All too often, entrepreneurs think they should be strictly business and that their marriages should be put on the back burner and that work should come first. This is not a good practice. Most people marry and vow to forsake all others for their spouses. It is important to remember, that all others includes businesses!
When I was a child, I used to listen to a song by Harry Chapin called, “Cat’s in the Cradle.” The song told the story of a father who spent all of his son’s young life working and doing activities away from his son. He always promised he would do things with his son one day, but the day never came. Eventually the son grew up and became too busy doing other things to spend time with his father. The following are the words to the chorus of the song:
And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you coming home dad?
I don’t know when
But we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then.
This song is important because often entrepreneurs spend a great deal of time at work building their businesses and very little time with their spouses. These entrepreneurs tell their spouses that they will spend time with them once the business has started and is on a good foundation. As time passes, they say they will spend time with their spouse once the business reaches a particular milestone. Later they say they will spend time with their spouses once a certain crises has been resolved. Before long, years and in some cases, decades have gone by without the entrepreneurs ever getting around to spending that quality time with their spouses. At the same time, the spouses of entrepreneurs have not been sitting around on a shelf while the entrepreneur was off building the business.
While one spouse is off creating a business and working to make the business grow and become sustainable, the other spouse has to live life. This means the non-entrepreneur spouse has to maintain the home, raise the children and perhaps have a career of their own. Sometimes, when the entrepreneur is ready to spend time with her spouse, her spouse is ready, able and willing to spend time and put attention into the relationship and the marriage. In other, unfortunate cases, the spouse who has spent years making a life without the entrepreneur spouse will want to continue living life without the entrepreneur spouse. This leads to unhappy marriages, unfulfilled lives and in some cases, divorce.
The divorce rate in the United States is very high. According to the American Psychological Association, divorce rates are between 40 and 50 percent in the United States. This is indeed an alarming number. One reason for divorce is that couples do not spend enough time together, that one or perhaps both spouses spend more time at work than at home. The things we nurture grow. When we work hard at our businesses and give them a lot of attention, they blossom and grow.
As an entrepreneur, you should be concerned about your marriage because divorce has an impact on your business. An entrepreneur’s business is an asset that in some cases, can be divided up upon the dissolution of a marriage. It would indeed be a sad thing if an entrepreneur spent years building a business and neglecting to pay attention to her business only to end up losing both her business and her spouse! Additionally, people who are happily married perform better at business activities. So, if you are a married entrepreneur and you want to have a thriving successful business, you must also work to have a thriving successful marriage.
As I write this article, I am celebrating my 29th wedding anniversary. It is an accomplishment which not everyone gets to achieve. I am indeed blessed to have reached this milestone. As an entrepreneur, I have spent many long hours building a business and trying to make it a success. Those hours do not compare to the hours I have put into building my marriage and helping it to flourish.
As entrepreneurs, we are proud of the businesses we create. We take joy in being able to create businesses that provide good and services that customers can use and enjoy. We derive satisfaction from being able to earn a living based upon the work we put into businesses we have created. We are thrilled to be a positive part of the American economy by providing jobs and opportunities to others. Likewise, we should be proud of creating good marriages. We should take joy in being able to create families. We should derive satisfaction in being able to maintain healthy, happy marriages that last decade after decade.
It is important to keep in mind that happy employees make more productive employees. Employees who are in the midst of divorce are less happy and thus less productive. Employees who must take time off work to meet with divorce attorneys, attend depositions and court hearing are less productive. This means as an entrepreneur, you have a vested interest in not doing things that make it harder for your employees to maintain happy, loving and successful marriages.
Find ways to have employees spend time with their families on a regular and consistent basis. In order to do this, you must allow employees to have dependable time periods where they do not have to work, but can be with their families. When employees are required to work double shifts and to work with no days off, this is hard on their families. Those families will suffer and no one suffers alone. If an employee’s family is suffering, that employee is suffering. Then, sooner, rather than later, your business will be suffering as well.
If you are an entrepreneur who has been spending long hours at work and neglecting your spouse, sit down now, right now and figure out ways you can give your spouse time and attention. If at all possible, have a few options available. It is important to have options available because once you have this list of days and hours available, you will need to sit down and talk with your spouse. When you do, keep in mind, while you have been building a business, your spouse has been building and maintaining a life. That life just as important to your spouse as your business is to you. This means you will have to work with your spouse to coordinate time when you will both be available to spend time together and work on building and maintaining your business.
If you are one of the fortunate entrepreneurs who has been able to grow and develop a business and maintain a successful, happy marriage at the same time, that is wonderful! It is an accomplishment to be celebrated and acknowledged. Make sure that when you talk about the growth and development of your business and the joy it brings you, that you talk about the growth and development of your marriage. Acknowledge the significance and importance of your spouse. No matter how important your business is, you must take care to never make you spouse feel like a second choice, second string or lesser thing in your life. You made vows when you married your spouse, those vows should be respected, honored and thought of fondly.
Finally, be a good example and role model for your employees. Let them see that you celebrate and appreciate the role your marriage plays in your life. Encourage your employees to celebrate their marriages as well. This can be done very simply. If your business can afford it, treat employees and their spouses to a dinner out each year at anniversary time. Smaller businesses can send around a congratulations card for employee anniversaries and co-workers can contribute a few dollars each to give as a gift to employees at anniversary time. These little touches will go a long way toward helping employees realize that you appreciate your marriage and encourage them to do the same.
So, today as I celebrate my 28th wedding anniversary, I wish my fellow entrepreneurs many years of business success and even more years of marital bliss. The question for you this thrilling day is, what do you to let your spouse know that he or she is an important and valuable part of your success?
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