#21 Get Happy, or Get Out – AKA “Making a Deal With Your Entrepreneurial Spouse”
My husband and I are both entrepreneurs. Everyone we know has had to lay people off, us included. It’s a tough time. The other night we were on the porch talking for the umteenth time about how he is worried about cash flow in his business. My old boss and mentor Zane used to pace the halls when cash flow was at a worrisome level. However, THEN I did not take that problem home. NOW, I do. We do. It’s hard. It’s money, it’s home, it’s family, it’s “Am I successful?”, it’s all of that. Everything is tied together when you’re an entrepreneur.*
*However, there is a limit to this “all tied together” thing. I learned from my father NEVER to sign on your spouse’s business’s loan documents.
So there we were on the porch, at night, kids in bed…The medicore IBM Lenovo laptop illuminated my husband’s (gorgeous – if I may say so – but stressed) face. We begin to discuss “the plan” for who will work part-time, who will work full time, and our dream of traveling around the world with the kids. This should make me feel good. We’re planning ahead, talking about our dreams, trying to set a plan to accomplish them. But, I realize I don’t feel good about it. Why? I call it the “crazy” factor.
[Themesong: Gnarls Barkley "Crazy"]
For a while, entrepreneurs and the people around them can write off stuff saying, “We’ll….we’re just crazy entrepreneurs.” But, what is the line between craziness and happiness? Said another way: Is the craziness costing you your happiness? My realization this night on the porch was: Very possibly yes.
My husband just doesn’t seem consistently HAPPY in the business, no matter how big or successful his business becomes. You know, this massive business isn’t big enough it – it needs to be MASSIVER! Success has become a holy grail. The bar for the definition of “success” just keeps going up. It’s been about 13 years, maybe more. I’ve been the business confidant, wife, friend, consultant, advisor, and more. I keep waiting for “happy” to enter the room and it just doesn’t. There is a temporary high with the new sale, the new employee, the decision to import from China, a great deal…but, then it goes away.
So bascially, while entrepreneurs are certifiably crazy - this shrink needs some time off. I’m just tired. I can’t imagine how HE feels. He’s gotta be freaking exhausted. I was thinking, “I can save the day. I’ll make all the money so he can quit if he’s not happy.” I am NOT sure I can actually pull this off. But, I do know this: I love what I do. I’ve spend a long time figuring that out and getting to that place. Now it’s his turn.
So, here is my plan (I have not told him this yet). My plan is to spend 2010 getting myself in a position with the Hot Mommas Project and my business (and, hey, maybe GW) where I can be the primary breadwinner again (I have not been for three years since GCing the construction of our house and having our second kid). This gives Josh just over a year to get happy. And, if he’s not happy at that point, he can quit. If he is happy, then great – we are a hard-core dual income family and saving like crazy and we can treat ourselves to some real estate. If not, he has an out. Here are my conditions:
- During the rest of 2009-2010 I still want to work part time. This means maximum 4 days a week.
- Things can remain “as is” through 2010, then, Josh would have to step it up and handle all the house / kid / finanical management responsibilities I handle in 2011 if I become the primary breadwinner.
- During the rest of 2009 and 2010, he has to look into one new business or [GASP!] job each month and have an actual meeting with an actual person about it. Conversely, he could also meet with an entrepreneur (or a shrink) about how to have a good attitude about his existing business and not be such a freak all the time.
- Whining about the business is confined to 10 minutes per day. For every complaint, a positive thing needs to be shared about the business.
This may seem kind of nutty-slash-nerdy, but, I’m nutty-slash-nerdy and so is Josh. I’ve been living this experiment of maxing out income on as few hours as possible for a while now. So, the time has arrived to add some consistency and regularity to that. Luckily, I have spent the summer working on a business model for the Hot Mommas Project, had many meetings, and done lots of listening to both fabulous feedback and a little tough love mixed in. Here are my prospects for income generation:
1. Large, institutional clients who want to develop mentoring communities for their staff and members.
Status: I have spoken with some very senior folks at three organizations about this and the revenue model. Given the business-education hybrid nature of this I am also going to look into a couple of specific SBIR grants about which I learned from the amazing Grant Training Center.
Measurable Goal and Due date: One to two communities set up in 2010. Apply for one major grant.
2. Research and curriculum development.
Status: I run the blog for the NFIB Young Entrepreneur’s Foundation which focuses on entrepreneurship learning. These types of projects come knocking on my sporadically, however, now I will try to be a bit more aggressive about seeking them out versus waiting for them to come to me. Scalability is tough for curriculum development because it relies on me, but, it could keep the lights on while I gear up on numbers 1 and 3.
measurable Goal and Due Date: Two (minimum) and five (maximum, unless I outsource) curriculum development projects in the rest of 2009-2010
3. Book and speaking.
Status: Sam Horn planted this idea in my head, and now I can’t shake it. Sam’s posse, and best-selling author Bob Burg, have been encouraging me as well. After the Washington Post Magazine Article by writing goddess Vanessa Gezari, Sam called me. She told me I should write a book. Out of nowhere! She invited me to a book-coaching workshop. She think’s there’s something there. So, I am on the third draft of a book pitch and we’ll see what happens. Focusing, and writing, is hard. Knowing the right thing to say is hard. I have a lot of respect for authors and speakers after trying – less than successfully – to squeak out a book pitch this summer.
Measurable Goal and Due Date: Book pitch finished in September. Three paid speaking engagements in the rest of 2009 – 2010.
The above does NOT take into account the Hot Mommas Project case study competition – launching next month – or teaching in the spring semester. So, I hope to take a hard look at my time and try to segment out time blocks for all on my plate. I have not been successful at applying this approach in the past. I will write it down, then totally violate everything I wrote down. So, the time for REAL DISCIPLINE IS HERE. Oooof. Some people think I’m organized…but, I’m going to have to get to a Susan Apgood level of organized if I am going to pull this off.
THE most important thing in life is to be happy…so get happy, or get out (of the business, that is).
In summary, THE most important thing in life is to be happy. That’s what it all comes back to. So – this is my happiness plan. We’ll see if it works, and if my husband even bites. However, having written this – I feel a combination of scared and optimistic. The “scared” is just being fearful of failure. However, I’m sick of seeing my husband torture himself so it’s “get happy, or get out (of the business, that is).” Wish us luck.