Managing a career and raising children is a real challenge for many people, more so for those who have the added pressure of running their own business. Finding the right balance between work and family life is hard at the best of times, but with the school summer holidays now upon us, ‘parentpreneurs’ have to become wiser at organising their time and commitments.
Serial entrepreneur Peter Tuvey, a father of five and founder of alternative lender Fleximize, knows what it takes to be successful at both. Here he reveals five brutal truths that every ‘parentpreneur’ needs to hear.
Like it or not, sacrifices will have to be made
Being an entrepreneur with a family means sometimes having to choose between the two things that you value the most in life; your family and your business. It means missing birthday parties to give a pitch, or not making it home for bedtime stories to make a deadline. At other times, it involves cancelling what might have been the most important meeting of your career to take you child to A&E. Whatever happens, you may feel like you’ve let somebody down, but don’t dwell on this. Raising children and growing a business take time. If you drop the ball occasionally, your children will eventually understand that you make sacrifices to provide for them. Similarly, your staff – if you keep them close – will know how important your children are to you.
Nurture your relationships
Commitments to your children and your work will leave little time for anyone else, whether it is your friends or a romantic partner. It is easy to neglect your loved ones because of stress or just a sheer lack of time.
“Unfortunately, there is no qualification you can take to prepare you to be an entrepreneur or a parent”
Hours together with your partner will be reduced, but the way to combat this is simple: make time. Carving out a few hours with your loved one to talk and relax together can save you from a lot of needless arguments and stress. Looking back at having children and a company, so many fights could have been avoided if I had simply communicated how I felt at the time.
You’re the boss
Despite the responsibilities you will have, and the inevitable sacrifices you will have to make, you will find that you enjoy a certain amount of freedom as your own boss. Unlike a 9-5 job where you abide by an employment contract and report to a manager, you organise your day how you want as a business owner. This can feel quite liberating, and it means that you don’t have to apologise for leaving the office to look after your children.
The flipside, however, is that you always must be available even when you’re not in the office. One thing about being an entrepreneur – and I’m still unsure if this is a pro or a con – is that your brain never switches off, and the emails never stop. Unlike in a regular office job, ultimately it is you who has the responsibility for all staff members.
No qualification can prepare you
Unfortunately, there is no qualification you can take to prepare you to be an entrepreneur or a parent. As every parent knows, the moment you come back from the hospital with your first child, your whole life changes and you can never be fully prepared for the culture shock. Similarly, when you first start to get investment in your business, there’s no turning back. All you can do is learn quick, accept the sacrifices and develop a strong sense of self.
Swallow your pride
‘Parentpreneurs’ cannot do it alone and you’d be a fool to try. Starting out in business with small children is incredibly tough and the help of others – extended family, friends and colleagues – is vital if you are going to avoid compromising both your children and your business.
Yes, you may be the ‘founder’ of the company and the ‘parent’, but you cannot be everywhere all the time. You don’t need to suffer in silence and you cannot afford to alienate your staff or those close to you.
What’s more, the people who work for you will grow and thrive from the added responsibility you give them. When I sold my last company to set up Fleximize with my business partner, eight of my staff followed me. I see how incredibly fortunate I was as without these amazing people my company simply wouldn’t be what it is today, and I would undoubtedly have missed out on so much more with my children.
Resilience is key
In the end, being a parentpreneur means having confidence in your decisions and never doubting yourself, even when others do. You must be resilient in the face of criticism and remember that a negative situation doesn’t have to be permanent. If you manage your own and others’ expectations, keep sight of what is important to you and manage your time well. Then, if done correctly, running a successful business and a healthy family needn’t be at odds. In fact, you’ll find that the two can come to complement each other and make for a truly fulfilling life.