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Why doesn’t my family understand what it means to be a business owner?


November 30, 2020 / fbcadmin

Kerrie Sheaves
Foundational Business Consulting

Understanding What It Means to be a Business Owner

Why doesn’t my family understand what it means to be a business owner?

One of the most common things I hear from our clients is that their spouse or family just “Don’t Get It”. They don’t understand what it means to be a business owner.

This weekend it happened again. My husband, on hearing me tapping away rapidly at my mobile, looked at me across the lounge room as we were watching something on TV, and asked “What are you doing? I hope it’s not work”.

Now I need to preface this by saying that my husband is very, very supportive of me as business owner.  I was in fact typing an email to myself with notes for a speech I needed to give in a months time.

So yes, it was work. His question and slightly censorious tone of voice peeved me, a little. I knew it was coming from a place of concern that I wasn’t just relaxing in front of the TV as I should have been after a very long week. However, I wasn’t stressing about work. A moment of inspiration hit me and I needed to get the words down then and therefore save myself time and stress later in the week. But I felt the pressure to justify intruding on our family time none the less.

Sound familiar? Why do business owners feel that guilt?

Why is it hard for our family members who don’t run their own businesses, to understand our life? How do we avoid getting those judgmental looks from family and friends when we bring our laptop on holidays?

It’s because Business Owners never go home from work – they are their business; it is a part of them. It matters to us deeply and personally if it fails or succeeds. It is not like working for someone else, even if you are a senior executive in a large corporate with hundreds of people working for you, it’s just not the same. And it’s almost impossible to explain it to someone who doesn’t live the life of a business owner.

Unless you are a business owner you can’t understand want it takes to be a business owner.

If you are a business owner who is frustrated with your spouse or family members who don’t seem to “get it”, you are being unfair to them.

They can’t “Get It”. It is not possible for them to completely understand what running a business means. Which is why you need to be in a tribe of other business owners who intrinsically understand this life.

If you’re expecting your staff to get it, again you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. They will make decisions based on their own personal needs and desires. No matter how amazingly accommodating and supporting you are as a boss, they will, at some point, leave you because they need to achieve their own goals, and your business isn’t part of that thought process. Staff aren’t going to invest themselves mentally and emotionally in your business until they have a stake in it.

Proactive communication and setting good boundaries is the answer

When other people in your life can’t understand what it means to be a business owner, you need to take the initiative. You need to set boundaries to avoid disappointment, frustration and hurt on both sides of the relationship.

Proactively communicate with your family and friends about the limits you might have to be able to attend activities.  Get creative and suggest alternative options to them so you can participate without adding more stress and guilt to your life.

For example, I call my parents when I’m on the way to and from business meetings in the car (hands free of course). I do this because they both worked in corporate jobs, and now have a lot more flexibility & time (as retired people). Over the last few years they had an endearing, but frustrating, habit of ringing me or dropping in to my office for coffee in the middle of the work day. Then they would be obviously disappointed and offended when I didn’t have time to drop everything and go to lunch with them. I wanted them to feel that I did want to see them, so I had to be the one to take the initiative to arrange that process better to work for me and them.

Embrace the 24/7 work week

Juggling everything and making time for both your business and your personal life means using every minute and hour of your week effectively.

15 years ago as a family we changed how we used our week. We agreed that there was no such thing as weekends. Weekends are for employees, not business owners.

Business Owners can run their week anyway they want to, which means every hour is usable. Embrace that notion, you have all 24 hours of all 7 days a week to plan out and use however you want to.

If you start by identifying your highest personal priorities such as your personal health, your family, your relationships, and plot these into your weekly schedule you’ll put the First Things First.

Then set your business priorities for the week, such as customer work, sales and marketing, operations, people management tasks. Plot these in around your personal priorities, and then any other activities can be scheduled as needed.

Balance comes from setting your priorities in place, working together as a team to serve each others needs as a family, and valuing all of your time.


Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

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