How Much Sacrifice is Appropriate for a Family Business?

Taylor asked in our home room community, how much sacrifice should the family team take in order to start up a business? I know that typically it takes a lot of time to get yourself out in the market and I can’t just quit my full time job in order to give my full attention to the startup. I have a young growing family and I am trying to discern what is best for our team in this season. I love this question. So our family has faced this many times, and I do think that it’s really important to allow your family to take seasonal hits for the longterm success of the family, in terms of things like a startup business. And so the way that we’ve thought about this is that we wanted a boundary the hits our family would take, and it always was with the caveat that if this exceeds, it’s going to be really better for our family overall.

And so it’s not like our family’s taking a hit that’s going to damage them longterm. In the longterm, our family’s actually benefiting tremendously and we’ve experienced that. The three or four times we’ve had to do this, kind of, we go into startup mode as a family and just really start to work a lot of hours to really get a business off the ground. And again, it has ended up blessing our family tenfold, what it costs our family, but there is a difficult season in which your family has to take a hit. So what we did … And April kind of, at one point, had to sort of sit me down and talking about this and really gave me some good advice on just how to lead the family better through these seasons. She kind of like … I would kind of go into startup mode all of a sudden.

I would see it coming, I’d be like, oh my gosh, I got to put a lot of hours in. I would just start to work crazy amounts. And then April would be getting more and more frustrated. And then I’m two weeks in, I’d say, “Well, honey, what do you want me to do? Like, I’m in startup mode.” She’s like, “Well, why didn’t you say that two weeks ago?” And then, and so I was like, “Oh yeah, I just kind of did it.” So what I decided to do was, I just got more and more intentional about actually bringing the family together and saying, “Okay guys. Dad’s going to go into startup mode. I need to work a lot hours for awhile. This is the amount of time I think it’s going to take. It could be more or less. We don’t know. I’m going to keep you updated.”

Now, the thing that’s … And we often, we call these business babies because we just learned that it’s very similar, at least it has been for us, to the process of getting pregnant, having a baby, and all this survival mode, crazy time, things late night, sleepless, blah, blah, blah, stuff that happens when you’re having a baby. And so we would say, okay, it’s very similar to that. And we want to give the business a similar amount of time. So you going through a nine month pregnancy and then there’s usually about five or six months recovery trying to get your sleep back. And so we’re like that’s kind of what a business is like. Kind of ramps up, you know? So usually not completely crazy at the beginning, but after a few months, it starts to get really intense. Then there’s sort of like a peak moment or a harvest time. And I’d use that word a lot. Like guys, we’re in harvest season. Dad’s got to work really hard. I’ve got to make hay while we can, because it’s not like this all the time. And then we would try to come back down to earth.

And then I really want to make sure that after this crazy season is over, I pour out really extravagant blessing and let the family feel the fruit of what they just absorbed. Right? Like, let’s go on a big vacation or let’s really enjoy something. And so that really helps the team go, okay, we can go through these seasons as a family because we kind of see the way that they work, the ebbs and flows.

But yeah, Jeff, how have you guys done this?

Yeah, I was totally going to say what you just said at the end there of make sure that just like any sports team, right? If a sports team only practices but never plays games, then that feels like you kind of get into the spirit of why are we doing all this work for nothing. It almost feels like kind of torture. Right? But if you’re only playing games, but you’re not prepared, then you’re not ready to play those games. It’s kind of similar. And yeah, make sure you just name the seasons. I think naming seasons is so important. This is a build phase. Okay. This is a celebrate phase. Because I think a lot of families aren’t very good at working as a team and kind of gritting their teeth and sacrificing together for a mission. But a lot of teams, a lot of families also aren’t really good at celebrating. Like actually actively telling stories and celebrating well of like looking back, doing something, honoring it, kind of stamping it in the ethos of the family. So yeah, I would say, just think about it from that nature. Think about it from phases, from acts of a story, and assess just like you would maybe a business. Like okay, after a quarter or so, do a quarterly review. How are we looking? What are the projections? Stuff like that. So that’s what I would add for sure.

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