“What’s this about you not earning a salary?” This was the first question my dad posed to my soon-to-be fiancé (now husband) when Kyle asked for my hand in marriage.
My husband was a strange breed that my dad, a long-time engineer and company man, had never come across. I’m not sure how Kyle answered his tough but well-intentioned question; however, I know it wasn’t the first time he’d received questions or doubts about his career choice. Surely, it couldn’t have been easy to deal with, especially from your future father-in-law, but to be honest, my marriage was really the first exposure I had to the lifestyle of an entrepreneur. There are many adjustments couples go through (more for another blog!), and this was one for us. I may not be a creative risk-taker like my husband, but my steady and dependable nature proved to be the perfect yin to his yang. Here’s a few lessons we learned along the way.
Mo’ (or Less) Money Mo’ Problems
When I married Kyle, he’d always been in business for himself, much different than my experience working in sales for a large company and then in admissions for a college. He started a network security company while a student at NC State, which he eventually sold to a larger company of its kind. When we met, Kyle was one year into a career as a commercial real estate broker. He was learning the ropes and “deals” were few and far between. When they did arrive, they were heftier than my monthly paycheck – but we couldn’t rely on them. This was tough (and a little scary) as we’d just purchased our first townhome and had a mortgage to pay. A strategy that worked for us was learning to budget in one year increments. So, for example, when a payday for Kyle would occur, we’d put enough in our savings account to pay our mortgage, a fixed rate, for the next twelve months should he not earn another dime. My monthly paycheck was used for our variable expenses like cable, electric, etc. It helped us feel secure and enabled to confidently make financial decisions.
Time is Money
I was sitting on the beach one 4th of July with Kyle and another couple who were also entrepreneurs. As I relaxed and enjoyed the holiday weekend, these three sat on their phones talking with clients and dealing with other day-to-day issues that had arisen in the short time it had taken us to carry out our beach chairs and apply sunscreen. I was getting a little annoyed (at least I had a good book!), but it made me realize that time is money for entrepreneurs. I was always a little jealous that Kyle didn’t have to ask off for vacation like I did, but that weekend made me realize there was another price he, and our friends, paid. Time is money. If Kyle was out of the office, transactions weren’t being made, problems weren’t being solved and questions weren’t being answered – although business was still being done. The life of an entrepreneur never stops, you just become better at managing it and, in my case, understanding it the longer you go. Also, bring a good book.
2009 and 2010 were rough years for the economy, and they were for the Greer household as well. The semi-regular cycle of Kyle’s paychecks we’d come to rely on felt like a distant memory as the rate of transactions and “deals” had slowed considerably. It was tough to plan for, especially for someone like myself who LIVES for a good plan! But I made it through with a little help from my friends, as they say. Talking with spouses of Kyle’s coworkers made me realize we weren’t alone in experiencing feelings of doubt and uncertainty. For Kyle, his strong friendships with his co-workers helped him get through the hard times too. We were all in it together, which was comforting. And, guess what? We all made it through this hurdle a little stronger, a little wiser and a little more prepared for the next one.
Happily Ever After
A little over a year ago, Kyle transitioned from an entrepreneur to a supporter of entrepreneurs, running economic development for the Cary Chamber of Commerce. It’s a role that allows him to have a hand in many of the aspects of entrepreneurship and business development he enjoys for a community he loves. In 2008, I made the move from admissions at my alma mater to a communications position with the Entrepreneurship Initiative, for which Kyle served an inspiration. If I could support an entrepreneur through my first few years of marriage, I thought I would enjoy telling the stories of creative risk-takers at NC State who were like my husband. As Kyle and I approach our eighth wedding anniversary, and I approach my fourth year with the Entrepreneurship Initiative, I can’t help but reflect on the way entrepreneurship has changed my life for the better. And it all started when I answered yes to a very important question from my entrepreneur.
About the Author:
Megan Greer is the director of communications and outreach for the Entrepreneurship Initiative. She has worked in higher education for more than a decade and is a proud two-time graduate of Meredith College. When she’s not in the Garage or attending events in the entrepreneurship community, she can likely be found watching too much E! or Bravo and spending time with her family. She also knows a ton of useless celebrity facts and is good at remembering dates–so be sure to tell her your birthday! Follow her on Twitter @megandgreer.