Warning! Don’t Marry an Entrepreneur, Unless…

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I was in the middle of the dot com crash and the emotional journey from the heady days of preparing my company for an initial public offering to the disheartening task of cutting a massive cash burn rate. The company had chewed up $30 million in the race to be first to market in our chosen space. Not only were we out of cash, but we owed millions more in unpaid bills and our lead investors were refusing to invest additional capital. I felt the crushing weight of 335 employees in offices across the U.S. and Europe (many of whom were about to be laid off) and our thirty-five Fortune 500 and Global 2000 customers (whose sensitive customer data we managed), all of which hung in the balance.

As I sat in the den of my home with shaking hands, fearfully agonizing over how to make a payroll amounting to nearly $1 million, I was also painfully aware that my personal net worth had gone up in smoke along with the market crash. I looked up as my wife walked in, pregnant with our third child. I explained to her that I might have to shut the company down, which would mean certain bankruptcy for us because I had personally guaranteed millions of dollars of real estate and equipment leases in our sprint to “Think Big and Go Fast”.

Without hesitation she walked over to me, put her arms around me and replied “That’s okay honey. I trust you and God to get us through this, and, worst case, we can just start over. Please tell me what I can do to lighten your burden.” No sweeter words were ever uttered by a wife in the midst of a struggle that would potentially turn her world–and comfortable lifestyle–upside down.

I’ve been greatly blessed by my wife’s patience and understanding, but many entrepreneurs tell me they often hold back because of their spouse’s fear of uncertainty. And the potential strife that can arise in a marriage with an entrepreneur can heap a great deal of stress on even the best marriage.

So strap yourself in if you hope to give the entrepreneur in your life full rein, because you need to be prepared to deal with risk and contentment. And, hopefully you can also contribute creative thinking and support to the grand vision.

Risk Tolerance

As Jesus sent the disciples out, he tested their faith with his instructions to not carry any money belt, bag, or shoes (Luke 10:3-4) and later, just prior to his crucifixion, Jesus confirmed the lesson by reminding them that when he sent them out they did not lack anything (Luke 22:35).

In a similar way, one needs to galvanize their faith into an unshakeable belief that, although life will hand us plenty of risk and uncertainty, God will see us (and our entrepreneurial spouse) through each circumstance.

Contentment

Unhappy is the family that is not content with God’s provision, which can lead to much contention. There are no fewer than five warnings in Proverbs about the contentious wife. In addition, there is clear instruction from Paul about joyfully accepting our circumstances, whether feast or famine (Philippians 4:11-13), and a convicting admonition from James about joyfully accepting our trials (James 1:2-4).

We’ve been through various periods of feast and famine as a family over the years because of our entrepreneurial journey. I liken it to when the Israelites were led out of Egypt and had to rely daily on God’s provision. It’s not easy to be married to an entrepreneur, but it’s almost guaranteed to increase your faith and level of contentment!

Creative Thinking

Spouses should also strive to be creative thought partners that can provide the entrepreneur in their life with the necessary input to help them achieve their best. And ideally, partners can also contribute mightily by being thrifty without adding stress to the family budget.

My wife put her way through college as an entrepreneur, so she understands the context in which I operate. She is also extremely creative in her own right. Given that, I place a real premium on her input into anything I am contemplating, creating, or launching.

Support

Finally, spouses should learn about the specific business their significant other is working on as well as about business in general. It’s never too late to pick up or hone skills that can contribute to, and even sharpen the strategy of the venture. Every entrepreneur needs a realistic voice that grounds them in reality whenever they venture into their wildly optimistic, dreamy-eyed state without sufficient diligence (which is uncomfortably often for the non-entrepreneur mate). And, at the very least, there will be plenty of opportunity to just provide a sympathetic ear as every entrepreneur needs to pour out the frustrations with their seeming endless battle against thorns and thistles.

My wife is fully plugged into everything I am working on and is my most important thought partner for my business endeavors. This is quite convenient, because she’s also my life partner and spiritual partner. Given her 360-degree view of my life, not only is her advice pure gold, but it holds me to a higher level of accountability.

I thank God for my dear bride that has stood beside me through my various entrepreneurial trials, including that floundering dot com, which, by the grace of God miraculously went on to raise another $45 million in order to survive and become profitable (it was eventually sold to a public company).

I know that being an entrepreneur’s wife hasn’t been easy for her, but my wife’s steadfast support throughout the decades was often the encouragement I needed to pick myself up and start each new morning with the fresh energy required to tackle the demons of the day.

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About Wade Myers

Wade has founded or co-founded, invested in, and been a director of over 25 companies and has completed 55 financing and M&A transactions. His previous work experience includes the Boston Consulting Group and Mobil Corporation. Wade also served as an Airborne Ranger in the US Army where he was a decorated veteran of the Gulf War. He is a Baker Scholar graduate of Harvard’s MBA program and is married with five children.

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