For Better or For Work: 7 Lessons For Entrepreneurs With Families

By Dave Kerpen

Being an entrepreneur is tough. Really tough. It hasn't just been challenging for me, it's been challenging for my wife and children. My wife happens to be my business partner, so perhaps this has been tougher than usual, but from what I've heard, for all entrepreneurs with families, the balance between our business and our family is challenging.
I met Meg Hirshberg three weeks ago at SXSW where she spoke with her husband Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm, a $300 million yogurt company and the second largest in the U.S. I met her after reading her book For Better or For Work and being really moved and inspired by the stories I read. I was further inspired after hearing Meg talk at SXSW. Inspired as a busy entrepreneur, but also really inspired as the spouse of an entrepreneur.

Meg wrote the book to share what she wished she had known and done before the many years of struggle while growing both a business and a family.

Here are seven lessons I learned from For Better or For Work, a book I very highly recommend, for both entrepreneurs and their families.

1) Turn off the smartphone. Make time every day for your spouse and children, time completely uninterrupted by emails and other notifications. It doesn't always have to be a lot of time, but it does have to be uninterrupted.

2) Prioritize each other's communications. Respect each other enough to put the other at the top of the queue on any given busy day.

3) Take family vacations. No matter how difficult it may seem to find the time or money, find it. It won't make or break the business and it might make the family a lot happier.

4) Befriend other company-building families. For me, Entrepreneur's Organization has been a lifesaver in helping me meet lots of other CEO's and their families, people who know from experience what the roller coaster ride is like.

5) Take frequent inventory. Ask each other how you're doing in balancing work vs. the relationship. And even ask the kids how you're doing and what you can do better.

6) Give each other a voice. The entrepreneur is used to being a boss, and needs a voice at home. But the spouse of an entrepreneur absolutely needs a voice in business decisions that may affect the family as well.

7) Make family dinners a priority. Find time to all sit together in an electronics-free zone, listening to each other and talking (mostly) about stuff besides the business.

I learned these lessons and so much more from reading For Better or For Work, many of which applied to me as an entrepreneur, or spouse of an entrepreneur, but many of which also applied to me as a businessperson, husband and father. What lessons have you learned from balancing work and family?