March 25, 2023

Startup Europe. Grown up reporting
Startup Life/Opinion/
Startup Life
By Sifted reporters 14 September 2022
Startup Life/Opinion/
By Jenny Holmström

By Jenny Holmström

You’ve got a choice. 
Option 1: Selling your startup for enough money that you’ll be financially independent for the rest of your life and you’ll have the status that comes with being a successful entrepreneur. 
Or option 2: A happy marriage. 
Which would you choose? Does it even feel possible to have both? 
This is the kind of quandary that I hear many successful entrepreneurs — quite often divorced men — talk about in the media. In their view, work-life balance is not an option if you’d like to build a unicorn. You have to put everything on the back burner, including family and friends, and commit one hundred percent to your company journey. It’s like the common recipe out there for succeeding means sacrificing ties and time with the ones you love. 
Something just doesn’t sit quite right with me when I hear that. Why should we have to choose one or the other? 
I believe you can build maybe an even more successful company while nurturing your relationship at the same time. It all comes down to conscious decisions, priorities and having a plan. 
The truth is our relationships fundamentally affect our overall wellbeing and happiness and are the most important factor for our long-term health and happiness. That’s a truth that many of us are not aware of — and one that cultural narratives of achievement and perfection push us further away from. We’ve lost sight of what really matters.
More founders need to actively think about how to nurture their relationships while building a company. After all, status and stacks of money in the bank are not what will ultimately make you happy. 
The global divorce rate is around 50%, and while there isn’t any reliable data on whether entrepreneurs are over-represented or not, I wouldn’t be surprised if they are. At least the divorce lawyers seem to back me up in this, estimating that entrepreneurs divorce at 5-10% higher rates than the rest of the population. 
It’s even more complicated for founders when we consider the impact that startup life has on founder and employee mental health. A recent Sifted survey found that 87% of respondents’ mental health had been affected by working in a startup. It can be harder to nurture our relationships when we’re not doing well ourselves. In addition, most founders need to navigate challenging financial situations both on a personal and company level — since financial disagreements and hardships are a leading cause of divorce. 
Let’s look at the four most common reasons why couples split up and how you can avoid them.
The good news is that there are already great role models out there. I found it so refreshing when Jeppe Rindbom, cofounder of the Danish unicorn Pleo, had a super solid answer to my question on how he takes care of his relationships while building the company
He focuses on his family and close friends and has very strict rules on how he prioritises his kids, so he’s not putting his family on the back burner while taking Pleo to where it is today. 
CEO of the Swedish unicorn Mentimeter, Johnny Warström, also recently did an interview about taking time off for paternity leave, challenging his male counterparts who say it’s work or family. While he’s off between August 2022 and January 2023, the CEO reins have been passed to chief people and culture officer Anna Gullstrand.
I believe what needs to happen is a mindset shift, so entrepreneurs can truly focus on giving their relationship intentional attention. 
I’m not telling you finding the balance will be easy, but it will be worth the effort. And there are at least three winners in this equation: you, your partner and your company. 
By applying the tips above, I’m 100% sure you’ll be better prepared to tackle all the entrepreneurial challenges you encounter, and the days you celebrate your wins will be even more fun.
Jenny Holmström is the CEO and cofounder of Coupleness. Don’t miss her speaking at our upcoming Sifted Summit on October 5-6. Get your tickets here.
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