How to Start a Business Without Quitting Fatherhood
Career Musical Chairs
Long gone are the days of holding a position or even a career for 20 years. Most recent statistics reveal our tenure in any one job or line of work will be as short as 5 years. You may hold as many as 4 jobs in 4 different fields during your kids’ formative years.
Is Self-Employment in Your Future?
If you find yourself frustrated by the mundane, overly demanding or ignorant direction of a boss, you may be ready to “strike out on your own”, “make a name for yourself” or “hang your own shingle.”
But the choice of self employment is often fraught with challenges as yet unseen. As CEO, chief garbage man and everything in-between, you roles and commitments will quickly fill a larger slot than the time in your day allows.
A Well Executed Plan Beats Enthusiasm And Energy Any Day
There is excitement and visions of a grand future in the eye of every man starting out on his own. You’ll need that enthusiasm for the coming months and years ahead. But it won’t be enough.
Understanding the commitment level required to create and run a successful small business and implementing it (AKA “making it happen”) are two different things. If we don’t plan carefully, a new business can swallow you whole, including being an involved Dad.
You’ve Got A Fan Club
You know your kids and partner love you, that’s not in question. So if you miss a dinner or two a week, or work weekends from time to time, they will be patient and generous. If this becomes routine, your kids will begin to expect your absence, plan for you “not being available.” They will take for granted that you’re no longer around for them like you once were. They will turn to your partner as the primary adult presence. Your relationship will change, and not necessarily in a way you expect or want.
It’s all in the planning
The key to a successful transition to self-employment as a parent starts with getting everyone on the same page. This starts with your partner. It’s critical that they are on board. Speak frankly about what self-employment means. This includes the financial commitment and time commitments.
Some Things You Don’t Negotiate
What are non-negotiable things for your partner? Family dinners? Weekends together? Date Night? Once you know what’s most important to them, you can start creating a schedule and structure to support your business AND the family.
Next it’s time to check in with the kids. It’s just as important that they sign-on to this project as anyone else. Share with them your decision, and what that means for them and the family. They’re not interested in your clients, or vision or strategic partnerships. They’re interested in how Dad working for himself is going to change their lives. And it’s a fair question.
Realize that this agreement is not locked in stone. It will need to grow and change over time. Your kids’ needs will evolve, as will your partners and even yours. Creating clarity “For Now” is often the short-term gift we can give our family until it’s time to go back to the negotiating table.
The Balance of Work and Family Must Be Like The Scales of Justice
The blindfolded statue of “Lady Justice” carries a scale in one hand and a sword in the other. The sword is not decoration. It represents authority. We need to think of our agreements around work and parenting with the seriousness and gravity of the sword Lady Justice carries. Both the work and personal sides of the scale are equally important.
Whatever work-family plan you decide upon, it has to become your Holy Grail. It must be the commitment that supersedes all business commitments. These family calendar commitments are the anchor point that you build your schedule around. And because you know these events when you’re starting out, it’s easier to decline or counter-propose meeting times to support your family calendar.
Conversely it’s critical that you stick to your work-related calendar as well. Who wouldn’t want to skip out on an afternoon of work to attend your child’s dance recital? While self-employment ALLOWS that kind of flexibility, it also cannot be at the expense of making your work financially successful and personally fulfilling.
We must hold both sides of the equation with equal attention and intention.
Never Forget What’s More Important Than Your Business
At the end of the day, your family outranks your business. You can always make another business, or get another job. You cannot do the same with your family. Your kids have the boundless enthusiasm of youth and unquestioning love for you, their Dad.
Your family’s got your back when you come home tired and deflated. Kids are brimming with excitement to tell you what they did in school today, who their new best friend is and what their stuffed elephant told them. These days are priceless and few.
Your partner is there as well, curious how your day went, ready with an open ear and a supportive word. You partner will need you to be there for them as well, listening to their challenges and struggles.
Go Forth, Give It Your All
Entrepreneurship is like Fatherhood, it has seasons and often feels fluid. There will be great successes and great challenges. But I know you’ve got what it takes to create success and be the Dad you want to be.