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Young couple holding hands with sun-flare.

Maintaining a Relationship and a Business

'One day my wife said she was leaving. She wanted someone to put her as number one'. Maintaining a relationship and a business can be one of an entrepreneur’s greatest challenges.

I have been fortunate enough to find love several times in my life. But managing a relationship and your life as an entrepreneur can be very challenging.

To be a successful entrepreneur, you have to be totally devoted and dedicated to your business, and quite often maintaining the balance, especially in the early years of a company, can be a battle.

Your partner will often feel that they are competing for your affection. Throw into the equation a few young children or, in the case of my first marriage, the difficulty of trying to have children, then being an entrepreneur can be truly challenging.

It requires an amazing partner to be able to put up with and understand the sacrifices that he or she, as a partner of a truly dedicated entrepreneur, will have to make.

In the case of my first wife, who my family adored and still do, I look back and am still amazed at how she put up with my totally selfish approach to life. I just assumed that she understood that, as a team, everything I was doing was for us and that she, as half owner of the team, understood that she would be the long-term beneficiary.

The problem was that she was also a very talented professional going through her own career challenges, which I was completely oblivious to. And I never really told her anything about the business.

We had also been on the IVF program for several years and, after several miscarriages, finally had a baby boy who tragically only lived a few minutes.

I buried myself in the business as my way of handling the challenge and also threw myself into working out more, playing more squash and swimming, drinking more (hard to believe that would be possible), anything that would help me put the loss of my son out of my mind.

One day my first wife came home and said that she was leaving. That she would always love me, but she wanted someone who would put her as number one.

She thought that making money was number one, having children was number two, making money was number three and then somewhere, long down the list, her name eventually appeared. On reflection she was right.

We broke up and she met an amazing man who now puts her on the pedestal she deserves.

So how do you manage being a successful entrepreneur with a happy home life and family? I believe that there are several commandments that need to be followed:

1. Your partner must be totally committed and understand the ups and downs that come with the risks of business. This is especially important if your partnership is totally dependent on the business for support.

2. Keep your partner totally informed so that they understand why you have to spend an extra night away or suddenly have to fly to India or Europe.

The best and easiest way to do this is to either have them copied on all your emails or to make sure that you have an assistant who is totally on board with the concept that they can be completely honest with your partner when they ring up and ask for any information regarding your whereabouts.

3. You should give your partner the monthly business projections and profit and losses. That way they will automatically cut the cloth to the expenditures the business can handle. You will not have to explain why you cannot go on vacation this year.

4. Try and ensure that you dedicate, as much as possible, weekends to your family or partner. Quite often I would fly back from Europe on Friday and fly off again on Sunday night because I was my daughter’s soccer coach.

5. This is the last commandment and probably the hardest one. Demonstrate that you are doing everything you are doing for the long-term benefit of the family unit. The easiest way to do this is to sign everything into your partner’s name: house, business, everything.

That way your partner will really know that you are committed to both them and the business, and the hopefully successful entrepreneurial dream that you have.

I remember the IDA being very confused when I set up for business in Donegal and put it all in my wife’s name. But that is when you really know that you are committed to your partner and your business.