It’s no secret that having our first child whilst moving house and setting up business at the age of 29 was a pretty stupid idea! It would be difficult to argue that 23 Degrees North was founded on anything other than an unreasonably amount of self belief and a blind motivation that failed every test of logic – and that is part of the secret of our success.
After 5 years of pulling every cat out of the bag, working weekends, holidays, evenings, severe emotional swings, dirty nappies, midnight feeds, unreasonable clients, business contracts, juggling a marriage, client expectations and a modest social life, I’ve come to realise the very real ways in which a family, especially children, make you better at what you do:
I’d rather be with my family than doing just about anything else. This is a huge advantage. Being an entrepreneur with a family dramatically raises the value of wasted time and makes you a lot better and quicker at identifying the 20% of activities that will bring you 80% of your business. Single entrepreneurs won’t value their time. They become the ‘yes’ men to all networking events. They will do it over and over again. They hit so many ‘parties’ that the line between whats valuable to their business and whats a social commitment begins to blur. They can get distracted and burned out on things that don’t add value to their core proposition. Saying ‘no’ is one of the most important skills an entrepreneur can learn, and having a family makes you a little better at it. No one will value time like you do.
Things don’t always go well. Sometimes it feels like the world is conspiring against you. Sometimes the day just sucks! You lose a client, miss a deadline, a project gets cancelled, you can’t get the technical support you need when your computer won’t talk to your printer…or any number of other hurdles real or otherwise. If you’ve got nothing but your business to occupy your thoughts and you spend every morning in the shower thinking about the problems you are going to face when you open up your laptop, then road bumps can feel like mountains and minor setbacks can leave you feeling like your lying face is down in a ditch. Its times like these when you’re crumpled in a real or metaphorical heap and a simple smile from your children will give you the most amazing psychological strength. At that moment you wonder how you could ever feel desperate and your perspective suddenly widens in a spectacular display of retina based cinematography to encompass not just your problems, but your friends, family, children and loved ones. Who cares if your business struggles or you have to re-work that concept which took you twice as long as it should because the client just didn’t like it. If I do nothing other than raising kind and well rounded children with my loving wife could I ever call my life a waste of time or a failed effort?
When embarking out on the whisper of an adventure we started to call 23 Degrees North, the incentive to make the business financially viable and to provide a stable quality of life for our family was very real and sometimes overbearing (see perspective above). No matter how awesome you believe yourself to be you’re still human, and humans will always migrate towards ease. Its easy to do what you enjoy and difficult to do what needs to be done. Its easier to do nothing than to do something. After the start-up and launch of your business, it can sometimes be really difficult to push yourself to do a bunch of crappy tasks to keep things moving forward. If you have no family, no obligations and a unreal perspective on time, you will convince yourself you can take a rest now and work later or longer to catch up. Being an entrepreneur with a family you’ve got to make the next several hours count (see time above). You’ve got to do the hard work. With a family any failure is much more costly, and that can be a great motivator.
Work is important and nothing less than a 100% commitment is going to get you where you want to go – but you also want to be more than just your work and your family will help you get there. While starting a business is definitely not for everyone, if you feel that fire burning within and think its too late because you have a young family and can never compete with all the single, childless entrepreneurs out there, you’re wrong. We’ve got some advantages that others don’t, so think about it only as long as it takes to put on the swimming costume and jump in with both feet …