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The art of running a business without ruining relationships
Launching a new business can be a lonely experience, both for the entrepreneur and the friends and family feeling forgotten. For the first few years there’s going to be missed sleep, missed birthdays, missed vacations, and more. The support of family and friends during this time is crucial for all parties involved—without it, the chance of the business (or relationship) surviving is slim. If you’re looking for ways to ensure a new business succeeds without a relationship failing, you’ve come to the right place.
For the entrepreneur: Prioritizing is an important part of running a small business, especially if you’re trying to maintain a personal life. Make a list of your daily, weekly, and monthly goals in order of importance, this way you can get a clear view of what needs to be done immediately, and what can wait. During this process, you should also consider whether an activity is meaningful or not; sending off an important letter may be urgent, but watching your child’s dance recital is meaningful. Always remember that there is a difference between urgent and important.
For the friends and family: If you know your loved one has a lot on their plate, prioritize the events you need them to attend over the ones you want them to attend. The reality is, they won’t be able to attend everything, and you should be supportive of this instead of making them feel guilty about it. If there’s a family wedding and a dinner party at the neighbor’s house on the same weekend, decide which (if any) can be missed, and discuss it with them to make sure everyone is aligned.
Create a plan—and stick to it!
For the entrepreneur: Once you’ve got your priorities set, create a plan to help you meet them. Your plan should include time for work, family, friends, meals, exercise, self-care; pretty much everything you try to cram into an average week. While formally incorporating time into your schedule for friends and family may feel strange, it’s important to have it in your calendar so that your time is truly optimized and spent doing something productive or meaningful. If your plans include working without interruption from 2 pm until 6 pm so that you can make it to a friend’s concert at 7, do whatever you must to succeed. Put your phone on silent, turn notifications off, ignore email—whatever it takes to stick to your plan.
For the friends and family: Creating and sticking to a plan that complements your friend or partner’s plan is crucial in maintaining a balanced schedule, especially if you’ve come up with the plan together. That doesn’t mean that sometimes things won’t come up on either side that require changes or adjustments, but the better you get at planning, the easier it’ll be to adjust.
Be prepared for hard work
For the entrepreneur: To remain organized, follow your plan, and stick to your priorities, you’ll need to put in extra effort and make some sacrifices. To make sure neither your business nor family life suffer, you may have to cut out some social time with friends and colleagues. You may also need to include some early mornings or late nights to make up for lost time, and to allow you to catch up on projects or email without interruption.
For the friends and family: While your loved one is putting in the hours running their new business, you’re probably going to have to make up for the hours they’re missing at home or elsewhere. Whether it’s picking up extra chores around the house, moving band practice to work with their schedule, or just being more patient with this new lifestyle, it’s going to require just as much patience, hard work, and sacrifice on your end as it does on theirs. Remember, there’s no “I” in entrepreneur!
Learn to say no
For the entrepreneur: There’s always going to be something begging for your attention and forcing you to lose focus… if you let it. Unexpected meeting invites or phone calls, last-minute project requests or accelerated deadlines will make it easy to give yourself an excuse to stray from a plan. Yes, sometimes you will be able to justify adjustments to your plans, but other times you will need to enforce the importance of learning how to say “no.”
For the friends and family: You too will need to learn the art of saying no. You’re not obligated to attend every event you’re invited to, or take on every favor you’re asked for.
Communicate and be clear about what you need
For the entrepreneur: One of the most important keys to success for entrepreneurs is communication. Spend time every day checking in with your loved ones to find out what has been happening and where your support is required, even if it’s a quick catch-up at the end or beginning of the day.
If you’re having an exceptionally challenging day at work, communicate that as openly as you can. While you should be able to rely on the love and support from your friends and family when you’re having a rough time, make sure not to unload your problems on them. Learning the difference is crucial. And don’t forget, your friends and family aren’t mind readers. They don’t own a business like you do and probably don’t understand what you’re dealing with daily. If there’s something you need, let them know—it will make things easier for everyone.
For the friends and family: Problems often arise out of simple misunderstandings. You can’t read minds, but neither can they, so if you are struggling or need extra support, let your loved one know. Also, try to be mindful of the fact that entrepreneurs often get into the habit of trying to do everything on their own, so if there are ways you can help, take the initiative to do so. Whether it’s babysitting, laundry, walking the dog; the simplest act of service can make the biggest difference to someone strapped for time.
For everyone involved: Keep your friends and family happy by acknowledging their sacrifice and hard work—no matter which side they’re on. A simple thank you can go a long way, so try to make it a daily habit.
While it may not be easy, it’s certainly possible to maintain your relationships while launching or running a new business. You’ve all got the same amount of hours in a day—make sure you help each other get through them as best you can.