Founders on SofasNavigating the founder-spouse dynamic: The importance of keeping your better half in the loop
Founders on Sofas
Navigating the founder-spouse dynamic: The importance of keeping your better half in the loop
While startup founders chase their dreams, families and marriages often take the hardest hit and pay the price of this adventure. The key to startup success begins at home, so if your spouse isn't part of your startup journey day-to-day, here are a few ideas to include them
When talking about startups and entrepreneurship, we often get caught up in the success stories posted on media platforms. The glamorous photos of the cross-handed founders make it seem like they've figured everything out, and things are running smoothly. We often forget that right behind (almost) every successful founder stands one unsung hero: the spouse. While startup founders chase their dreams, families and marriages often take the hardest hit and pay the price of this adventure.
They might not be physically present in pitch meetings, late-night brainstorming sessions, and transatlantic flights, but they are always there emotionally and mentally. By not sharing your startup day-to-day with your spouse, they are left feeling isolated and alone. They don't know what you're going through, they can't offer their support, and they are left speculating in the unknown. In the long run, this usually leads to resentment and frustration, eventually turning your home into just another place where you need to keep your superhero mask on.
Guy Nizan, a cyber startup CEO who sold his company to Rapid7 for $400 million two years ago, after a six year journey and four founding rounds, adds depth to this perspective: “From the trenches, everything seems critical: a meeting with a top-tier U.S. investor when money is running low, for instance. This effort, as others, which required me to spend extended periods of time away, ultimately came at the expense of my wife. At first, I thought she couldn't understand its importance. For 12 hours a day, I was alone dealing with investors, customers, and employees, and it was difficult to explain it all to an outsider.”
Being a founder's significant other is a huge challenge; while their spouses work for 80-100 hours a week, they carry the weight of the family's responsibilities, Keeping the kids' needs in balance, facing loneliness and solitary nights. With such high prices to pay, it becomes even more imperative to make sure our partners feel like this startup is their baby too. The more we feel that something is ours and we are responsible for it, the more likely we are to push it, commit to its growth, and contribute to its success.
“As soon as we moved to the U.S., my wife started working for the company with me," shares Nizan about his personal journey. "When she joined the company, the dynamic between us flipped completely; it was she who encouraged me to take meetings away from home, take on multiple tasks, and put in long hours when necessary. Simply because she fully understood the importance and urgency of those actions.”
By sharing daily with your partner, consulting with him or her, and respecting their opinions and advice, you facilitate the feeling of togetherness. You may be surprised by what your spouse has to say if you let them offer their perspective.
“As we look back, it might have been too much, since working together didn't allow us to have home as our safe space, our refuge. It was just another place where we discussed work. As we returned to Israel, I got to experience the best of both worlds - My wife no longer worked for the company, so I got my supportive spouse back, who understands what I am going through and can offer valuable advice”, concludes Nizan.
If your spouse isn't part of your startup journey day-to-day, here are a few ideas to include them:
Start by setting expectations. Talk to your spouse about your startup and explain what you're hoping to achieve. Let them know that you want them to be involved and ask for their input.
Be transparent. Don't sugarcoat the challenges of being a founder. Share your successes and your failures, and let your spouse know how you truly feel.
Thank them for giving you the freedom to pursue your dreams, do not take this for granted.
Truly listen. Your spouse will always have your best interest at heart. In your chaotic environment, they might offer you a fresh, more constructive approach.
Set boundaries. In order to maximize your creativity and your family's happiness, it is essential that you establish clear boundaries between your personal and professional lives.
The key to startup success begins at home. Make your home a solid foundation, a safe space where you can be yourself with your partner and family. Get refreshed and ready to take on the chaos of the startup world with a new sense of self-confidence and focus.
Matz is an early-stage investor, a certified Psychologist and a professor at IDC University.