There are some careers that we say are a “calling” such as teaching, being a doctor, nurse or a priest or pastor. Whenever we encounter people in those kinds of professions, we give them a little extra understanding.
But what about entrepreneurs and small business owners? Would you call entrepreneurship a “calling?” I’m sure many of us would shout out a resounding “YES!” After all, what might have started out as a way to spend more time with family and have more control over your schedule quickly turns out to take more time and cost more money and require more patience than any job ever did.
Entrepreneurship, no matter how you slice it, impacts more than the business owner, the employees and the suppliers of the business involved. It impacts families and friends in ways that few of us have ever imagined.
I have to admit that while I’ve felt and seen the impact of entrepreneurship on my friends and family, I’ve never really thought much about it until I received a review copy of For Better or for Work: A Survival Guide for Entrepreneurs and Their Families written by Med Cadoux Hirshberg, INC. columnist and the wife of Gary Hirshberg, Founder of Stonyfield Farm.
All I can say is, “WOW!”
As I jump into the book I’m overtaken by Meg Cadoux Hirshberg’s (@meghirshberg) warm, friendly and understanding writing style. She’s a columnist for Inc. Magazine so her style shouldn’t surprise you. But there is something so warm, so committed in her prose, that I’m immediately engaged. This might be because Meg is also the wife of Gary Hirshberg, Founder of Stonyfield Farm, so she’s writing with just a few years of real life experience.
You’ll be glad to know that Hirshberg doesn’t just tell HER story, she also brings other voices to the party – those of other entrepreneurs, their stories both good and bad. What you’ll find in For Better or for Work is that Hirshberg is writing about the elephant in the entrepreneurial room. It’s a myth that in running your business you control your life or your time. “A business is like a baby. It needs you when it needs you – and it always needs you.”
A Tour Around the Book
You can read For Better or for Work over the course of a weekend. It’s just under 250 pages and is speckled with actual family pictures; not just for Hirshberg, but of other entrepreneurs in their natural habitats – and with their families.
The introduction is worth reading. It’s Meg’s explanation of how the book came to be and how she got pulled into the vortex of entrepreneurship. Each chapter from that point on is dedicated to fulfilling the purpose of the book which is to give entrepreneurs and their families a “guide for navigating the emotional and logistical terrain of business building while simultaneously enjoying a fulfilling family life.”
There are fifteen chapters in the book and they follow a logical order. The beginning chapters are all about getting involved with the entrepreneur, followed by chapters on borrowing money, romantic relationships, children, what happens if you break up, what happens if your business dies, and just about every other possibility to strike an entrepreneur.
The end of each chapter has a summary section that includes “Thinks to talk about” and “Things to do.” After seeing this, I’m thinking that this should be required reading for anyone contemplating starting a business and their families with the assignment to run through each chapter section over dinner – sort of as a book club. Once you’ve completed that and still want to start a business, no one can say you weren’t warned.
On a serious note, each of these talking and doing sections is truly brilliant because they aren’t just empty and vapid ideas thrown onto a page. You can see how valuable each conversation will be to an entrepreneur and his or her family.
Here’s just one example pulled from Chapter 4; Bed and Boardroom – a chapter about working from home:
Things to talk about:
- How will everyone in the house feel about sacrificing some privacy?
- What is reasonably appropriate behavior for children sharing a house with a business?
Things to do:
- Set work hours as much as possible stick to them.
- Set up a work space in a part of the house that gets little people traffic.
Initially I joked about “being warned” if you still started your business after completing this book. That might have led you to believe that these discussion points are written in a way to dissuade you and that is not at all true. It’s clear that each chapter brings out a reality of what to expect and asks you to at least talk about how you will deal with it.
As in any other venture in life – clear and open communication is a key to success.
Who should read For Better or Work?
If you’re just about ready to head out on your own, this is a must read for you and everyone impacted by your decision.
It’s not too late for those of us who already have a running small business to share this book with our spouses. I hate to admit it, but I saw myself in the chapter on technology and being forever connected at all hours of the day. We had the “talk” about conversation over breakfast the other day and I made some new commitments about when and how I interact with technology. I think my son learned a valuable lesson both about identifying a potential problem and how to talk about it and negotiate a solution. No it’s not a point of resentment – it’s been discussed and agreed upon.
Now for those of you who are employees, don’t feel left out. Today’s economy asks about as much from employees as it does from entrepreneurs. Companies are doing more with less and much of that “more” has fallen on the few. This means working from home at all hours, traveling and time away from home. You, too, will benefit from reading this book and putting its lessons into practice.
Now You Know
If there’s anything that Med Cadoux Hirshberg has done, it’s brought this unspoken issue out into the open. Read For Better or Work and you’ll clear out a lot of that unspoken clutter between you, your business and your family.