every aspect of marriage, communication skills are key. Never assume you know how your husband is thinking about an issue until you ask him, just as he should never assume anything about what you’re thinking.

Once you begin really talking and planning, you may find, for example, that while he has understandable anxiety, underneath he’s actually quite interested and supportive. He may become more interested if you can somehow integrate him, perhaps by soliciting his ideas, or by considering making him a business partner at some point in the future, when you have some tangible success and can expand. You may find that what he’s worried about is quite different than what you think he’s worried about. And you may be surprised to find that his worries are completely reasonable and should be vetted.

When your date night is over, make another. In fact, make this an ongoing dialogue until both of you feel heard, and until you’ve given him (and allowed yourself) time and space to fully air your concerns and risks inherent in this kind of undertaking.

I’m certain that this sort of heart-to-heart will help you begin to convert the “someday” he refers to into something more tangible. And here’s one possible first step (that adheres to modern entrepreneurial strategy): Create a survey you can distribute to potential customers to help you analyze the feasibility of the business. This will help both of you feel more confident as you begin to take the steps that risk more.

I can’t tell you what to do if your husband simply refuses to discuss this or can’t keep an open mind. I can, however, warn you that resentment in a marriage is poison, and that if this is truly your dream and your husband stonewalls it, resentment is bound to rear its ugly head.

I wish you the very best of luck in your business and your marriage. Don’t forget to sleep! How exciting!

Fran

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