We talk a lot in our newsletters about strategies that leaders can take to improve their work teams. We seldom talk of the home-team though: our partners, our children, our aging parents, and our loved ones. These are the people we say we are working for but, too often, these are the people we don’t see enough. They’re also the same people that we’re not communicating effectively with.
I’ll use my friends Rob and Elaine as examples.
Rob is an old friend of mine. We met recently for coffee to catch up. He works as a project
manager for hire since being “rightsized” from a national company. As a consultant, he earns a generous income from his home-based office but like many consultants his work is characterized by long-hours and inconsistent cash flow. Many of his clients take 45-days or
more before paying and even then, arbitrarily, some choose to pay on an instalment plan of
their own design.
I was eager to catchup with Rob. He is one of the most chill people I know. He’s very well read and very articulate. I was looking forward to picking up where we left off, but was surprised to hear him open up about more than just business.
“Elaine is on me about money!” he said. “She just doesn’t understand what it’s like to work for yourself. She’s never had to! You know how it is?”
Elaine, Rob’s wife, has worked for 20+ years at a local dental clinic. She earns less than Rob,
but her regular paycheque arrives twice a month like clockwork which makes budgeting easier. Tired of looking inside mouths for a living she wants to reduce her hours, but she’s worried that Rob’s earnings won’t provide sufficient cash flow for the household. Plus, she wants to travel, and Rob is waffling about when he can take time away. It’s becoming an issue.
I’m not a marriage counsellor. However, in my career, I’ve owned companies, loaned money to companies, consulted with, and coached dozens of business owners. In that time, I’ve had a front row seat to the major causes of hardship at home: lack of communication, financial
problems, and unresolved conflicts. Rob’s marriage isn’t on the rocks. However, Rob and Elaine have ventured into an entrepreneurial red zone.
To the entrepreneurs out there, listen up. Without a good communication strategy, the ‘business of the business vs. home’ can trigger a personal inflection point where stress-thinking replaces good thinking. That’s where the ride gets bumpy. Below, I’ve listed some items that might make life at both home and work a little smoother.
About cash flow: While there are many financial advantages to owning your own business, there will be times where business income doesn’t arrive in time to cover the business expenses. While an established business can draw down on a commercial credit line to cover
financial shortfalls, a new business doesn’t have that luxury. As the owner, you’ll have to cover
the shortfalls personally so sit down with your partner and prepare them for how the ebbs and flows in company cash flow will affect the household. This is the financial version of The Full Monty (you’ll have to be over 45, to get the reference) and while it may be difficult, it’s nothing compared to a confrontation with a confused, surprised, and hurt partner who has just discovered that the personal credit line is maxed.
About Hours: Working for yourself can impact the home life. It’s not that the hours are long, it’s that the hours are long, irregular, and characterized by after-hours phone calls, and sudden call outs. Then there are evenings at home which really don’t feel like evenings at home because of the time spent on the computer. Every business is different so the demands on owners vary. The only way to mitigate the impact on the home team, is to communicate and let them know that you’re working on strategies to improve things.
About the Financial Plan: It’s a challenge to build a financial plan while also building a business. Take some time with your partner and meet (together) with your financial advisor
about the strategies that you, your partner, and your business can take to make sure your family financial obligations are being taken care of. You may be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.
About the importance of being kind: I recently read of how entrepreneurs need emotional
support and understanding. It’s true, they do. However, kindness is a two-way street.
Entrepreneurs are often myopic and unaware of the true impact their business is having on the home. The stress of long-hours and stretched finances manifest in the most peculiar ways so, again, choose to be kind – we ALL need support and understanding.
It seems simple, because it all stems from communication. However, when teams aren’t communicating, players forget to do the small things. Mistakes get made. Bad words follow. The team spirals in free fall. The same things happen to business owners when the home team isn’t taken care of. So Leaders, do yourself a favor, and talk to your home team. If you prefer, treat the talk like a board meeting. It might seem a peculiar approach, but I guarantee that if you commit to meaningfully communicating with those at home, you’ll be rewarded.
Back to Rob and Elaine. I called Rob this morning, just to check in. (Since I’m writing about him, I thought I owed it to him). He reported that, together, he and Elaine took time to discuss both his business and her desire to reduce her hours. They came up with a plan that left them both feeling more relaxed. Their discussion took far less time than he expected and concluded with a great Mother’s Day dinner with their family.
The message: take care of the home team and they will take care of you.
Norm Adams, MBA, while not a Marriage Counsellor is an experienced Business Coach with a background in financial services. He has more than 25-years in business in both Canada and the US. He’s looking forward to a long weekend with his home team. Have questions for Norm? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many thanks to “Rob and Elaine” for the inspiration. You know who you are.