Published February 10, 2010
Entrepreneurs are often categorized as intense visionaries who sleep little and cheerily work around the clock to be successful. One could assume that being single would then automatically help your business. But is that really true?
A 2009 Kauffman Foundation report, "Anatomy of an Entrepreneur," found the stereotypical image of the single, free-wheeling entrepreneur may not be the norm. The Kansas City, Mo.-based nonprofit group surveyed 549 company founders across a variety of industries and found nearly 70% percent were married when they launched their first business, about 60% had at least one child, and almost 44% percent had two or more children.
So, who's better off in business: the single entrepreneur with an unlimited supply of midnight oil to burn or the married entrepreneur with obvious time limitations, but also the support of a loving spouse and family?
"I think there are benefits either way, but they're different," said Melinda Carlisle Brackett, a San Jose, Calif-based therapist and business coach who works with entrepreneurs.
Here, a look at how being single or married can give you an edge when it comes to three important aspects of living a successful entrepreneurial life.
Who has the edge? Single entrepreneurs
"A single entrepreneur has the benefit of not stressing out about getting home to take care of building a relationship," Brackett said. "They may date, but it doesn't really take the same sort of energy."
For example, having the flexibility to attend networking events in the evenings, while married entrepreneurs may not be able to, can certainly offer an advantage when it comes to growing a business. If your industry also requires constant travel, the flexibility of being able to hop on a plane at a moment's notice can also offer an edge to the single entrepreneur.
"There are also some industries where going out and partying is more important than being perceived as stable," said Meredith Haberfeld, a New York-based business coach, who works with many single and married entrepreneurs. "As a generalization, in more traditional professions, having a spouse can make you appear more stable to your peers, but in newer fields like new media or entertainment, being able to stay out late can be a benefit."
Who has the edge? Married entrepreneurs
Finding ways to balance work and family is often top of mind for married entrepreneurs because they grapple with it on a daily basis, while single entrepreneurs can — albeit unwittingly — shift their personal needs to the back burner.
"When you're married, you're always revisiting the priorities, asking yourself: 'What am I doing this for? What's the long-term goal?'" Brackett said. "That's a benefit because it forces you to make choices you're probably going to be happy with in the long run."
To be sure, married business owners are also left wondering if their business is suffering because they need to spend more time working. Still, experts agree that finding some semblance of balance between work and play is critical for any business owner. Of course, that's not to say single entrepreneurs don't think at all about long-term goals, they're just not necessarily forced to face them every day.
"The biggest mistake single entrepreneurs make is not planning for the day when they're not going to want to keep that same pace, and I think there's a price to be paid for that," Brackett said. "They may be on top of their game, making money, and believe in their business, but not having that balance can create a ton of stress."
Haberfeld suggests forcing yourself to sit down and put your priorities on paper, instead of always being guided by the squeakiest wheel.
"Then, structure your time each week to be in alignment with those priorities, and follow the plan," Haberfeld said. "The balance is within one's reach, but for some it's a skill that has to be learned."
Time & Energy
Who has the edge? Single entrepreneurs
"A single entrepreneur has more available time and energy to throw toward their business, and I think that unquestionably contributes to the success and thriving of a venture," Haberfeld said.
On the other hand, being in a loving relationship can bring an emotional high and there's an energy and optimism that goes a long with it, according to Brackett. "When we're feeling good and optimistic we tend to get past our fears about taking that next step in business because we don't feel so isolated," she said.
Whether you have a lot or a little time, experts say what's most important to being a successful entrepreneur is knowing how to manage it.
"While it's quite obvious how the needs of a family can cut into time, I see that issue get in the way of almost all the entrepreneurs I work with," Haberfeld said. "Navigating one's way through that is a big leveler of the field to making a successful entrepreneur."