You might be astonished when you realize that, but as a business owner, the most important member of your support system is not someone you contract or hire. No, it's not your accountant, your lawyer or even your assistant. Yes, they're all very important people to have on your team contributing to your business success - but, your top supporter should be someone much closer to you.
Ready for it? Drumroll please.
Your top supporter is your spouse or partner.
It's not such a stretch, really. After all, this is the person who accommodates you when you have to work late to ensure your business doesn't fall apart. The person who doesn't miss a beat in picking up the kids when you have a long conference call. And yet, if you're not treating your life partner as a cherished and respected member of your team, you only cause yourself (and yes, your partner) misery.
Switch Shoes for a Moment
Just for a second, imagine what it's like to be married to or living with you. Aside from fawning over your good looks and irresistible charm, I'm imagining your partner or spouse can identify with at least a few of the following points:
- Feeling let down when you can't make an event you promised to attend
- Tired of explaining to the kids why you work so much
- Feeling like #2 to your business
- Wondering when the 65-hour work weeks will end
Living with an entrepreneur is no picnic. And yet, we tend to take these people -- the ones we care about the most -- for granted as part of the landscape for our business. If you want to keep your partner from screaming and heading for the hills, treat him or her as if they were your number one customer. Here's how you can keep them happy and ensure success both in your relationship and in your business.
Be Open and Honest. If you are going to miss dinner every night this week, let your partner know up front. It's better than creating expectations you can't deliver on. When you first start your business, it's important to have a long conversation about what both of you expect, so that you can meet somewhere in the middle.
If, for example, he says he's willing to let you work late but insists you're home to put the kids to bed, find a way to make that happen. Maybe you work from home after the wee ones are asleep. Or maybe you both agree that for the first 6 months, you'll have to put a lot of time and energy in the business, but after that, you'll cut back on the hours you put in.
When You're Home, Be 100% Present. This is challenging for us technology-lovin' business owners, but it's essential for a happy relationship. Once you leave the office (even if it's home-based), you take off your CEO hat and put your husband/wife/parent/friend hat on. You'll be tempted to check work email or even sneak a few minutes of work in while you're supposed to be watching The Voice, but resist.
Include Your Partner, Without Being Overwhelming. Your partner cares about your business because you care about it. So share the wins, and even the frustrations. But don't bog him down with the details, or use her to vent about a hard day at work. The most important thing is to realize your partner shouldn't be able to guess what kind of day you've had based on how you treat them.
This is for your own sanity, too. Keeping your personal time and work time clearly delineated will help you return to the office rejuvenated and ready to get back to work. And it'll improve your relationship. As entrepreneurs, we often seek to strike a work/life balance. This really sounds better than it is when you are launching a start-up instead be present where ever you are. Turn off your phone at the dinner table. Prioritize date nights with your sweetie, no matter what. Don't take business calls while driving, have a conversation with your kids instead about their day. Without investing time in your personal relationships, it's a goal you'll never achieve.
This article was originally published under the title Your #1 Support Staff as an Entrepreneur at www.succeedasyourownboss.com
Melinda F. Emerson, SmallBizLady is America's #1 small business expert. She is an author, speaker and small business coach whose areas of expertise include small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. She writes a weekly column for the New York Times, publishes a resource blog, www.succeedasyourownboss.com which is syndicated through The Huffington Post. She also hosts a weekly talk show on Twitter called #SmallBizChat for small business owners. As a brand, she reaches 1.5 million entrepreneurs a week on the internet. As CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, Melinda develops audio, video and written content to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. Forbes Magazine named Melinda Emerson one of the #1 Woman for Entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. Melinda has been featured on MSNBC, Fox News, NBC Nightly News and in Fortune, The Washington Post, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Black Enterprise. She is the bestselling author of "Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works," and the ebook How to Become a Social Media Ninja; 101 Ways to Dominate Your Competition Online.