When I was younger, I viewed my startups as a family. The long hours, experiencing success and failure together, forged a strong bond among the team.
That bond took work to build. It didn’t just happen. As founder, I would plan parties and weekend events for us to do as a team. During crunch time, I would buy pizza for the crew and stay with them even if I wasn’t directly involved. It’s what you do to build a strong team and it takes effort.
Now I’m older and have family of my own (3 kids, loving wife, annoying dog). Balancing family and a startup is hard. It’s easy let the startup come first. You find yourself justifying your priority in some form of “my family loves me and will understand.” When I did that, my wife almost left me. I missed out on my son’s first year.
My family is my second startup. Actually it is my first startup — my business is my second startup. Just as building a great team takes effort, so too does building a great family. Your family deserves to be treated as such.
As a founder, you would never show up to work two hours late every day. It sets the wrong example and sends the message that this endeavor isn’t very important. Show the same respect for your family life. If you are meant to come home at 6pm then don’t show up hours later because work was more important.
And just like you observe proper meeting etiquette — don’t check email, don’t take phone calls, or allow your self to become distracted — give the same respect to family time and events. Dinner time and family outings are just like meetings at the office, only they are with your home team.
Now I’m not perfect. There are some nights I miss my kid’s bedtime because I couldn’t pull myself away from a coding problem. That’s as lazy and undisciplined as sleeping in late on a Monday. And my kids still have to remind me “no cell phone at the dinner table Daddy!” When that happens, I feel the same shame as if meeting chair asked me us turn my phone off.
I’m now giving my family the same importance as my startup. I try to apply the same discipline at home as I do at the office. Yes it’s hard, but I’m seeing a marked improvement in the quality of my home and work life.
Doesn’t your family deserve to have the same attention as your startup?