Some BAM practitioners are married. Some are married to their business partners! Some BAMers have children. Others don’t. The shape and size of our families – and our companies – varies tremendously. Those who have a family and run a BAM company will have already experienced the challenges and stresses in one spilling over into the other! Threats to the healthy functioning of family life can end up becoming threats to the health of the business, and vice versa.
As we close this BAM Endurance series, we share insights from 12 married BAMers on the three greatest challenges to marriage and family life they face while running a company.
In Part 2, we offer 8 ways to strengthen marriage and family relationships that these BAM practitioners have shared from their own experiences.
The 3 Greatest Challenges to Marriage and Family Life
Of all the challenges to health marriage and family relationships that the 12 BAMers shared, they essentially boil down to one of three main issues:
1. Time management and stress build up
2. Blurred lines between business and home
3. Lack of understanding and support
1. Time Management and Stress Build Up
The sheer scale of the task and the responsibilities of the business can easily overtake family priorities. Running a business can become all consuming and erode time that should be spent with family. For those who work together, this problem may be exasperated if you both enjoy working hard and end up with a lack of balance between work and family-focused time. In the short-term there may be seasons where the pressures of the business mean working longer hours. However, if this is allowed to become a long-term pattern, a build up of personal and relational stress will become a threat to healthy marriage and family relationships – and ultimately the business itself.
The amount of time running a business takes, can challenge a family. It’s especially difficult in the start-up phase as well as in other cycles of business. Being able to balance work and family is a challenge at times. It takes a lot of grace to get through these times – and a lot of understanding. – Amanda, Asia
A challenge with running a business is that it is difficult to set fixed hours for work. When the buck stops with you, it is difficult to draw a line and say that you are not available for a length of time. As the business grows, the complexity of running it also increases. Hence, like a frog in a tea kettle, you lose track of the fact that an increasing amount of time is spent on the business.Since time is a finite quantity, every hour spent at work is one less hour spent with the family. I have three sons and a daughter. It is a constant challenge for me to allocate adequate time for my wife, for each of my children and for my family as a whole. – John, India and USA
Time management! Business ownership isn’t a 8 hour, 8:00 to 5:00 endeavour and therefore flexibility is required from kids and spouse. It is rare for an SME owner to own a company and it not be their life 24/7 – not meaning one works 24/7, but one is on call 24/7. – David, Thailand
Being busy! Running a business, building relationships, raising young kids, etc. – it is busy and tiring, but joyful and fulfilling. It is easy with the flurry of activities to get into a daily routine and get distracted by all the things we need to “do” and lose focus on the true purpose of it all. – Yumi, Vietnam
2. Blurred Lines Between Business and Home
How and when to relate to each other as a spouse and when to relate to each other as colleague – this is a challenge for many couples who work together. It is only natural that there are going to be blurred lines between home and work, there is no way to change the fact that you ‘wear two hats’ around each other. However, this can cause tension when you forget which is the right hat to wear at the right time! It can be easy to slip into the habit of letting the home inappropriately encroach on the business, or the business inappropriately encroach on the home.
Working too closely together has been difficult at times. It wasn’t good for me to be my wife’s supervisor at our business! Bringing home stress from work and talking about it together into the night just added to our stress at times instead of helping us to resolve relational issues. When one of us has a challenge at work, it can be easy for the other to try to solve the problem right away. After all, this is what we need to do all day in the business! But with each other, this is usually not helpful. We generally just need to know that the other person hears us and empathizes with us. It does help us to talk openly with each other about how we are doing emotionally, spiritually, physically, etc. It’s easy to get busy and since we see each other at work every day, we might not realize these types of conversations are still needed. – Timothy and Robyn, Nepal
We work together. Finding the right way to talk to each other in different scenarios and make decisions together can be a challenge. Rebecca: showing your frustration you have with your spouse in front of staff, customers, and business partners can be challenging, especially at the moment when you think differently than your husband and he’s already said something that is different than I would say! Another is finding the balance between accepting some things from your husband as the boss or trying to bring a matter to him as an equal partner. Matthew: It’s tough finding the balance between being co-workers and spouses. It can be difficult in scenarios where there is staff/manager relationship with your wife. I think for both of us it’s similar. We have been co-owners on paper for a long time and Mary is now taking more management decisions and therefore it’s easier for us to communicate on these levels. – Matthew and Rebecca, Asia
3. Lack of Understanding and Support
Spouses often have very different personalities, passions and pursuits. For BAM practitioners who don’t work with their husband or wife, not being on the same page about the business can become a challenge to the marriage relationship. Even those who do work together may not understand or agree with the way their spouse approaches things, or their decisions. The solution is time spent together in patient conversation and prayer so that there can be adjustment on both sides towards greater understanding, greater unity, and therefore greater support for each other. Where there is difficulty hearing each other or reaching a place of mutual understanding, mediation or counselling – with a third person aiding the process – may be a much needed next step.
I think there is a danger that the quality of the company or BAM initiative grows bigger than quality of family relationships. There may be a growing passion to be involved in BAM, and a decreasing passion to relate with the family. If the inner circle of the family have little understanding about what we are doing in BAM, it will negatively affect their support for the things we are doing. – Jonah, Indonesia
Most definitions of the word “entrepreneur” include the description of a risk-taker. I am an entrepreneur and hence a risk-taker. The biggest challenge I have had to overcome in my married life is that my wife is averse to risk which naturally leads to conflict between us. Over the years we have both learned to understand the perspective that the other has towards risk-taking and that has resulted in knowing how we respond to each other when the issue of risk arises. I have also benefitted from her caution which has prevented me from potential ruin. I’ve also been able to help her see the upside of taking risk in certain situations. – John, India and USA
When I first moved into BAM I didn’t expect that it would take so long to be ready for what God was calling me to accomplish with Him! At the beginning I explained to my wife and my three daughters about my new “calling” and the new vision God gave me. From time to time we prayed together and things were alright. But as time passed, I faced incredible disillusionment and failures. I finally came to a point where I lost everything, including the BAM company I launched in Africa. I was at a point of total loneliness, with no income, no work, and no more ministry. It was the start of a long season in the ‘wilderness’ for me. In this long period of time, which has been seven years this year, my greatest challenge to my relationship with my family has been my sense of loneliness and also knowing what to communicate to my wife about my daily path. – Stephen, Europe/Africa
When one spouse is excited about the venture and the other is lagging behind it will bog down the whole endeavour – especially if the other spouse does not have a meaningful role. It is important to listen to each other in a timely manner and make sure to take time together. Get counseling if you feel that your spouse is not hearing you. Sometimes a move overseas requires grieving, especially if things don’t work out like had been hoped. Feel the pain of your spouse and acknowledge verbally the things that he or she has given up to come to this new (and probably) hard place. Try to meet one another in your place of weaknesses, rather than ignoring the issues or trying to pull the other along. – Anita, Asia
Compiled by Jo Plummer, with thanks to the 12 BAM Practitioners who contributed on the issue of marriage and family health. All names have been changed to protect privacy.
Jo Plummer is the Co-Chair of the BAM Global Think Tank and co-editor the Lausanne Occasional Paper on Business as Mission. She has been developing resources for BAM since 2001 and currently serves as Editor of the Business as Mission website.
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