How to run a small business AND have a happy marriage

How can you ensure that your marriage thrives while you’re running your small business? Here are four areas you need to focus on for a happy family.

Starting and running a small business takes an enormous amount of energy and resources – and not just from the entrepreneur. If you’re married and/or have children you’re never working on your business in isolation. Every decision you make, and every success or failure you experience affects the people in your life too.

They will also have to make sacrifices while you pursue your business dream, and will be right there next to you on the emotional roller coaster you inevitably ride as an entrepreneur.

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How to run a small business AND have a happy marriage

So how can you protect your family while you follow your dreams? How can you ensure that your marriage thrives and your children are happy, whatever the fate of your business? Here are four areas you need to focus on for a happy marriage and family.

1) Time management

Running a small business involves wearing many hats and a LOT of thought, time and energy, especially in the early months when money is short and you’re on a huge learning curve.

And during this period you’re not always the perfect partner in a relationship – especially if you have a young family. You may rely on your partner more often for childcare, spend your evenings and weekends catching up on work, and miss family time.

Even when you’re physically ‘there’ you’re often somewhere else in your head, trying to work out solutions for business problems, or come up with new products or strategies.

As you can imagine, it can be lonely and frustrating being in a relationship with an entrepreneur. So what can you do to ensure that your marriage doesn’t fail as your business goes from strength to strength? Two important words can help: time management.

Creating firm boundaries over the two important halves of your life (work and family) – and respecting them – is the cornerstone to ‘having it all’ as an entrepreneur. It allows you to devote your all to both, without the stress of trying to keep everyone happy at once.

It’s also imperative that you know how to work smartly in the time you have devoted to your business. You need to make every second count, and avoid wasting time in cul-de-sacs on the road to business success. For this, you need a process to follow and trusted time management tools (both of which you’ll find in our year-long course Kickstart).

And finally, when planning your time, make sure you prioritise your partner and family too. Plan days out as a family and date nights with your partner. Also ensure that they have time on their own to pursue their own interests too. By making sure everyone’s needs are met, you can help to avoid resentment and still enjoy your relationships while building your business.

2) Financial management

It can tough enough balancing the needs of a family and a business when time are good. But add the strain of cash-flow problems into the mix and things can start to get ugly.

It’s hard to leave work problems at work (especially if you’re running a business from home), and the resentment and frustration of not seeing the income you wanted for your business (or worse, not being able to pay your debtors) can easy leak into your home life and marriage.

And what if your family relies on an income from your business? Or has to make sacrifices while you pursue your business dream? Or worse, invested their own money in your venture? What about their resentment at having to go without while you take the risk of starting your business?

According to Small Business Trends:

  • 69% of small businesses started as a home business.
  • 82% businesses failed because of cash flow problems.
  • 80% of funds to start a business came from the owner, family, or friends.

So what can you do? Firstly, it’s important that everyone is onboard with your dream of starting your business, and realistic about the sacrifices they’re making. It can also help to agree a timeframe – for example giving your business a certain number of months to prove itself (with a clear understanding of how ‘success’ is measured).

Secondly, make sure you plan your business carefully from the outset, and have a proper cash-flow strategy. This will help to minimise risk and ensure you’re more realistic about your venture. You can also involve your partner in this process, so they feel part of what you’re planning and understand what you hope to achieve (and how long it will take to get there).

3) Parenting

Is running your business still leaving you enough time to be the parent you want to be? Or is your partner or extended family often picking up the slack for you?

One of the key reasons many women start businesses from home is because their career no longer gives them enough freedom or flexibility, and they’re looking for a way to get paid well for doing something they love and be there for their children.

But if your business eats into your life to the extent that you’re often stressed and absent, then something’s gone wrong along the way.

If this sounds familiar, what changes can you make? Can you (using the boundaries strategy mentioned earlier) set aside particular days or times for work, and others for family? Then plan your life around it? Some examples may be:

  • Working three days a week and taking two off for family, with childcare organised for the days you work.
  • Working during school hours only, and having a strict ‘phone off’ policy until your children are in bed.
  • Agreeing with your partner that you’ll work a few agreed hours at the weekend, and then do something as a family.

When you do spend time with your family, make it count. Ask each member to write a list of the things they’d love to do, then pick one to do each time you have a family day.

4) Support

You may be running a business on your own, but you’ll go further, faster (and be happier) with a well-planned support system cheering you on.

This support system can incorporate many strands, including:

  • Professional – join online and face-to-face business networks (like our brilliant free Facebook group), get a business coach or mentor, or join a business incubator or course.
  • Practical – your support system will also need to include help like childcare, school, cleaners and any other support that frees you up to work on your business.
  • Emergency – as well as planned support, make sure you have emergency back up planned, for example if a meeting runs over and you can’t make nursery or school pick up.
  • Emotional – make sure everyone in your life, including family, friends and your partner understand what your business means to you, and are there for emotional as well as practical support.
  • Parenting – your partner may also need to take on more of the parenting responsibilities in your relationship for a time, so ensure they’re on board with this.

Allow both your business AND your marriage to thrive

With the right support system in place you’ll be able to devote yourself to working on your business during work hours – and be less stressed and more available for your family when you’re spending time with them.

You’ll also, importantly, have more emotional energy left for your relationship, and can ensure that too thrives and sustains you both while your business goes from strength to strength – and that you can both share in the rewards of your business when they come.

Sylvia Smith is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples. She has helped countless individuals and organisations around the world, offering effective and efficient solutions for healthy and successful relationships.

Her mission is to provide inspiration, support and empowerment to everyone on their journey to a great marriage. She is a featured writer for Marriage.com, a reliable resource to support healthy happy marriages.

Photo by Annie Spratt