Starting a business or a practice is not easy under the best of circumstances, and having a supportive family or partner is an important part of making that work. I am incredibly lucky now to have an amazing supportive husband in Mark. But years ago, in a previous relationship, I wasn’t so lucky.
At the time I was working a full-time role in the government sector, but I had always wanted to start my own business. So, I started coaching a few clients part-time. Things were going well and I started to get really busy. I thought, ‘I could really make this work!’ However, when I spoke to my then-husband about it he flat out said no — that he wouldn’t support me. I had to make a decision — and so I gave up the coaching.
This story is mine, but it’s not unique to me. It’s an issue that a lot of people in the business face — but especially female consultants.
What to Do If Your Partner (or Family) Doesn’t Support Your Business
Women now own 36% of small businesses worldwide. And in Australia, while men still outnumber women in business ownership across the board, two-thirds of net new businesses in the past decade were founded by women. But when it comes to longevity, many of these businesses are failing,
In fact, research estimates that one in three new small businesses in Australia fails in their first year of operation, two out of four by the end of the second year. and three out of four by the fifth year.
There are many reasons that women’s businesses fail, but certainly part of this is the lack of support from your partner or family. Sometimes your partner might not support you because they can’t see a dollar value in your work. Or the revenue you bring in now doesn’t equal the money you could be earning if you had stayed in your regular full-time role. Many partners also complain about the time that you spend on the business, especially when it impacts on time spent with them.
Or they simply aren’t interested. Either they don’t ask how your day was or they don’t engage when you bring it up. Or worse, they marginalise you and your business, sidelining it as unimportant or inconsequential. It can be infuriating, frustrating and demoralising.
What’s really going on?
The first question you need to ask yourself is what’s really going on? Why isn’t your partner being supportive? Sometimes it might be that your new business leads them to question their identity as the contributor or provider. Sometimes they may feel a lack of control or certainty. And sometimes they may feel concerned about the risk that owning a business can bring.
At other times I find that the female consultants are simply trying to do too much on their own. And so they turn to their partners to help them deal with the emotional stress and to provide strategy and support. Partners and other family members are then turned into reluctant (and unqualified) consultants. Then when they say, ‘I don’t know’, or don’t know how to help, it can seem unsupportive. These interactions can then start to spiral as the partner gets overwhelmed with trying to be the husband, partner, coach, cheerleader and strategist.
It’s a lot like the movie Cast Away. You’re alone on a deserted island (your business) with only Wilson (your partner) for company. And just like in the movie, your Wilson can become your everything even when they don’t have the capacity or ability to be that for you. He’s just a ball, after all.
Steps for Female Consultants
Stop trying to make them understand
The time, energy and effort that you expend on trying to make them understand would be better spent on your business needs. Stop doing it. Instead, get going and show them your results.
Get them involved
If you can, get your partner or family member involved in your business. This doesn’t necessarily mean putting them to work. It can mean bringing them along to client dinners, using them on your social media or even getting them to help you with your accounting software. Focus on what they like to do or are good at, and then help them get exposure to your business in that way.
Find other support
Misty Copeland, the first African American female principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, said, ‘…anything is possible when you have the right people there to support you’. If your partner or your family aren’t those people, then find the community or group that is. Those people will become your tribe, and they will give you the support you need to push forward in your business.
I’d love to hear your thoughts…
Originally published at https://janeandersonspeaks.com on May 19, 2021.