Perspectives: Yours / Theirs

In any entrepreneurial family, empathy goes a long way.


I think that in any entrepreneurial family empathy goes a long way. Trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, it’s true in any marriage, but it’s certainly true in this situation where both spouses usually have very, very different pressures on them if one is an entrepreneur and one is not. I would say that the entrepreneur and the spouse each need to really understand one key thing at least. The spouse needs to understand that the entrepreneur has to be all in. And really should try not to take their grumpiness or their work‑aholism, their tendency to work‑aholism or their absences personally. I know this was very hard speaking as a spouse to do. But try to understand that the business requires so much, especially during the startup years. And what the entrepreneur needs to understand is that what for him or her is a series of sprints in business, when I get that new account, or when we break even, or when we open that new branch or whatever it happens to be, land that new account, is for their spouse a long and often lonely marathon.

Suggested Readings

Founders School || Surviving the Entrepreneurial Life || Perspectives: Yours / Theirs || Impact Guide (PDF).

Lisa Rosen, guest post On Startups blog. “The Startup Spouse on Risks, Trade-Offs and Never Sleeping on the Floor“, July 9, 2012.

Meg Cadoux Hirshberg, For Better or for Work: A Survival Guide for Entrepreneurs and Their Families, An Inc Original, 2012, Chapter 1 and Chapter 20.

MGroysberg, Boris and Robin Abrahams. “Manage Your Work, Manage Your Life”, Harvard Business Review, March 2014.

Meg Cadoux Hirshberg, “10 Tips for a Happy Marriage”, Inc. Magazine column, December 1, 2009.

Brad Feld and Amy Batchelor. Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationships with an Entrepreneur. John Wiley & Sons, Inc: Hoboken, NJ. 2013. Chapter 4: Startup Company Life.

Questions for You

Have I communicated clearly to my family so they understand what it is like to be in my shoes?

Tools and exercises

Exchange perspectives with one another: What’s your own view about the challenges and rewards you face? How can you help each other be empathetic?

Explore ways for the entrepreneur to be involved with the spouse’s work – or at least ask questions.