Partner support

imagesI have always worked hard.  God knows why but in my first job out of college I actually took pride in the ridiculous hours that I put in.  I’d easily knock out 80+ hours on the weeks when there was a One-Day-Sale.  On the regular weeks it was always over 60 hours.  If I got paid by the hour it would have been a different story.  I was on salary and if I ever broke down my hours vs my salary I am quite confident that I was being paid less than minimum wage.

Fred was ridiculously supportive.  His job was 9-5.  I’d walk in at the end of the day fired up from the days events raring to go out or either crawl into bed.  He understood that my work ethic was about my desire to make a name for myself and move forward in my career.  I was always looking towards the future.  I rarely just smelled the roses and enjoyed the moment.  Perhaps DNA because I definitely take time out to smell the roses now but I still work like a dog.

Many women (and a few men) have written about the importance of having a supportive partner/spouse.  I was talking to my brother this past week about the earlier years when our kids were young.  It was Fred’s time to shine.  He was taking the 5am train out of the suburbs to go to work returning at 7 just as I was putting dinner on the table for the family.  It was planned perfectly so he could eat with the kids, put them to bed (already bathed and ready before dinner) and then read the a book before returning to his briefcase.  I was carrying the load of raising the family while he was carrying the load of making his mark in the world.  Our roles had changed.  There were plenty of times when I was pissed that he missed the train or that he was so absorbed in his own life that he really wasn’t present but for the most part I was supportive on many levels.

I am starting to see many of the founders that I am invested with, particularly ones older than 30, start to have families.  Some of their partners/spouses are supportive but many don’t really get the life of an entrepreneur.  I think it is particularly difficult for women whose kids are in school full time and they have finally embarked on their start-up only to find that there are so few hours in the day to focus on life at home too.  No doubt it is hard, no doubt it is a balance but more than anything it is about having someone support and applaud your efforts to build something.  Building something is hard enough.

When you build something from scratch it is a 24/7 world.  That business or project (whatever it is) takes over your brain.  Having your other half give you shit about that phone call you have to take, that disaster you have to deal with, the bridge you have to close or that deadline that you have to reach even if you are on vacation just sucks.

The importance of finding the right side-kick in life is key.  If you are a carnivore then hanging out with a vegan for life might prove difficult.  If you love the outdoors and your side kick really just loves the smell of concrete and yesterdays garbage that could be problematic.  If you take work as seriously as play and your partner likes to get up late and just put in enough hours to cover the rent that could be a red flag for the future.  I could go on and on but the point is find someone who supports your dreams as much as you support theirs…or more than likely everything will go up in flames.

Comments (Archived):

  1. fredwilson

    Great post and thanks for all the support over the years.

    1. Gotham Gal

      right back at you.

  2. Rohan

    So true. One of our family friends said – there’s generally a difference in people’s performance post marriage. Depending on how it goes, superstars become much better.. or both become weighed down by it.I guess it is a question (like that of any team) of whether you are better together than you were individually or not..

    1. Gotham Gal

      definitely better together

  3. JLM

    .When a person asks another, “What do you do?”The second person answers with their work.”I am a carpenter.””I am a VC.””I am a mom.”They do not say, “I am a philosopher who pays my bills by being a wood butcher.”Our work defines us and that is why we all need hard, challenging, purposeful work.It is also the reason why our national spirit is lagging because we have an enormous number, 85MM, of our countrymen who are not in the labor force.No work? No sense of worth which gnaws at our collective soul.The other thing?I was an entrepreneur, founder, CEO for 33 years and if I had taken every Friday off and never worked on Saturday for the entire time, the work outcomes would have been the exact same.I was living north of “good” and south of “great” and a few times I was excellent. But it cost something.I have no regrets because I, essentially, did what I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted — I did it MY way.But, now, I would consider taking every Friday off and studying a foreign language, perhaps, and never working on the weekends.Not feeling sorry for myself. Just reporting the news from a little further down the trail.On our deathbed, we will not be calling for our CFOs.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. Cam MacRae

      This is sage advice.As a pup I worked mad hours. Sometimes I’d catch a kip at my desk during the wee hours and might not see home for a day or two. The lifestyle nearly killed me. Twice. I enjoyed every minute of it.In my early 30s I was astonished to learn that most white collar types do less 4 hours of productive work a day. The lazy bastards!And yet this little statistical nugget gnawed at me: Surely I was 4 times more productive than those bums, right? I started keeping a brutally honest account of my time. The results were as predictable as they were inevitable.Now I work 4 hours a day. (I still occasionally work all night if that’s the only way to scratch an itch). It doesn’t make a lick of difference to my productivity, but I’ll bet you all the stars in the Texan night sky it’s made a difference to my life.

      1. JLM

        .’When you work a few hours, your work is undiluted and pure.Well played.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  4. Mario Cantin

    Finding the right partner of course is key. Even with that, as Brad Feld says, it is more about work / life *harmony* rather than “balance” for entrepreneurs. As you’ve said, it is 24/7, which precludes a balanced life. It can still be harmonious if all parties involved agree with the lifestyle.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Agree wholeheartedly

  5. Susan Rubinsky

    I love this post. My marriage ended partly because my spouse was not supportive. I never found anyone after that — who the heck wants to date a 30-something single woman with a little kid who is killing herself to build a business? So I did it without a partner. In many ways it was easier to do it alone than to do it with a partner who was not supportive.I am on the other side of that now. I just dropped off my son at college the other day. I have a solid business that I built through bootstrapping. Feels really wonderful.The one thing that mattered during all this time was having great friends. I have an incredible network of friends, even some clients I have come to call friends, who have been there for me to lend support through difficult times and to celebrate the high points with me. It’s the reciprocation that matters, you have to be there for the other people too and I have made a committed effort in that regard. It’s an alternative that works too 🙂

    1. Gotham Gal

      Thanks for sharing this

    2. AMT Editorial Staff

      Great comment. Intimacy comes in many forms…not just a spouse/partner and not just “bodily” either. Also, your point about “going alone” made it easier is a good one…and one reason men/women sometimes clash. So many things today can be “hired” out. Often women friends complain that housework/cooking/childcare isn’t totally appreciated by partner…but those things can be “hired.” What can’t be hired is the coming together as partners in an intimate way…We always strive to not let the day’s “work” impede that connection.

  6. Conrad Ross Schulman

    “If you love the outdoors and your side kick really just loves the smell of concrete and yesterdays garbage that could be problematic..” – so funny!

  7. Brandon Burns

    “God knows why but in my first job out of college I actually took pride in the ridiculous hours that I put in.”I did this, too, but I grew out of it. It shocks me, though, how many folks haven’t and, the bigger issue, that this thinking is practically institutionalized in tech, advertising, fashion, investment banking, consulting, etc. Office “culture” translates to free meals, onsite massages, unlimited paid leave (which almost every study shows leads to people taking *fewer* days off) and other gimmicks to get you to work yourself to death. Nuts.

    1. Cam MacRae


  8. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I think I may be the only person in the other camp. My spouse is obsessed with my entrepreneurial and career adventures! He would love to be Mr Mom as soon as possible 🙂

  9. Emily Steed

    Thank you for sharing this. Great post.

  10. Tania Suster

    As a management consultant I used to work insane hours and travel constantly, so when my husband was an entrepreneur, I really understood. I never busted his chops for working late or traveling, and still don’t.I think if I had never worked a crazy pace I wouldn’t understand. And I wouldn’t understand that work travel is grueling even if you are at a fancy hotel and restaurant. I see some spouses really lay into their partner for taking a call on a vacation or during dinner or going to Vegas for some god awful trade show. They don’t get it.I commented on Mark’s blog (which I rarely do!) awhile back about work/life balance and supporting your spouse and offered my tips for making it work. http://www.bothsidesoftheta…I work part time now as I believe there is only room for one insane job/schedule per household! And I’m sure he’d support me if I choose to ramp up the pace in the future when the kids are older 🙂

    1. Donna Brewington White

      It is really hard for someone to understand this type of work schedule if they haven’t experienced it — or if they have never done work that does not have a clear beginning and end. It is also hard for someone else to understand the concept of building something when you can see it in your mind and can see barely perceptible steps of progress but there is nothing to show for it in terms of income or huge accomplishments. In my case, when the checks began to come in my husband became a believer. 🙂

      1. Gotham Gal

        so true.

  11. Pranay Srinivasan

    I am eternally grateful to my wife for accepting me as I am, driving me everywhere because I don’t drive, loving life in the city like I do, working diligently when we didn’t have 2 steady incomes, and having the passion to follow her own dreams and ambitions.

    1. Gotham Gal

      get a license!

      1. Pranay Srinivasan

        I suck at driving cars – even in India. Chitra loves to drive here. I’m a great navigator, though 🙂