Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The spouse at the centre of the storm

If you think entrepreneurs are a tough breed to figure out, imagine being married to one.

The life of an entrepreneurial wife (or husband) can be filled with tension, uncertainty, hard work and loneliness. That’s all forgotten when the business succeeds and they start buying the brand-name scotch, but it’s a tiring, roller-coaster ride while it lasts.

Remind me to tell you about the roundtable I held at PROFIT Magazine a few years ago, when we gathered some wives of local young entrepreneurs to spill the beans on what life at the centre of the whirlwind is really like. It’s not as easy as it looks.

In the meantime, Laura Bailey of Crain's Detroit Business magazine wrote a story in November 2003 on the hectic lives of entrepreneurs’ spouses. The story itself is beyond the pay wall here, but it makes some great points:

* Robert Dube, owner of Oak Park-based Image One Corp., and his wife, Emily, are so busy they have to schedule a special weekly lunch to discuss family issues.

* "It's almost like there's a third party in your marriage,'' said Melanie Zauel, whose husband, Brian, co-owns Wixom-based Cornerstone Engineering, a full-service architectural firm that today has 19 employees. "Sometimes all of his energy is used up in work, and there isn't anything left for the rest of the family.''

(Not that she’s complaining. "I wouldn't want to be married to somebody who is miserable because he is working for somebody else,'' she added. )

* Work-life balance is one of the biggest concerns for entrepreneurs, and often it's up to the spouse to keep that harmony.

* Another issue that entrepreneurs grapple with is finances. Money provides ammunition for fights in any marriage, but for entrepreneurs it's worse.

"There's not a person in the (Young Entrepreneurs Organization) that does not have their house and personal assets on the line,'' said Tom Nardone, president of Isdera Corp… YEO is a support group and networking organization for entrepreneurs under age 40 with $1 million or more in annual revenue, and Nardone said work-family balance is the group's biggest issue.

* And don't think the husbands of business owners get off easy. “I maybe do some things (around the house) that some of my friends don't do,'' such as more laundry or evenly dividing the household chores, said David Cattermole, senior design engineer for Troy-based Compunetics Inc. He is married to Laura Cattermole, founder of Farmington-based IT staffing company RemTech Business Solutions. For example, he cooks and she washes or vice versa.
"We're a team,'' says David.

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