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5 Things I Learned From Starting A Business And A Marriage At The Same Time

When you make two big commitments around the same time, one is bound to influence the other.

5 Things I Learned From Starting A Business And A Marriage At The Same Time
[Photo: Flickr user Walter-Wilhelm]

On the day my new wife Tanya and I returned home from our honeymoon in Hawaii I told her I wanted to leave my job to launch a startup.

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Maybe it was the soul searching I did during our hikes around Kauai or simply the countless hours I spent coding before the wedding, but I realized I was staring a big opportunity in the face.

Some would call me crazy for wanting to start a company and a marriage at the same time, but looking back a decade later, I know that doing so taught me five things about both business and relationships and what they have in common:

1. Pillow Talk Can Be About More Than Just Sweet Nothings

In the months leading up to my decision to launch SevOne, I talked to Tanya about my idea and progress–I truly felt I was onto something big, but I knew I had to gut check everything with her.

At that time my best friend–and soon to be best man–Jim Young and I talked about building a better way for companies to monitor, manage, and analyze their network performance. I started working nights to see what I could come up with.

Pulling the curtain aside and showing someone else your creation can be difficult because of the emotional–not to mention physical–investment, but every entrepreneur should have a trusted devil’s advocate to give honest, constructive criticism. It’s important for that person to be involved from the beginning–I didn’t spring the startup idea on Tanya in the baggage claim in Honolulu. She was and still is instrumental in keeping me focused and on the right path.

2. Marriage Requires Flexible Give And Take

Marriage isn’t about being even all the time–an eye for an eye just won’t work.

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Since starting a company comes with many challenges like the lack of a regular paycheck, as I was working on getting the company off the ground, Tanya stayed on at Deloitte to be the breadwinner for six months.

We knew our late nights weren’t ending any time soon. Taking on any big project can disrupt the balance, but by keeping open lines of communication, being flexible, and working together, you can make the project better and the relationship stronger while avoiding resentment and fatigue.

3. Only Diamonds Are Forever

Thanks to technology, the pace of life and work has never been faster, and this is doubly true in the world of startups. While we were developing our technology, there were false starts, changes in direction, reworks, and rewrites, but we took them in stride. As with many startups, the idea that started it all was based on not accepting “the way we’ve always done it.” Your ideas can drive disruption and change, but you have to take on disruption and handle change internally as well.

4. People Can Grow Together

After leaving Deloitte, Tanya became the first member of SevOne’s sales team. In the fast-paced and nebulous world of startups, being able to fluidly adapt to what the company needs are is critical; while Tanya didn’t have much sales experience, she’d been invested in the company from the beginning, and believing is the best first step to convincing someone else of a good idea.

As the company grew, so did the sales team, and it became clear that we needed someone to manage operations and keep us all on the straight and narrow–Tanya took on that challenge and many others along the way including the development of our quality assurance program and the creation of our global support organization. That eager, entrepreneurial spirit has infectiously spread throughout the company.

5. The Dishes Can Wait

It’s very easy to get lost in work, especially when there’s so much personal investment in the business, and I’m sure most people in the startup space use the term “work-life balance” with some degree of facetiousness, but it’s important to step away and take personal time.

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Tanya and I are avid skiers, and I can assure you we’re not discussing PNL on the ski lift. Even short breaks can help people feel reenergized when they get back to work, so we play ultimate frisbee on Fridays at the office. Remember that even if it’s your life’s work, it’s still not your life.

While I wouldn’t treat business like marriage or vice versa, experiences from each can definitely help both, and the secret behind this is recognizing people’s strengths so that you’re enabling them to do what they do best: be themselves.

Vess Bakalov is CTO and cofounder at SevOne, and leads the company’s product development, design, and overall vision of the technology architecture. Bakalov created SevOne with the future of infrastructures in mind after he worked with legacy solutions during his time serving as a network architect at BankOne.

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