From Arlene: Living With An Entrepreneur

From Arlene: Living With An Entrepreneur

Lifestyle | Posted by - May 2, 2016 at 12:00 am

Living with an entrepreneur is no picnic. Building a business from scratch requires intense focus, incredibly long hours and enormous risks. Entrepreneurs are born to the lifestyle. We love the challenges, we can live comfortably with risk, and we're temperamentally suited to the ups and downs. Well, more than suited, actually. We live for this stuff.

Our loved ones? Not so much. Let's face it, living with an entrepreneur can be a real workout. If I had to list all the things that have driven my family nuts about my lifestyle, I'd be here for days, so I'm simply going to report what I think they'd say if I asked them to name the one thing they wish would change. They'd chorus in unison: Get rid of that damn BlackBerry. (I can't tell you how many family vacations have involved repeated threats to yank my phone out of my hand and toss it in the ocean.)

Because entrepreneurs can never really stop working--and in truth we don't really want to stop because it's part of who we are, and we love our work so much that it's hard to pull away--those closest to us may feel as if we're never truly present in their lives. Understandably, our endlessly buzzing phones become the most potent symbol of their inability to get our attention.

I've heard women liken the experience of being married to an entrepreneur to living with someone who's having an affair. And is flagrant about it! I've heard husbands of entrepreneurs liken the experience to living with a new mom so besotted with her newborn that she forgets he exists. As you can well imagine, feeling excluded can breed a lot of resentment.

Now imagine that your spouse, who's already feeling ignored, also has skin in the game. Maybe you've mortgaged the house or invested all your life savings in the business. Things can get intense pretty quickly.

So are entrepreneurs destined to live alone and their kids destined to suffer in silence? No. But one lesson I've learned is that you can't just cross your fingers and hope for the best. As with business, you've got to know what you're getting into and troubleshoot problems before they're too big to surmount.

A serial entrepreneur I know told me recently that an entrepreneur is like the star of a movie-- if you're going to marry or embark on a serious relationship with one, you should probably be the sort of person who enjoys playing a supporting role. But a supporting role does not mean a diminished one. Of course if you want to star in your own movie, that's okay, too, but in that case, you're going to need to hire support.

As for the kids, there's no question that they built my business with me, because they had to make many sacrifices along the way. When other kids were in the park with their moms and dads, mine were at my office riding around on dolleys. Still, I think my kids would say that they also reaped rewards.

Looking back, I guess the one change I'd make is to have been more present with them in the moment, just as I am with my clients and partners in business. They grow up fast, just like everyone says.

What about you? Do you think you have what it takes to live with an entrepreneur? And if you are one, what sensitivities have you developed to make life easier for those closest to you? I'd love to hear if and how you're making it work.

Tags: arlene dickinson, dickinson, blog, entrepreneur, business, living, lifestyle, advice, business advice, family, home business, time management

Arlene Dickinson

Arlene Dickinson is one of Canada’s most renowned independent marketing communications entrepreneurs. As CEO of Venture Communications, her creative and strategic approach has turned the company into a powerhouse with a blue chip client list.  She is also the CEO of, a company she founded in 2012 that is dedicated to serving and investing in entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial lifestyle. 

Dickinson is best known to Canadians as one of the venture capitalists on the award-winning CBC series Dragons’ Den, The Big Decision and marketing expert on Recipe to Riches.  She is the author of two books, the number one bestselling book, Persuasion and her most recent best-selling release, All In. 

Susan Rochefort
October 23, 2012 at 6:39 pm

I started in real estate in 2006 and by 2008 my husband left his 13 year career in post secondary to join me because we realized very quickly that my business was becoming my life. It is very difficult for an "employee" (my husband) to understand the heart of an "entrepreneur" (me). I don't think it's easy to explain the lifestyle and understand why you are answering the phone during supper. The best way for my husband to understand me was to join my business, which he did for 4 years. It was such a relief when he started to "get it". It turned out that real estate was not for my husband but with his support and involvement over the 4 years, we were able to start our own brokerage much quicker than I could have on my own. The experience was amazing for our marriage as it helped us to understand and communicate in a way that we never had to when we didn't work together on a daily basis. The biggest lesson I have learned is that even though my business is 24-7, I have to make time for the people I love which means not missing birthday's, special events or just picking up the phone to just say hi even if that means I have to schedule time into my blackberry. Living in the moment was also a key lesson. Learning to put your laptop away or put the phone down and look your family members in the eyes when you are talking to them. There was a show on Oprah where a woman had accidentally left her baby in her car and her baby died of heat stroke. From the moment I watched that episode, I understood what it meant to be in the moment and I make a daily, conscious effort to live my life this way.

Tracy Blehm
October 24, 2012 at 7:38 pm

I agree a 100%. I am blessed with a husband who has managed to work his regular 45-50 hour job and take over the kids, meals and house maintenance so that I can work and build my dream. I have found that when I do go home - it is about home. It is about my kids, my husband and not about clean floors. I think having a family as an entrepreneur gives you the opportunity to become more discriminating in how you spend your time and how to become more efficient when focused on work. To me that is my life balance.

Thanks Arlene for the insight and inspiration.

Tammy Graham
October 26, 2012 at 1:02 pm

When my daughter turned 17 this spring, I felt some regrets about time and the focus I had placed on work and growing my career. When I dig deeper into the past and take in consideration the big picture, it’s not really a question of being present more often; it’s about actually allowing myself to be truly present in those moments. When I look back at Christmas concerts and family trips, I was physically there, but my mind was on business. If I was to give advice, to people struggling to balance their personal time with work, it would be to allow yourself to be physically, mentally, and emotionally present in those important moments. As with everything in life, it is not about the quantity, it is about the quality.

Arctic Radio
November 12, 2012 at 9:47 am

I love your post; I laughed several times ... no picnic! Love it; and then I realized there is real comfort in accepting we're born in to the lifestyle.

Meaningful questions. Well, I try to be as creative and polished with family and close friends, as I am with the work ... that way my 'distance' is less when we do have quality time (i.e. Tammy's excellent comment above, and the others!!). When I travel now, I don't take a phone or a computer (and really try not to sneak remote access to emails if there is a computer just sitting around) ... it's hard for the first few days, but well worth it. 

Here may be a tip that sometimes works: teaching kids the value of a dollar  (i.e. a work ethic) early in their lives also helped me (and them) later in life. Balance with others is easier when there is more of a level playing field ;)

Just thoughts, but more importantly, thank you for a thought provoking post. The journey continues to that place called balance.

Zulubear ~ Annette Young
November 12, 2012 at 12:54 pm

If I am careful enough in my thought awareness, I am aware that being an entrepreneur is more than just work related. For me it is a way of being. Maybe it is because my work is with kids who are unhappy in their learning environment. I am often quoting, " In my work I am either giving compassion to a child or bringing them to it." Seems to work like a charm they are so open and willing to drink it in."

When I arrive home from 'work' I do not change into my play clothes, I wear them to work. I am so full of enthusiasm about all that I have learned, passion is at a high level and I am ready to play. I feel blessed that I am hooked into my purpose. 

I have had to learn to to be sensitive to others in my life who have not yet found what makes them tick. 

I do that by spending time enjoying them in all that inspires them. I have found it restful to 'let my mind stand down' and enjoy it's own quietness more importantly  I am constantly finding more ways to have fun.

Just the serotonin from that makes for a good nights sleep.

I am much happier to be around. "Work" flows and life becomes a part of it rather than work as a part of life.

darci que
November 15, 2012 at 5:54 pm

my husband left us 11 years ago because he did not want the entreprenurial lifestyle any longer.he wanted to work 9-5 with no responsibilities so i get what Arlene is saying.without the extra help/income ,i pretty much had to start from scratch.i had the debts of our house,his bad debts he left me with and in the mix an 8 year old daughter.i was detertmined not to lose the house! that became his mission! everyone around me kept saying ,give it up you'll never be able to do we are 11 years later and we still have our house.i learned to be what i call-an unfocused entrpreneur! i did any job that came my way! i was making a good living as an artist but without a car and living in a small town ,i took any job that came my way working night and day to pay the bills and take care of my charished little girl! i did okay until my body and mind yelled STOP! and i ended up in emergency.the doctor came in after a battery of tests and questions and said "I have good news and bad news,which would you like first? now i had been crying the whole time so i sniffled -the good please to which she replied"you are a very healthy woman" then came the bad...she turned to me and said "you are not wonderwoman" to which i replied"but i just bought the tights!" she laughed and told me my humour would get me little girl was beside me thru all of this while the doc was instructing me to just breathe! my daughter looked at me sadly and said ,i have an idea night time could you stop all your work and sit beside me and watch tv or a movie?we did that for 11 years and i never had to go to emerge again.i still worry about money and bills and do i do enough for her but i learned that family is first and for most and with my resourcefulness  i would manage and i have! i think it helped me become a better mommy too!

Zulubear ~ Annette Young
November 19, 2012 at 11:17 am

Touching and inspiring Darci que.

Jill Crossland
May 7, 2016 at 11:15 am
I try to make sure I am fully present at the beginning and end of the day. Mornings my husband and I get up early and walk the dogs (no phone). Before dinnner we have a glass of wine and talk. These are not big moments but they keep the flow of the relationship.

If he calls during the day I try to chat without looking at my laptop but still working on that!
Marayna Dickinson
May 7, 2016 at 1:11 pm
Great ideas, Jill!
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