Editor’s Note: Dan and Gina Schmidt agreed to share their experience of how startup life has changed their relationship and family. Check in Thursday to hear Gina’s perspective. Opinions expressed this commentary are the author’s alone.
Being a husband, father and founder has stretched me in ways I never would have imagined.
At the same time, my life would never have been as fulfilling without living these roles. I love and am grateful for my professional life , and even more thankful for the chance to go home at night and spend time with my wife and three boys.
If you’re in a serious relationship when you decide to hit the entrepreneurial road, your significant other is your first opportunity to sell your idea.
– Dan Schmidt
I’m always learnings from my kids and clients. Sometime it’s things like “just how little sleep can you survive on in your 30s?” or “why does my calendar have four things on it — in the same time slot?”
There are also deep life lessons, and as I look back those are what mean the most to me. Here are my core realizations:
Your spouse is your first sale.
If you’re in a serious relationship when you decide to hit the entrepreneurial road, your significant other is your first opportunity to sell your idea. No customer will ever be on your side as much as your spouse will.
If they’re not getting it, chances are your pitch needs some (or a lot) more work. You’re also much more likely to get authentic feedback, and on this “sale” you get as many opportunities to present the idea as you need.
I missed this opportunity the first time around and didn’t get on the same page as my wife when starting EBCFO. I heard her hesitation as “No,” rather than, “I’m not there yet, tell me more,” which any good salesperson will tell you is the right response. So I moved on with my brilliant (sic) idea, instead of bringing my team (wife) fully on board. Good thing there are second (and third, and fourth) chances.
Normal is a myth.
You’ve heard this one before, but few places is it more apparent than in families and startups. From the moment you wake up until the moment you close your eyes, anything might happen — and often does. Unexpected opportunities, peanuts up a nose, employee turnover, a dandelion bouquet — it’s a good thing us entrepreneur-types are flexible!
Even so, you’ll find your flexibility stretched beyond what you had imagined. As an example, I haven’t always been a morning person. In fact, throughout most of college I consistently earned my night owl certification.
But once we had kids, Gina and I decided that I would be home in time to eat dinner as a family. The only flexibility available to put in entrepreneur hours I needed was to start the day earlier. As a result, I’ve been at my desk before 5 a.m. some days. Over time, I’ve learned to love the quiet part of my mornings.
Learn to celebrate.
Kids know how to celebrate everything. Also, every new parent and every new entrepreneur knows how to celebrate the firsts — first smile, first step, first sale, first employee. But as families and startups scale, it’s easy — and normal — to get caught up in the crush of the everyday.
Take the time to step back, look at where you’ve been, and celebrate. It’s good for your soul, and will pull your team and family together to conquer the next challenge.
One of my favorite startup family memories is when EBCFO made it to Gold Partner status with Xero — meaning we were working with more than 100 companies on the Xero platform. My family put together a party with 100 pieces of different gold items like candy, coins, etc. It was something small, but we still talk about it.
You’ve already arrived.
When you start a company, you already have an opportunity that most people only dream of. Succeed or fail, you’ll be permanently changed for the better. And I’ve found it’s the same with my family. Life becomes messy, but it’s also more full than I could have imagined.
Founding companies and starting families aren’t for the faint of heart. Both carry risk, but both give rewards like nothing else does. So — go live life!
Dan Schmidt is the founder and CEO of The Emerging Business CFO, a virtual business accounting and financial advisory firm that works to free founders and entrepreneurs from the stress of managing the daily operational grind. The company offers bookkeeping, accounting, cash flow management, payroll and CFO services.