Well, it’s the Wednesday prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, and I for one am looking forward to a great big meal with family and friends tomorrow.
Holidays can be tough. And they can be tough for entrepreneurs, particularly new entrepreneurs.
If you’re traveling home, you’ve got to deal with crowded airports, interstates, and even trains. The long hours of travel can suck energy right from your bones; energy that, of course, could be used to fuel your startup.
And, once you’re home, you’ll see friends from high school, perhaps having obligatory pre-Thanksgiving beers, and working to explain what you’re doing and why you’re running a very lean lifestyle. Perhaps they’ll be telling you about their entry-level job where they’re earning more money than they can spend, socking away money in a Roth IRA and also a 401(k), and complaining about the hours because they sometimes work until 7 PM.
Then, there’s family. Does mom still have trouble explaining to her book club what it is that you’re doing? Does dad ever ask when you’ll get that real job?
Yes, the holidays can be tough. But, you can survive even the most difficult of environments. Here’s a few tips on how, from the Triangle’s entrepreneurs.
“The Holidays are synonymous with travel, and associated costs,” said Jon Hayes, founder of RewardStock, a company that plans to launch a platform to guide customers in best practices to generate reward points in the next few months. Airfare is definitely more expensive during the holiday season, said Hayes. Thing is, if you’re redeeming travel rewards points, said Hayes, airfare often isn’t more expensive… in points.
“Reward travel for the holidays is a great way to save money,” said Hayes. “Domestic availability during the holidays can disappear quickly, but with business travel decreasing and Americans staying with family, it could be a good time to take an international business class trip.” So maybe, as you plan for the holidays next year, you can finally convince your family to head to that international destination everyone has always wanted to visit.
As with any domestic travel, said Hayes, “your best bet is booking early and staying flexible.” Entrepreneurs are champions of flexibility, and of rolling with the punches, so are already well equipped to deal with changing flight times, flying standby, flight cancelations due to weather, and all of the other schedule shifts that can happen at an airport and are out of your control.
“Taking time to recharge is important,” said Hayes, “Whether or not that happens during the holidays depends on how you spend them.”
As an entrepreneur, particularly one building an early-stage technology company, you’re relatively mobile. Putting in a few extra hours when your competition is taking the entire weekend off could add value.
“If you do want to work during the holidays,” said Hayes, “The great thing about a tech startup is that you can do work from a laptop just about anywhere.”
To be prepared, make sure you pack your charger, and bring along work that can be done without a wireless connection.
All the down time while traveling also gives entrepreneurs an opportunity to catch up on industry news or a chance to dig into a great business book. There are always opportunities to learn, but it’s up to you to prepare for situations in which you can maximize your travel time. Driving by yourself in a car? Download a relevant podcast or book, or check out a book on CD from a public library. My go-to: Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
Are you ready to navigate family conversations? Either you’re family is incredibly supportive, doesn’t understand what you do, or still doesn’t understand what you do and why you do it. And those aren’t mutually exclusive options. Of course your family wants you to do well, and to be successful. It’s just that sometime’s it’s Uncle Bob’s opinion that the only way to be successful is to get a real job and work a 9-5, and no matter how you present your venture, he won’t back down.
To get an understanding of how entrepreneurs can navigate tricky family conversations, I caught up with Andy Roth, the head of customer success at RocketBolt.
Jason H. Parker (JP): How do you explain to your family and friends what it is that you do?
Andy Roth (AR): I love my family completely and unconditionally, but I’ve given up. They want to understand, but as Kevin Costner said in Bull Durham, “it’s like a Martian talking to a fungo.” They want to know how we can be in business without needing to make money; I try to tell them we’re pre-revenue, and that the stage of needing to make money will come, but we have to figure things out and put processes in place first. Their response is usually something along the lines of, “And you’re using Twitter to do this? I thought that was for broadcasting to the world when you poop.” It’s… interesting.
JP: Anyone ever encourage you to “get a real job”? Why? How’d you respond?
AR: Fun tidbit about me: I came to entrepreneurship after trying to make it as an actor in New York City. So I think I’m spared the brunt of this particular argument because my parents got it all out of their system years ago. When it does come up, I just mumble something about my tolerance for risk and that usually quiets things down.
JP: What’s your advice to new entrepreneurs in navigating a family meal?
AR: Sit near the youngest family members, or the oldest. They’ll understand you best. Or worst. Either way, they’ll be the happiest to chat.
JP: How do you put aside your business for a day in order to spend time with family/friends?
AR: Have your spouse or significant other hide your phone. (Like, REALLY WELL.) And then they should hold you through the withdrawal pains.
Happy Thanksgiving, all. Thanks for reading, for sharing, and for continuing to build, grow, and sustain a thriving community here in the Triangle!