May 4, 2012
I met my wife the same week I decided to give up a “real job” in order to follow my entrepreneurial bent and get involved in a fledgling business. She followed my move and invested, if not financially at least emotionally, in what I was doing. In the 16 or so years since, she has been alongside me in the dozen or so initiatives that I’ve either started or become a part of. From manufactuyring to importing, from property to technology – we’ve done a bunch of different things. The journey has been interesting – my first few years in business were characterized by no salary and living in the business premises. Since that time there have been some success stories – and the odd disaster (an importing business where the supplier ran off with our money for example). We’re now at a point where, unless something unforeseen occurs, we’re pretty much financially secure, and while my business interests come with a time and emotionally burden they don’t generally come with too much of a financial one.
Given the journey that we’ve made, I was interested when I was recently approached to review a new book by Meg Cadoux Hirshberg entitled “For Better or for Work”. Hirshberg is a writer and columnist for Inc. magazine and is also the wife of Gary Hirshberg, the founder of Stonyfield farm, the world’s largest producer of organic yoghurt.
Hirshberg tells a story gleaned from hundreds of interviews as well as her own experience being part of a fledgling business and with all the extreme risk and uncertainty that goes with that. Hirshberg has lived the entire business lifecycle – from living in a freezing cold business premises and worrying over every dime, to a partial acquisition by a multi national which left her family financially comfortable.
Hirshberg covers the broad range of issues entrepreneurs and their families will likely face on their business journey – from gaining investment from family, to finding work/life balance. From passing the business over between generations to having couples work together in the business – the book is an excellent guide to what goes on in the lives and minds of people around an entrepreneurs activities.
Personally I’ve always been mindful that my family pays a price for me embarking on a plethora of different initiatives. While I might be excited by following my passion and getting involved in something I find incredibly stimulating and exciting, for them it is yet another potential way that I’ll be travelling, be spending time on my computer, or be deep in concentration when they just want to go outside and kick a ball or whatever.
I came away from reading the book quietly proud of the balance I’ve managed to create in the family – my activities don’t put us in any real financial stress, we go on vacations on a regular basis, I’ve been present for the vast majority of my children’s milestones and, despite spending a fair amount of time on my computer – we still manage to “go bush’ on a fairly regular basis without too much difficulty.
In the afterward of the book, Hirshberg’s husband Gary writes that the book really is a tool that both the entrepreneur and their significant others should read – I’m looking forward to my wife reading it if for no other reason than to get a sense for the realities for other families of entrepreneurial souls who are on much more shaky ground than we are. Beyond this however I’ve never managed to explain what it is that drives myself and those around me to “do more stuff”. I’ve always figured that it was simply the way we’re wired. Hirshberg does a great job of explaining the psychology behind an entrepreneur, and why they are totally wired to do what they do.
Hirshberg has written an entertaining, accessible and above-all useful book.I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone who is considering embarking upon entrepreneurship, anyone who is already on the path, or anyone who lives with an entrepreneurial spirit.