Becoming an entrepreneur has meant a huge paradigm shift for this father, not just the hours and the paycheque, but the very idea of whom he counts as family.
For most of us, our family is made up of the people we’re blood related to. Maybe we extend that definition to include close friends, but overall, it’s the same basic concept. For years, I functioned under this idea of family, too. Even though I never really had the “traditional” family with a mother, father, two kids, and a dog, the people who were my “family” were related to me by blood.
Then I started my own business.
A lot of things have to change in your life when you first jump out of the 9 – 5 world and into your own business. You have to change the way you think about what it means to work. You have to change your definition of overtime and time off, what you think a “regular paycheck” looks like. Plus, if you have employees you have to think of ways to keep them happy and working hard. I know that you can increase engagement by paying your workers to volunteer so you create a culture where they feel like they aren’t just replaceable like so many big companies make their employees feel.
I had no idea when I first jumped into being an entrepreneur that it would also change the way I thought about what “family” really was.
The biggest business realization I had came after a few years of working with truly horrible clients. I hated what I was doing, and that was a big problem for me. One morning, I woke up and decided I needed to love my work again, and the best way to do that was to only work with people I love to work with. I brought on a couple of great business partners who were my best friends, and within just a few months something big was made very clear to me. These people were my family.
(Photo: Joel’s business partner Edgar and wife Robbyn)
Now, my kids know my business partners as aunts and uncles. When I talk about them, I talk about them like they’re family. They’re not “like” family. They’re just as important to me as some of the family who are related to me by blood, if not more important.
The way I look at it, “family” transcends the so-called “birthright” people have to be in your life just because they’re related to you by blood. The people in your family should be the people who are close to you, the people who truly want the best for you, and who believe in what you’re doing. Sometimes those people are related to you by blood. Sometimes they’re not. The closest members of my family are the people I’ve selected to be a part of it myself.
(Photo: Joel’s partner Chris, and his girlfriend, JJ)
But there’s more to it than that. Being an entrepreneur also totally changed the way I talk to my immediate family about my business.
Most children grow up in a household where one (or both) parents work a 9–5 job. These kids have a pretty standardized and scheduled view on what it is to work. Daddy goes to work in the morning and comes home in the evening. He has the same typical days off every week and when he does have time off, we get to hang out. Most kids don’t know a whole lot about what their parents do for a living, and why should they? Their parents’ jobs rarely interfere with their lives more than they’re used to.
That’s not true when you’re an entrepreneur.
In some ways, my schedule is so much more flexible. I make my own hours, so it’s easy for me to rearrange some things to make it to the soccer game or the dance recital. On the back end of that, though, is that my business always needs my attention, and some weeks I have to put in 10 to 20 extra hours to move a big project forward. It’s not enough to just tell my kids that I’m working. They don’t understand why their dad seems to work so much more than their friends’ dads. That being said, as your own boss, you should never be afraid to outsource if you need help juggling the responsibilities of running a company. For example, When you need help with Payroll, there are useful HR specialists out there such as Zenefits that can provide payroll software to make the financial side of your workplace more manageable.
Instead, being an entrepreneur has opened up a line of communication about my work with my kids that I don’t see a lot in other families. I talk to my kids about my career all the time. I explain why I’m working so hard and what it means to us as a family for me to do it. It’s helped build an amazing, trusting relationship between me and my kids because they really understand what’s going on in my world.
And, maybe the coolest thing about it all, is that me being an entrepreneur and talking to my kids openly about it has opened up so many doors other kids never get to see. No matter what my kids want to do in the future, whether they want to get a regular 9–5 job or open a business of their own, they know it’s possible. They’ve seen it all before, and they know they can do anything they set their minds to.
This is #1000families post number 139. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.