It is back to business Monday again, and I thought we should talk about work-life balance. We’ve talked to a couple of people recently at some local events, and we met a couple who are looking to start a business in the 3D print industry. I think a lot of people are in that boat, whether you’re a hobbyist or a business. We meet a lot of couple where their business and their home life are completely intertwined, and we are one of them.
When you are starting up something and you don’t know where it’s going to take you, and it takes you on a path where you have to figure out how to balance two things. Am I devoting too much time to my hobby and not enough time to my family?
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I just talked to a wonderful person, Kimberely Angelwood, who has a company called Flow Soap Studio. She sent me this email where she was very concerned about the growth path of her business. I have to say she is on to something, because her soap is amazing. I’ve been using it non-stop since we got a sample of it, down to a nub now and our bathroom smells so good. Anyway, her question was, “Can I still grow this business and be a good mom and good wife? How can I balance this and not go into crazy debt?” These questions occur to everyone as they are investing time in the early stage of something, whether it’s 3D printing business or just 3D printing as a hobby. These thoughts are all occurring to all of us all of the time.
The number one thing that I always answer when someone asks a question like that is balance isn’t a right question. How do you achieve a work-life balance is not really in the equation. It’s never really going to be balanced, because it doesn’t work like that. Really it’s a matter of is it do-able for your family, can you live with it? If it’s not causing you to sacrifice something that is critically important to you then it’s not an out of balance, that’s just not a thought that occurs to you. Everything requires an intense period of investment and then a slow down. Even a relationship happens that way, take a marriage for example. It’s really intense before you get married, you’re investing in eachother, spending a lot of time with each other. Then there’s always those down years where things are a little quiet, and then it picks back up again. It really has that kind of flow that’s expected.
I remember back to the first business venture I had while Tracy had a job straight out of college, where I started a business with a partner. I was told that having a business partner is like being married to that person, and you hear that and think, well yeah that’s a serious relationship and all, but you don’t really know and understand it until you experience it. Turns out that saying is very true. To me it is much better to be actually married to my business partner and all our interests are aligned with eachother’s whether it’s business or family. There’s not really any conflicting interests, as long as the marriage is healthy of course.
It’s a lot harder to be not married in that case, and have a partner who has a wife or husband, and you don’t understand their life goals and you are not a part of the decision making process on the personal side. Their personal decision that they make affects your life and business plan, and sometimes it happens adversely. That’s why some business partnerships have the same mortality rate as some marriages. I think, also, that’s why some question working as a husband and wife team – to avoid that same chance of mortality rate.
For us, though, it’s been the acceptance of the fact that we are both working towards the same goal. At different points in our business our work-life balance has been imbalanced. You might have to spend lots of extra free time, weekend time, evening time in investing and learning how to 3D print. That’s perfectly acceptable to me and not in conflict with our family goals because I understand that expanding our business and growing in those areas meets those needs and will support our family in the long run. So that’s where you have to get to commonality of understanding between the two parties. It’s easier when you have two adults and you can sit down and hash things out, but of course it is harder with kids. With kids there’s a different dynamic at play, because they need attention and they aren’t going to understand why you are not giving them as much attention or spending time with them.
Thinking to Kimberleys situation, her husband has a separate business completely as an entrepreneur outside of the house and she has her business making these wonderful soaps. They are not working on the same business, but they are each working in the a business on their own and have a family and are trying to balance this. Tracy viewed Kimberly’s questions as needing a reply back in support and help her to think through these things about balance and her family, but I was actually surprised that she asked the question. Maybe it’s because we haven’t been in west Michigan and have been in California so long, but I was surprised because I wouldn’t expect so many women in business today to be as concerned – and maybe this is a stereotype – but to be as concerned about whether this is going to hurt their children or are they out of balance, should they be doing this, should they be doing that, should they just be staying home and taking care of their child and not working on their business goals and dreams. Would you expect your husband to ask those questions? He is in business too, and I think she probably didn’t expect him to ask that, but why shouldn’t she expect that if she is going to ask that of herself?
This is why I married Tom, I want this kind of world for my daughters to grow up in. I want them to grow up and not have to even question these things. But my answer to Kimberley, is that the reality of it is that she did ask those questions, and if I dismissed them as being unimportant in the scope of things, it will make her question them even more. I didn’t dismiss them, and I did push back on her and say, “Did you realize you are not alone in this? You have a partner, and you should both be asking these questions together? It’s not all on you.” If you dismiss them and push those questions down, they will just rise back up to the surface at some point, so I tried to address them.
Yes, this isn’t a comment on Kimberley, it’s just me here in 2016 thinking about it. She’s our age, and I bet a lot of the millennials wouldn’t be so concerned or ask themselves those same questions. It’s like a trend in America these days.
Well, Tom, I think you’d be surprised at how many people do ask themselves these questions. I wish it were different, but that doesn’t mean we have to live with the realities of it. I’ve fought hard to make our daughters see what it’s like to have a strong mom who does what it takes to make our business grow, and still be there for the critically important things. Which is the flip side to all of that, is that we have this sort of mentality about our kids where we feel like we are giving them less than our best if we don’t do everything that is asked of us. I’ll admit that this week has been kind of a hell week for me in terms of having to deal with family and business after coming off of a week of travel and being away. We had to do more intensive follow up and getting back into business so it was like where you come off of vacation and you wish you had another one. There’s a lot of intense work after an intense week, you know we had to build a leprechaun trap for the six year old’s class project, and that’s something that is not self-directed. And our daughter turned 21 and we had to celebrate her birthday. At the end of the day, I feel overwhelmed and I have a right to feel overwhelmed. But in that out of balance feeling, I still feel an accomplishment in the things that I did do. If we can accept that, then our kids see strong power parents who are building a business and are making a good life for them and who don’t miss out on the critically important things.
That’s the great thing about being in business for yourself. It’s not 9-5, and you can take extra time with your kids in the morning or when they are home in the evenings, or working after that if you need to, or stopping in the middle of the day to take them to a doctor’s appointment. I like the lifestyle aspect of what working for myself means, even if it does mean working more hours. If you work a regular job for someone else 40 or 50 hours a week if you are that kind of employee, and you think working for yourself will mean less hours, that’s not true. Even from the few jobs I had when I was working for other people, I’d always get buried in meetings that drove me crazy. Working for myself I’d get more done by noon than I would at my old job cause I’m not stuck in all those meetings.
I did a study a few weeks ago where I looked at the exact number of hours I put in for a week straight and what I found out was that we over work by about 45%. So we put in about 45% more time than I thought I did, and more than what I bill. It’s good to hold a mirror up and study the reality of it.
Going back to the original story, I was raised by a single mother and that I’ve been the only man in the house in that situation and even now in this house with a wife and three daughters. I don’t want my daughters measuring whether they are good parents or not if they are the ones in business, but doing their “job” as a woman at home – seems to be such an old stereotype.
To think that this work-life balance doesn’t require a sacrifice, that is won’t take a toll on you in questioning yourself if you are giving enough time to yourself, to your marriage, to your kids, to your parents even. I feel really bad that last weekend I missed my mom’s first art showing, and on top of it all I couldn’t call till the next day. As many tradeoffs as we make, we have to make sure they are in favor of our good intentions as being good husband and wife, parents, and children to our parents and to feel like we made the best choice we could given the options we had. And that for our business to be moving our family forward to the place we want to be in, if we can’t say that then that’s when we want to sit back and reconsider. It’s not sacrifices as much as choices.
Flipping back around to the 3D print topic, hobby vs business. Are you devoting too much time to your hobby and not enough to your day job? Should you just focus in and drop everything? If you don’t have a viable business or financial structure or support system in place for you to devote some time to this venture, then you are actually hurting your ability to accomplish that in a timely manner. Get your foundation in place, we have a good marriage and family foundation so we have a perspective that us working and having this lifestyle is not detrimental to our daughters ability to grow up to be a well adjusted person. If you build that foundation, whether it in business or your hobby or your life, you can always rely on that to be strong underneath you.
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