"I’ll be home late tonight - I’ve got to finish some work." These are words all too familiar to many entrepreneurs and their long-suffering spouses. A decade ago, when I was the co-founder and CEO of the data analytics consultancy, Trovus, I experienced the serious pressures of growing a business while balancing family life.
We had reached a tipping point. My wife Nichola and I had endless arguments about lack of money and a virtually non-existent sex life. Nichola felt neglected, there was a lack of communication and we both felt guilty about not seeing our children, and about our diverging goals in life.
Every day followed the same, miserable pattern. I was into the office early and stayed late. There was always something that came up that stopped me going home; a proposal to get out, a project to finish, a staff issue to deal with.
Nichola used to say without a trace of humour that by the end of the week all that was left of me was the pith of the lemon. The choice was clear: we either put energy and focus into our relationship and our young family of two toddlers, or we would go our separate ways.
Indeed, the stats aren’t great for CEOs with families. They have an above average divorce rate - a fact that should strike fear into any entrepreneur in that situation.
We decided to work together to make a completely new plan for our life. While searching for a solution, we became fascinated with the idea of taking techniques from work and applying them at home. If they worked in business, why wouldn’t they work in our personal lives too, too?
We began to shape a family vision with goals and values, creating a clear purpose for the Craven family. To get there, we spent many weekends and evenings talking and listening to what was really important to each other. That revealed hidden truths on what was most important to both partners. We even got the kids involved, cutting out pictures and describing goals, hopes and dreams. Six months later, a hand-written mission statement was tacked onto the kitchen wall, along with our family values.
The big plan
If you want to create enormous change, you need a goal to chase. Ours was one which raised a few eyebrows, to say the least. We planned to sail around the world together – for two whole years - and would raise the money to afford to do this. It took us five years to raise the cash and two more to complete our goal of sailing around the world as a family. But we did it, and couldn’t have done so without our shared values, mission and sense of purpose.
There were many lessons we learned from this experience. But a key one is this: we continued to work as hard as before, but the difference was, we were united by a common purpose. Nichola knew why I was working hard and I knew she was working towards that same goal. We talked more, we enjoyed our time and it breathed life and energy into our marriage.
With the strong support at home, it led to me becoming a better business leader. We grew the team, we made profit, we thrived and, ultimately, the process led to a successful sale of the business. Now, with mission completed as a thriving, happy family, we are building our next company.
So, before you end up in a broken marriage while coping with a back-breaking business, I recommend you spend some time working on what’s truly important, both at work and at home – you may find they are, in many cases, the same things.
10 lessons that anyone can use at home and at work:
1) Remember that people do things for their reasons. Not your reasons. Ask what’s important to people in your team
2) Focus on a bigger picture so that you don’t get caught up in the detail
3) Give members of the team autonomy rather than micro-managing
4) Energy from home helps you thrive better in the workplace
5) Create goals at home as well as at work
6) It’s no virtue to be at your desk 24 hours a day; rather, focus on an outcome
7) Promote a culture of what’s right, not what’s wrong
8) Treat work colleagues like family members and look out for them
9) Encourage celebration of small victories and make it fun and playful
10) Give every member of the team the chance to feel successful
Caspar Craven is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of personal development company The Brave You. He is author of Where the Magic Happens which details his family’s sailing voyage around the world, a trip that defined his business philosophy.