Even before I became a part of the daily to do’s of Curtis’ business I was his sounding board. This falls under support, but I think it’s important enough to merit it’s own post.
Whether you are business savvy or not you are your spouse’s sounding board. What exactly do I mean by that?
Well, I am the person that he runs ideas by, I’m the person he talks to when he’s making a big decision, I’m the person he talks to when it comes to clients and contracts. I am his partner in this business whether I am working in it or not, so it is most important that he seek my opinion when it’s merited.
A great example of this in our lives and his business came up about 2 years ago (I think). He was debating taking a long-term contract working for a development company. The perks were all there, the pay was good, they would vet the clients so he would just have to do the work, it would save him admin time, and guarantee him an income. He would ultimately end up making more then he was freelancing…or so it appeared.
He was very excited about the opportunity and on the surface it looked great, but I had reservations. Nothing I could really pin point, I just wasn’t sure that it would be a good fit for him and I told him so. After much discussion we decided that he would go ahead with the contract anyway and try it out.
The company was great and the job was good but in the end it really was a poor fit on all sides. He was working way more hours than normal, and while he was making a little more then he would have on his own when we sat down and evaluated what he’d have made if he’d kept those kinds of hours as a freelancer the number was more than triple. He lost the flexibility to take time off when I was off work, or to cover the homefront when our daughter was sick and couldn’t go to daycare because he had an employer that had expectations of him. It wasn’t that the company was bad, or unrealistic the position just didn’t fit the lifestyle that we ultimately wanted.
At the end of the year when we were doing our taxes it turned out that he actually made LESS money than he had the year previous. Everything that I had been apprehensive about had turned out to be true and so while I wasn’t really able to place a finger on what it was that caused me to have reservations upfront we both could have saved ourselves and the development company a little bit of hassle by heeding the “gut feeling”.
Now we pay a bit more attention to that feeling. He often comes to me when he’s considering a new contract but feels unsure of it. While a lot of what he does doesn’t really make sense to me there are some specific questions that I often ask in this situation:
Does this allow you to accomplish your goals (or does it fit into the big picture of how you want your business to run)?
Does this project make you feel excited?
Do you feel comfortable with the client? I don’t usually have to ask this question I get a good sense of his feelings from just talking with him about the interactions with the client
What other opportunities are you going to have to say no to if you say yes to this one?
Are you OK with that?
Some of this may seem silly but it has really helped us keep the business on track, and it helps him maintain focus. As he continues to refine the direction that he wants his business to take it becomes more important that he choose contracts that will take it there.
Some projects are great opportunities but don’t work towards his end goal, sometimes he sees that immediately, and sometimes he needs a little help.
Some projects pay well but really don’t make him feel excited – when that’s the case they tend to drag on and he ends up dissatisfied with the level of service he’s provided and ultimately I believe that the client doesn’t get the customer experience they deserve.
Some projects are okay but I can tell from talking to him about the initial interactions with the client that the client is going to be very high maintenance and get under his skin. This is when I encourage him to say no. Sometimes I can tell from the discussion that the client is going to be AWESOME! Those are the clients that you want, and that you want to strive towards keeping for as long as possible. They become longterm clients that are really enjoyable to work with and often send a lot of referral business your way as well. This is when I encourage him to say YES.
Sometimes it looks like the stars and moon have aligned, the client is great, the project is interesting, but in saying yes he’s going to have to say no to another opportunity that makes him more excited. This is another good time for me to encourage him to say no. However on the flipside of that, when I can see that he’s super stoked about an opportunity and everything looks good then I strongly encourage him to say YES and run with it. Those are the projects he enjoys the most.
I know that not all of you are in a position yet to be able to say no to work, but if you’re persistent in growing your business you will be someday. Knowing what makes you tick is important. Having a spouse that can help you intuit that is essential. As the spouse of an entrepreneur it’s imperative that I keep my eyes open and help him along the way as much as possible. Listening is one of the most important skills that I have had to develop. Learning to ask questions that draw out a decent answer has been very important. Intuiting his body language and intonation as he responds has become equally as important as listening to the words that he’s saying. Do I help him make EVERY decision in his business no, definitely not. I have my own things to do as well, but when he’s having a hard time with something I am often the first (and only) person that he comes to so it’s really important that I know how to read him and hear the words that are actually spoken.