You’re enthusiastic about owning your own business. You want your spouse or partner to have your back and share your enthusiasm. As you’re starting down the path toward business success, how can you make it easier for your spouse to support your Kitchen Tune-Up dreams?
Start With Yourself
Before you talk to your spouse about how to support you, pause and take a look at yourself. Be sure you’re not headed for pitfalls outlined by Dr. Patty Ann Tublin in her book, Not Tonight, Dear, I’ve Got a Business to Run:
“Blind enthusiasm.” Are you so excited about your new business that you haven’t objectively considered why your family might resist this big change?
“Blissful naivete.” Some new business owners just can’t imagine there might be problems—until the moment those problems appear, Tublin says.
Assuming automatic support. Some entrepreneurs move forward believing their families simply will agree to whatever adjustments are needed to make the business work. Are you making assumptions without first asking for, and listening to, your spouse’s genuine opinions?
“Act first, talk later” thinking. You might believe you’re being decisive, when actually you’re avoiding communicating. Will you really get around to the “talk later”?
Tublin advises new business owners to consider that spouses might have unspoken reservations. Your spouse might think you’ll view questions or concerns as unsupportive. Or your spouse could be waiting to be asked for an opinion, rather than speaking up. Your spouse also might worry that if your business doesn’t succeed, the family will be in financial straits.
You won’t know unless you communicate.
Communicate with intent
It’s easy to assume that our spouses “get” us. Surely your loved one understands why you’re leaving an established career to start a business? Or why you’re taking on a new venture during what were supposed to be retirement years? You must have mentioned over the years how you’d like to be your own boss.
The dangerous word there is assume. Your spouse might not have taken your longtime “I’d like to own a business” comments seriously.
Yet you need your spouse on board now. Here’s why: A spouse or partner can provide valuable feedback from a perspective outside your business. Your spouse can remind you of your obligations to home and family. A spouse can get you outside your own head when it’s full of nothing but work. But when you start your new business, you might not be sure how to involve your spouse for support.
Help your spouse help you by using these strategies:
Create and stick to a work schedule. Starting a new business requires extra hours at first, but if you want your spouse’s solid support, give your spouse a predictable schedule.
Schedule regular business updates with your spouse. Sit down at the same time each week or month, and never postpone a scheduled update because you’re tired or too busy. Your spouse shouldn’t postpone, either.
Ask your spouse’s opinions and advice—and listen without “correcting” it. Don’t respond with immediate reactions of “why it won’t work” or how “you don’t really understand the business and I do.” Be clear that when your spouse asks questions or voices concerns, you see it as a supportive act, not a challenge.
Talk with your spouse about what needs to happen at home. Do you need to invest family funds, and could that affect other plans like retirement or kids’ schooling? Will your spouse have to take on more child care duties or household responsibilities because you’ll be tending to your business? Taking on your responsibilities at home is one huge way a spouse can support you, but don’t let your spouse just absorb those responsibilities without discussing it together. Write down who will do what, when. Create a family plan, and give it as much priority as you give to the business.
Ask if your spouse wants to support the business in some specific way. He or she might have skills or interests to apply to short-term projects such as working on the web site, creating an ad campaign, coordinating a social event for staff, or other initiatives.
Don’t try to protect your spouse by clamming up when things get tough at work. And be sure your spouse knows to speak up if things are tough at home. Nothing’s more supportive than frankness.
Ask your spouse to hold you to a commitment for regular family time. Date nights, family outings, and vacations shouldn’t get short shrift.
Connecting you to home
A spouse can keep you grounded, reminding you why you started your business in the first place. Often the reason is “to build something for my family,” or to generate tuition money or prepare for retirement. If those are motivations, your spouse can remind you of them.