A few months ago I was asked by Startacus to write my top ten tips for surviving startup life as a startup wife (husband/partner). Now that we are fully back into startup life again I thought it would be good to share it with you as a good way of refreshing my startup wife spirit and energy!
I am now in my 9th year of life with a start-up guy and over the years we have had to learn how to do startups as a team. Not necessarily with me working with him, although we have done things together (my photography business for a start) but as in a husband and wife team both committed to the startup. We have also had to learn (and continue to learn) how to bring up a family while running a startup. Huge risks, long hours, big decisions, travel etc. don't very easily go hand in hand with bringing up 3 (nearly 4) young children. During the past few years there have been hundreds of ideas, many start-ups, some highs and some lows, some wins and some failures. Together we have taken huge risks, we have been through some very difficult, tough and overwhelming times but we have also had many highs and many adventures. Over the years I have got better at being a startup wife and although I’m certainly still learning so much as we go here are my top ten strategies for a building and maintaining a happy and strong relationship with a start-upper.
1. Be patient. - This one is crucial! You have to learn to be very patient and understand that sometimes it will feel like the startup is everything and you have been forgotten. There will also be times when dates, cash-flow, launches etc. change and things you may have planned might have to change to accommodate this. A startup, in its very nature, is all consuming. Sometimes (not always) you have to accept that is the way things are for the moment and be patient.
2. Be independent - Very much linked to being patient is being independent. Having your own interests, work, friends etc. make the 80 hour working weeks more manageable. It is very likely that some weeks you may hardly see your partner. Don’t sit at home mopping about this. Understand that’s how it is for now and use your time to do good things for you. This will be a good thing for both of you.
3. Be trusting - Trust in your partners ideas and abilities. Yes, there may be failures along the way but that’s all part of the startup process. If you believe in your partner then trust them. This doesn’t mean you can’t offer advice if you think they need to change something or approach something differently. But to have an underlying trust in what they are doing is important.
4. Be open and free - Be open to change and create a sense of freedom in the way that you live. This is something I have been working on since we left our home in Birmingham and moved down to London for a startup over 3 years ago now. I used to find it really hard to not know what would be around the corner, where we might be in the country (the world!) or where we might be living. I’ve always needed to know what’s next and needed to feel settled. However, as I’ve got used to start-up life I’ve started to be able to feel more open and free. Open to change and free to change. Whatever that change may be. If you can be stable and secure in your family and/or relationship, then I think this really helps in managing the changes and unpredictability that come with startup life.
5. Be wise and careful - I think it’s always important to be wise and to sometimes be careful. Sometimes a risk is not worth taking. Sometimes things happen at the wrong time and you have to let them go. Sometimes you may need to sit down with your partner and be the one that lists the reasons why something should or shouldn’t happen. Sometimes it’s good to have some caution.
6. Be bold - But, at the same time it is critical to be bold. To take risks together and to do things that other people may thing are mad and crazy. Yes, they probably are crazy but without risks you don’t have startups. One day the risks will all be worth it.
7. Be supportive - Be supportive of your partner and what they do. Find little things you can do to help them through the craziness. Even little things like popping healthy snacks into their workbag. But also remember that you need support from them too. It’s not easy being a startup partner and you need them to recognise that from time to time.
8. Be together - In all the start-up madness it can be all too easy to be taken for granted and for everything else to come before the two of you. This is not a good thing for -anyone or for the startup. Make time for each other, even if it’s just once a month. But how ever often you think is realistic for you, make sure you stick to it. Each month our children go away for the weekend and we have our weekend for ourselves. Every month I worry that this is completely indulgent but every month I remember why it's so important for us.
9. Be happy - Startups come with huge risks, tough times, crazy hours. They are not the easy option. But I know that for us we wouldn’t have it any other way. It makes us both happy. Hold onto that happiness if you have it. Happiness is amazing for energy levels and super armour for when times are tough.
10. Be a baker - This one is not essential but I do bake cakes each week and send them into the office as startup fuel. It’s my little contribution and certainly makes people smile.
Good luck, enjoy and have fun. The ride may be bumpy but you'll certainly have an adventure!
If you're a startup wife/husband/partner I'd love to hear what helps you to make it all work.