[Courses] chapter five: Running A Business- A little monomania is good

Jenn Vesperman jenn at anthill.echidna.id.au
Wed Aug 21 07:07:04 EST 2002

On Tue, 2002-08-20 at 15:26, Carla Schroder wrote:

> The most 
> important person of all is your significant other. Running a business can be 
> demanding, even all-consuming at times. You don't need a SO who undermines 
> your efforts. Who gripes about putting in long hours, or filling the living 
> room with computers, or putting a nice sign on your car, or whatever it is 
> you need to do to succeed. 
> Yes, I am suggesting that you dump your SO if they are whiny, obstructive, 
> and unhelpful. Why would you want a person like that in your life for any 
> reason? 

Ok. I'm going to butt in here with my own comments about running your
own business.
Please take these as Jenn V.-the-individual, I'm going to explicitly
_REMOVE_ my 'linuxchix coordinator' hat. (I've had people treat things
I've said as _me_ as things I've said as my role, in the past. I don't
want that to happen this time.)

I'm the daughter of a couple of small business owners. That experience
has put me off ever running my own business, and I'm not entirely
comfortable with contracting either.

Being supportive of your partner running a business is not like being
supportive of your partner's hobby. It's a life choice, and it's as
profound a life choice as having children. Everyone in the family who is
old enough to make the decision should be informed, and should have the
right to veto it. Don't decide unilaterally.
(For the record: we decided it as a family. I didn't understand what I
was deciding, but that was my inability to understand, not my parents
failing to try.)

Here's what having a business in the house was like for me:

* being on 'customer service' at all hours, no matter what. Your
father's being run to hospital having cut his fingertips off? Never
mind, someone has to answer the phone. Your sister-in-law is having a
baby? Jenn, would you mind the phones? She's our first grandchild.
(never mind that she's my first niece.)

* family holidays? What family holidays? What are holidays?

* it's 9pm on Sunday night. Why is this person ringing to get pricing?
Hasn't he heard of office hours?

* breaking off in the middle of any important discussion (or anger, or
tears) because the phone is ringing

* having near-strangers (employees) walk into your house any time of day
(thankfully, not night) as if they have a right to be there - and they
do. Breakfast in peace? Ha! Being sick in peace and quiet? Not a chance.
Study at the kitchen table? Nope.

That said, here are some ground rules for reducing the impact those
around you:

* your husband/children/friends are not your unpaid staff. Don't expect
them to answer your phones, unless you _pay_ them to. And if you do pay
them to, don't expect them to answer the phones outside the hours you
pay for.

* plan to take holidays. Plan to pay for someone to cover the business
while you do. Accept that whoever you pay isn't going to have your
enthusiasm, and that the business will be in a holding pattern at best.

* pay people well. Don't give your husband/friend/family a cut-rate
salary unless you expect cut-rate work.

* don't turn your entire house into an office. Having stuff on the
kitchen table is one thing. Having employees knock on the bathroom door
to use the toilet while your husband is trying to soak out flu aches is
entirely another.

* have a temp on hand for times when there's a family event, so there's
no discussion of 'ok, who minds the phone while we're at your mother's

Hopefully you've chosen your SO based, in part, on having compatible
life goals. Please, PLEASE don't just assume that if they don't want to
run a business with you they're being obstructive and obstreperous.
Presumably, you discussed what sort of life you want. They may see
running a small business as destroying the kind of life they had in mind
- the kind of life you two had hopefully discussed.

It IS almost as big and intrusive a choice as having children. Treat the
decision to run a business with the respect it deserves. Treat your
partnership with the respect that that deserves, too.

Decide together.

Jenn V.
    "Do you ever wonder if there's a whole section of geek culture 
        	you miss out on by being a geek?" - Dancer.

jenn at anthill.echidna.id.au     http://anthill.echidna.id.au/~jenn/

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