This week for our blog series you guys get to listen to a new voice. I’ve been the “behind the scenes” person in Curtis’ business from the beginning and when we were talking about starting to run a series of posts on his blog every now and then he asked me if I would be willing to write some of the articles. So here I am writing about how to support your entrepreneurial spouse.
Who am I? I am Cynthia. Curtis’ wife of 10 years, and his partner for the last 13. We’ve seen many successes and failures in our marriage. We’ve struggled through times of not enjoying it very much, and celebrated much longer periods of loving knowing that we found our true match in this world.
What qualifies me to write a series of posts on his business blog? Well the above first and foremost. Beyond that, I am educated, intelligent, and until 9 months ago I also held a full time job outside our home as a sales manager and buyer for a major outdoor store. I have seen this business grow from the tiny seed of an idea into a profitable venture over the last number of years, and I have often been the sole support person. That person in the background that says – You can do this I believe in you. (I do 100%)
I think for any entrepreneur or small business person having the support of their spouse, life partner, girlfriend, boyfriend, whatever you choose to call them (for simplicity I’ll use spouse) is essential.
From the very early days in our marriage Curtis has talked about running his own business. The ideas have been far and wide and about as varied as a room full of a thousand people can be. His ideas have ranged from various construction businesses back in the early days, to his current business. My response has always been the same – if that is what you REALLY want then let’s figure out how to make it happen. Until this business, it never turned out to be what he REALLY wanted when we sat down and evaluated what makes him tick and what would be a good fit.
So what is my “job” in this business. It goes beyond the physical things that I do for him on a day to day basis (book-keeping, spell checking, business planning, goal setting, budgeting etc.) First and foremost my role is to support him. Whole heartedly, 100% in every way possible. If you are in a committed relationship and are thinking of starting your own business but your spouse isn’t completely onboard you need to slow down, take a step back and re-evaluate (you may also want to have a conversation with them as to WHY?). Your business cannot succeed without the support of your spouse. That’s not just my opinion that’s an opinion I hear daily on the podcasts I listen to by various business experts, and have read in many of the business books that I’ve flipped through over the last couple years.
What exactly does supporting your entrepreneurial spouse look like?
Let me tell you what it looks like for us. I’ll share a few things from the early days, as well as how my role has changed and morphed to what it is now.
Supporting your spouse does mean that you are their cheerleader. You are their #1 fan, their encourager. You bolster them up when they are down. You figure out when they are struggling and you do what you can to ease the burden. You learn to identify the signs of stress in their lives and how to get them to talk about that and draw it out. You are their sounding board for new ideas – crazy and sane. Sometimes you are the breaks on the train. You highlight the practical side of an idea, and let them know when something needs a little bit more evaluation before it can be pursued whole heartedly.
In the early days of Curtis starting his business he was also working an office job. In the same field, but in your typical corporate environment. Anyone who knows him well will know that dress codes, business meetings, and a lot of the other corporate policies that come along with an office job make his skin crawl. I could see him suffering daily. Not because the organization he was working for was bad, but because it just didn’t fit his personality.
When he started expressing a desire to take on side jobs to work on in the evenings at home I encouraged him to do so as much as he could, and I genuinely WANTED him to succeed. I wasn’t able to offer him much more than that. We weren’t in a financial position to go out and buy him the newest coolest tools and toys “required” to run his business. Any money spent on purchasing business tools (computers, software etc.) had to be earned by the business before it could be spent. It was hard going.
Did I want to enable him to get his business off the ground? YES because I have ALWAYS wanted him to pursue whatever it is in life that makes him happy. That said, if what makes him happy is making mudpies in the back yard, he still has to figure out how to monetize that because we have a mortgage to be paid and the kid(s) need to eat.
He probably struggled through 2 years of running his “side business” and working his day job before it was in a financial position to actually REPLACE the income that he was making at his day job. It was my job to support and encourage him. It was also my job to pull back on the reins a little bit when he wanted to jump too soon.
Had I not supported him by saying no from time to time, especially in those early days, I wouldn’t be writing this post for you today. We would be bankrupt or in serious financial trouble, with a failed business under our belts and he’d be out working at some construction job that he hates.
I make it sound like I’m giving myself a lot of credit here and that isn’t my intent but as the spouse of a small business person you’ve probably noticed that these entrepreneurs are ready to abandon ship and run with an idea AS SOON AS THEY HAVE IT. Often before they have a plan to really make it feasible. Curtis was ready to be self employed and run his own business the moment the idea came into his head. If he’d had his way he would have made the move instantly rather than waiting, taking time to build a client base, and a savings account to cover any kind of lag time between inception and launch. It was my job to encourage him to pursue his passion, to do what makes him happy, and to keep his confidence up. It was (and still is) also my job to say no from time to time. Saying no, or redirecting and idea way back then and even now has allowed him to prosper.
What Support looks like NOW
Ok great, that’s how I supported him in getting this business off the ground, but what does that really look like now?
Over the last four years of him being out completely on his own I have seen my role in the business change in a lot of ways, but the essence of it is still the same. I am still his #1 support person. If he’s having a bad day, it’s me he’s going to talk to – or I need to recognize it and cut him some slack so that he can work through it.
For a lot of the last four years my role has been to encourage him. To be a sounding board for new ideas, to keep him on-track when too many ideas have taken over and he can no longer see the forest through the trees. My role also still involves helping him recognize the good ideas that are worth pursuing, as well as putting the breaks on the ones that aren’t – they maybe need more time to develop, the return isn’t there, or they don’t really fall into the wider scope of what he wants to accomplish. I even help him vet out clients from time to time. He’ll often seek my opinion when he’s looking at a new contract as to whether or not he should take it. Sometimes I encourage him to do so, and sometimes I see things he doesn’t and suggest that this may be a good one for him to pass up.
Since leaving my full-time job last March (I actually wrote a post about that decision on my own blog) my role in his business has changed again. Now I am involved to a limited degree in the day to day running of his business. I love it. I love being a deeper part of his business. Helping him set and meet his goals. Providing a little bit more accountability. Coming up with a plan to grow the business into something bigger. These are all ways in which I continue to support my Man.
Let me tell you, if you haven’t caught on already, I think he’s pretty awesome. I support him 100%, and I am proud of what he’s accomplished for himself and for our family over the last number of years. And yes it is absolutely my job to let him know that as often as necessary.