How to Keep Your Small Business Without Losing Your Family

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Unfortunately, work often competes with family. 

Ideally, the two would work together, but …

The small business owner always feels this tension.  The traits that make a small business person successful in the work place include strong work ethic, creativity, and determination.  The book Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership: How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures says your greatest assets are also your greatest liabilities.  Your leadership strength is also the thing that is most likely to lead to your downfall.

The small business owner who invests 80 hours a week in his or her business – because of strong focus and determination – is also the most likely to burn-out and neglect his or her family.

So how do you keep your family without losing your business?

The 30 Second Commute : The Ultimate Guide to Starting and Operating a Home-Based Business has a list of things for the home-based business owner to consider:

Involve your family in the business plan developing stages – be clear about what will change, might change, and won’t change.

Communicate openly with your spouse – know the answers to the following questions:

What are your expectations during this new phase? – be with the kids during the day? home on weekends?

Are you on the same page financially?

What is your greatest fear as you enter this new endeavor?

What will the family need to sacrifice, for how long?

How do we know the plan is not working?  Have an exit strategy in place.

Communicate clearly with the children – what are their new boundaries.

When spouses work together:

Consider this carefully as few spouses can spend such extended hours together and their marriage be blessed.


The game plan

Before starting any new business venture I believe a husband and wife should sit down together and clearly discuss the family implications of a new business.  Here’s how:

On a piece of paper write your average weekly, daily, or monthly activities.  Then ask, “How will this activity change if I take on this business?”  Beside each activity indicate if it will change, might change, or won’t change. 

As a couple, ask each other if you are willing to sacrifice those items that will change.

Never Go in it Alone

In the book Moms Needs, Dads Needs: Keeping Romance Alive Even After the Kids Arrive Willard F. Harley,Jr. suggests the following agreement:

Never do anything without an enthusiastic agreement between you and your spouse.

This is a rule I often break and the reality is that when I break this rule the results have not been a blessing to our marriage.  Most of us operate with the following rule:

As long as you won’t be ‘too mad’, I think I’ll do it.

However, when running a small business a lot will be demanded of your family and your marriage.  If you are not both enthusiastic about the choice, that decision will put more and more pressure on your relationship.

The Exit Strategy

In the post on How to Evaluate Risk When Starting a Small Business we talked about the importance of having a financial exit plan.  What if things do not work out according to plan? 

You must also have a family motivated exit plan

What if the business starts demanding more time?  What if the business is not on track in terms of growth?  While one spouse might be willing to make a longer commitment to the business, both must agree when enough is enough and it is time to move on to something else.

I believe there is a broken correlation between those who are highly successful in small business and those who have fantastic families.  In other words, it is hard to have both – hard, but not impossible.

Remember the Important Role of Prayer

While God is already with us, prayer is an intentional invitation for God to join you in the midst of your discussions.

In prayer, barriers are removed and anger released.

Commit to spending time in prayer over major decisions.  A flesh act is one where we proceed with a plan without first consulting God.  Even in business we walk by the Spirit.

Remember, there are some things that should never be sacrificed. 

What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36 NIV)

In the same way I would ask – what good is it if you have a successful small business, but lose your family?How I categorize gains and losses, I would actually call this a loss.

Photo by gingerpig2000.

How do you balance family and business?

This post is part of a series on small business issues.  To read other articles in this series see:

5 Things You Should Know Before Starting Your First Business

How to Successfully Transition from Hobby to Side Job

How to Evaluate Risk When Starting a Small Business

Start Your Own Home Based Small Business


  1. says

    “I believe there is a broken correlation between those who are highly successful in small business and those who have fantastic families.”

    WOW, I think this helps to explain why successful people, esp those in the public eye, often have dysfunctional family situations, complete with divorces and estrangement from family members. If you’re 100% committed to success, something has to give, and it’s often family. The 50% divorce rate is a sad testiment to this.

    The exit plan is also a good idea, not all business ventures make it and we have to know when to switch gears. I’m of the opinion that just having an exit plan can enhance the chances of a business succeeding because the owner doesn’t have a sense of being trapped by the venture. We should never box ourselves into a corner we can’t get out of, no matter how much we believe in the idea. Real life just doesn’t always cooperate with our plans!
    .-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last blog ..Seek Fulfillment Beyond Your Work =-.

  2. says

    Every time I start a new venture, I make it a point to ask my wife what she thinks about it. There are so many deals gone wrong, I would have avoided if only I trusted my wife’s discernment. (not logical or analytical point of view)

    I think one of the keys is to design your business in a way that it will operate or perform optimum with minimum supervision or while still keeping the more valuable “family time”.

    Thanks for this post Craig. People should write more of these.
    .-= productiveentrepreneur´s last blog ..SIKAT SOLAR POWERED VEHICLE PINOY MADE =-.

    • Craig says

      Sounds like you are on the right track with asking your wife. It is amazing how much a woman knows just with a little intuition.

  3. sylvia says

    Hi craig,
    I’m very thankful for all your emais and suggestiona and experience shared with us/me.
    I’m a office manager, my desire /longing is tho have a my own business.
    Can you advice me a good business.
    I live in the caribbean and there are many possibilities here.

    I appreciate your time and wisdom .


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