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How Likely Are You to Thrive as an Entrepreneurial Couple?

October 14, 1998

Thinking about starting your own business but concerned about the strain it might put on your marriage and family? Good for you. Understanding the impact your business will have on your primary relationships could help avoid circumstances that can destroy your marriage and uproot your family.

Based on interviews with 125 entrepreneurial couples, author Azriela Jaffe suggests that the following indicators predict how well you and your spouse (or intimate partner) will endure the challenges of entrepreneurship. Score your relationship from 1 to 4 for each of the following questions, according to the following scale:

1. That doesn't describe us at all.

2. That somewhat describes us.

3. That describes us most of the time.

4. That describes us completely.

A. We've done our homework and thoroughly researched the business option we're considering. It's a good match for our skills, passions and our family's needs. We've put together a solid, realistic business and family plan that enables us to forecast how much time, money and personal sacrifice our enterprise requires and how the business will affect, in detail, our day-to-day home life. Though we hope for the best, we've planned adequately for how we'd handle the worst-case scenario.

B. Both of us are incredibly flexible and creative people. If something isn't working in our relationship or our lifestyle, we take stock, talk it out and find another way. We don't get stuck in one-track thinking, and we're willing to make the changes necessary along the way to achieve success. People could compare us to two willow trees standing side by side: strong at the roots but able to bend with the weather.

C. We are committed to one another "for better or worse." Our relationship has withstood the test of time and the ups and downs that life brings. We're able to keep our eyes on the big picture and to keep perspective when going through rough times. We've got a rewarding, strong, supportive relationship heading into this entrepreneurial venture.

D. For us, romance is a daily attitude, not just something we do on Valentine's Day and our wedding anniversary. We express love and appreciation daily to one another, even when time or money is short. We aren't likely to neglect or take for granted our relationship, even if business needs absorb a lot of our attention. We understand that it's good for our business, as well as our marriage, to take good care of each other.

E. We share a joint vision and are both headed in the same direction. When we verbalize and perhaps even write down our personal, family and business goals, we see that these goals are in harmony with one other. We are each willing to sacrifice personally to support our partner's life dreams.

F. We approach conflict looking for a win-win solution. Getting my way is an empty victory if it results in distance between me and my spouse. If we were ever to have difficulty resolving differences between us, we wouldn't hesitate to get outside support and professional advice before our relationship hit a breaking point.

G. We can keep our sense of humor and look at the bright side of things, even during the roughest times. We figure if we're going to laugh about it later, we might as well laugh about it now! We're pros at finding the silver lining in the clouds. When we start taking ourselves or our work too seriously, we can take a step back and lighten up.

H. One or both of us was raised in an entrepreneurial family, so we're accustomed to the erratic income and schedule and the high demands. Our parents were excellent role models for starting and managing a small business. If our parents are still alive, they support our efforts to follow in their entrepreneurial footsteps.

How did you score?

* 24-32: Excellent: Your foundation is strong and your attitude is upbeat and positive. You appear to be realistic and prepared for the challenges of entrepreneurship. Although your relationship will be tested along the way, the signs are that you can withstand the challenge.

* 16-23: Warning: Entrepreneurship could endanger your relationship! Expect plenty of growth opportunities along the entrepreneurial path. The venture will require enormous commitment on your part, and you and your spouse need to fully appreciate the risks you are taking before setting out on the journey.

* 8-15: Danger: Before embarking on any entrepreneurial venture, you and your spouse should consider strengthening your relationship with some outside counseling. Though you may be the exception to the rule, research shows that you lack several of the components necessary to thrive on the entrepreneurial journey.

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