My column in the July issue of the Entrepreneur magazine:
Would you marry an Entrepreneur?
This is my dream Bollywood script:
It’s a typical Indian arranged marriage ‘dekha-dekhi’ setting. The scene is set on the manicured lawns of a sprawling garden owned by the rich father, whose ravishing daughter is going to be introduced to the ‘boy’s side’. The mother, father and the girl are dressed in the finest clothes and are exchanging nonsensical pleasantries with the boy’s family. Finally, the girl’s father looks at the ‘boy’ with cloudy eyes and asks, “Beta, I hope you earn a lot of money! My daughter has lived her entire life like a princess and now I hope you can make her live like a Queen!”
The ‘boy’ chuckles, smiles and tells his future father-in-law, “Daeddy… actually I am going to live off your dowry and your daughter’s bank accounts! I am an entrepreneur! I don’t earn money… And I don’t know if I ever will…!”
What happens next is based on your imagination…
Seriously. Would you marry an Entrepreneur?
Let me crash headlong into a real life incident. In Oct 1999, as a first generation digital entrepreneur, I skipped visiting the hospital and escorting my wife and my newborn daughter (my second child) home, because that evening I was signing some term sheets of my first venture contests2win.com in the lobby of The Oberoi in Mumbai. My parents took my wife and two day old daughter home. My wife has never forgiven me for this incident.
So, let me ask you again – Should you marry an Entrepreneur?
OF COURSE YOU SHOULD!
But please keep in mind these hiccups:
What will the relatives say?
Imagine going to one of those insanely boring dinners that close relatives host for you and the ones that you just can’t avoid. What happens when the fat paunchy Mamaji (who has been selling steel rods since he was 11 years old) asks your spouse, “Beta, what do you do?”
Now, if I was the “Beta”, I would say, “Mamaji, even I don’t know! I thought I would make money selling virtual tyres in my virtual mobile car game, but my virtual consumers are not buying. They are driving my cars but they aren’t buying my 99 cents tyres. Sniff… sniff… do you have any ideas?”
Mamaji would probably spend the next 20 years making fun of me and telling everyone what an ass my wife has married.
What will the relatives say when you marry an entrepreneur? Well, even God doesn’t know!
The good? You would have married someone who has no care for charade and showmanship. He is someone who will be truthful, till death do you part.
Most entrepreneurs speak the truth and that’s a great qualification in itself.
Being madly in love – with someone else
Entrepreneurs are madly, crazily, passionately and lustfully in love with their business. They are not just in love; but they are insanely in love with what they have created. Hence, their venture is their FIRST love – irrespective of whether they married you last weekend, today or yesterday.
A young man in my company (clearly an entrepreneur in the making) was getting married on a Friday afternoon. I jokingly asked him, “Dude, how about working half day on Friday and then heading to your wedding post lunch?”
He quite seriously replied, “Alok, I think I can be at work till noon!” Obviously we forced him to take leave a week before he got married!
Is this in anyway a good thing? Well, it just reflects on the passion and commitment entrepreneurs have for their business or for their jobs. This later becomes their way of life.
Unlike job plodders, entrepreneurs really give everything they have to what they believe in. That’s a strength that is cultivated and cannot be bought.
Bread, Butter and errrr… Cake?
So, you married an entrepreneur. Will he be capable of making sure that there is bread plus butter on the table everyday? Let me be blunt – can your entrepreneur spouse afford to feed you??
Don’t just build your appetite on that promise.
Entrepreneurs honestly are crazy gamblers. Instead of betting on horses or fake IPL matches, they bet on their hard work, with a bit of luck thrown in.
Most of them don’t win the gamble, but manage to survive and make ends meet. But this also means that as a spouse, you should be prepared to manage your family finances by yourself, irrespective of whether your better-half-gambler spouse is striking it hot or not.
This is the lowest and toughest aspect of being wedded to an entrepreneur. In today’s ‘l-love-all-good-things-in-life-and-I-want-everything’ lifestyle…. being married to a potentially bankrupt homo sapien is not a very hot idea.
But let me tell you the flip side. Consider the real life stories of Steve Jobs or Dhirubhai Ambani or any successful entrepreneur you love. When their hard work ‘docks’ into the right opportunity, at the right time and place, then all the tables turn. Even then, they don’t bring the bread and butter home – they just go and buy the factories that make them.
When’s the “good news”?
Let’s flip sides for a bit. So, a couple of years ago, you married this really smart IIM-ABCDEFGHIJK banker guy who earns more that Carlos Slim (go figure) and is destined to be the next Warren Buffett. He is everything a girl could ask for and you got him. But professionally, you are an entrepreneur and have just launched your brand new e-commerce site of delivering made-to-order donuts within the city. The going is tough and the startup is killing you. Now, in between all this mayhem, your husband’s grannies and aunties (who’ve lost all their teeth but not their inquisitiveness) keep poking their elbows into you and asking, “So, beta, when is the good news?”
What they mean by ‘good news’ is NOT the good news you want! You want to hear that orders are coming in, there is virality to the site, the payment gateway is cruising and the delivery boys aren’t eating up your donuts on the way to delivery. The last thing you want to think of is when you will be in the delivery room!!
As an entrepreneur wife, you will have to ward off the silly and stupid pressures of delivering (pun intended) on the typical social pressures imposed on young married couples. If you are married to a woman entrepreneur you will have to be prepared to let your wife give birth first to her enterprise, before she gives birth to your kids!
What will the kids learn?
I have two daughters – aged 17 and 13. They have grown up with a bizarre, ‘weird’ entrepreneur dad around them for as long as they can remember. How has this impacted them?
Well, I may not be able to match the ‘perks and cars and houses’ that my kids’ friends’ ‘banker dads’ possess; but I have noticed that my kids are pretty inquisitive, street smart and bold when compared to a lot of kids their age.
Having a parent who never takes things at face value; who always examines how to create efficiency in every process; who demonstrates the ability to take calculated risks and measure its performance; and above all who always does something NEW all the time,creates a very positive impact on young impressionable minds.
Trust me when I tell you this – kids with a live and kicking entrepreneur parent will learn just as much as at home (or probably more) than they will learn at school.
Most importantly – kids brought up by entrepreneur parents will be supremely independent and capable of surviving forever.
Already thinking of your honeymoon?
Some people prefer going to the beaches, others like the mountains and some even prefer crowded, busy cities. But if you ever wanted to spend your honeymoon on a roller coaster, then marry an entrepreneur. Forgot the honeymoon – the marriage itself will be the ride of your life!!
Read ALL my other articles published in Entrepreneur mag HERE.
First Published on: Jul 1, 2013