I was preparing for an important Zoom call when my two-year-old walked into my workspace. “Daddy working…” she stated in a tone that revealed she knew she had walked into a ‘no-go zone’. “Yes sweetheart, Daddy is working” I responded as I let her observe me work. Ordinarily, I would have taken her through the ‘no-go zone’ rules again, but I allowed her to hang around for a few minutes. She got busy exploring the bookshelf while I continued preparing for the Zoom meeting. “Daddy… daddy stop working…” This request tugged on my heart. I turned and could tell from her expression that she wanted Daddy’s attention. In my understanding, we were in the same room, I had permitted her into a restricted area, and that was enough attention. But from her perspective, I was staring at the computer and buried in my thoughts; present but unavailable. My mind told me, “that’s it, time to get her to the next room, lock the door so I can concentrate on preparing for the meeting. After all, in a year and a half she’ll need school fees!” My heart on the other hand, said, “she just wants you, for a few minutes. A hug, a lift… something to connect with Daddy”. In the few seconds that our eyes shared blinks, my mind and my heart battled for a decision. This time, my heart won as I lifted my daughter to my lap and we shared a moment.
This brief story is a glimpse into an entrepreneur’s daily decisions during the quarantine season. Big or small, entrepreneurs wrestle with the never-ending tug of war between family and business responsibilities. It would be much easier to step into the office and make exclusively entrepreneurial decisions, and then come home to make family decisions. But now that the office and the family are in the same space, it would seem that the entrepreneur’s world has grown smaller, but decisions have grown bigger.
Despite being home, many entrepreneurs are busier than ever. There was a general assumption that people would spend more time with their families during the pandemic. While this may still be true in some settings, many entrepreneurs are experiencing an innovation crunch as their minds race to create opportunities and solutions for the challenges the pandemic has presented. They may be experiencing less sleep and new levels of anxiety as fiscal, time and mental resources are stretched. As they attempt to remain relevant during the crisis, minds race to adjust business models, develop and test new ideas, and engage the market. So, between readjusting income streams to ensure employees are paid, managing multiple teams remotely, painstakingly designing and implementing new ideas to engaging in new e-learning curricula for our children and assisting in house chores since social distancing necessitated relieving the house help, the entrepreneur’s day is a juggling act.
In my role as a Sinapis trainer, I often facilitate the ‘Significant Other’ discussion in the Entrepreneur Academy. Conversations on this topic can be both exciting and sobering. Tears often flow as fathers realize the negative impact their entrepreneurial pursuits have had on their families. Time after time, women have confessed that their businesses compete with their families’ attention. The singles who support their parents have also felt the brunt of these decisions. This discussion is like a mirror that helps us reflect on our ambitions and values, and the impact of each on our lives and communities.
When we step back, we realize that the culture that begins at home builds the moral fibre of society. Healthy societies consist of healthy communities, that contain healthy churches and healthy families. But how do we prioritize both our family and our business when it doesn’t feel like there is enough of us to go around? Our minds race with questions such as:
Isn’t GOD the one who gave us the business ideas and blessed us with our families and friends?
Why is it that we must face these nerve-racking decisions that put our families and businesses at odds with each other?
And doesn’t the Bible say, “If anyone does not provide for his own family, especially for his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever?”
What if our enterprises are the channel through which we provide for our families? What then?
I’d like to share some thoughts that have been helpful in the classes I’ve led as we discussed what Sinapis calls the ‘Significant Other Covenant’. This is a commitment aimed at helping entrepreneurs manage the delicate balance between family and business by establishing priority and accountability guidelines.
To begin with, a covenant is a more potent agreement than a contract. At a wedding, the bride and groom make a covenant with each other – which creates the basis of our family culture. Following our LORD’s example, we use a covenant agreement to create unity of purpose for our families. Reminding ourselves of these commitments to each other can be the impetus for our decision-making in times of crisis.
“Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”. The covenant leads us to do something that is pleasing to our Father – seek unity. Our families are hard hit when we cease to walk in agreement. Understandably, we can get destabilized by the growth or disruption in our businesses and be tempted to walk alone. We may overwork to get through a tough season or be emotionally withdrawn to cover up the shame of failure. But when we make an agreement with our significant other, this verse in Matthew makes it clear that our Father will respond to our call.
The first two steps are facilitated by conversation with our significant other. In class, we discuss how we can be creative in establishing a safe environment for a meaningful conversation. “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”. We choose to be compassionate with ourselves and our significant other, so that the conversations, seasoned with salt, will lead us to agreement and meaningful covenants. Conversation in a safe space will help us discuss our fears and anxieties, disappointments, areas of conflict, expectations as well as establish a unified action plan.
These are some of the components our class discussions explore as we consider the delicate balance between family and our enterprises. By the end of class, there is a general sigh of relief as entrepreneurs walk away with the tools to commence the journey of intentionally achieving balance between business and family.
The pursuit of a successful business can keep entrepreneurs preoccupied, and subtly erode the family dynamic. The balancing act is about daily decisions, and in times of crisis, decision-making is often influenced by anxiety and fear. As my daughter and I shared that brief moment before the Zoom call, which went well by the way, I realized that it eased my mind and helped me prepare for the meeting in a different way – as a person who is present and attentive to what is happening around them. I would have missed a beautiful moment had I allowed anxiety to reign. With fear in the driver’s seat, it is easy to lose focus of what is truly important – the relationships that make life’s journey easier, more meaningful and memorable. Should anxiety take charge of our minds, our loved ones may be relegated to enjoy what’s left after we’ve given the best of us to our enterprises. I am speaking from experience. This pandemic presented a financial crisis to both our business and family budget. But since my wife and I have a family covenant in place, that helps me to prioritize decisions as we navigate this crisis. Later that evening, my daughter had me read her favorite scripture found in Philippians 4:4. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. My wife joined us as we read further on, and we were encouraged by verse 6: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Right there, as we did what we committed to in our family covenant, we were encouraged.
I hope that you will experience the same as you navigate this pandemic season and the tension it may be causing between your business and your family.
Written by Victor Omollo
Victor is a Sinapis trainer and an entrepreneur himself. In 2015 he launched The Peculiar People, a company that supports professionals to cultivate better decision-making, embrace challenges as opportunities for innovation, and empower entrepreneurs. He is passionate about the Lord, his family and helping leaders and teams proactively articulate and achieve their strategic goals.