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Small Biz Matters

Welcome to Small Biz Matters, where IBJ discusses issues of interest to small-business owners and entrepreneurs. I'm your host, Associate Editor Andrea Davis.

Small Business

The link between entrepreneurship and divorce

January 20, 2011
KEYWORDS Small Business

What is it about entrepreneurship and divorce? Hang around entrepreneurs for very long and it soon becomes apparent that some of the people who succeed the most at creating great businesses also struggle the most to hold their marriages together.

If studies or statistics on the link exist, Brad Wilcox, who runs The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, isn’t aware of them. Neither is Andrew Zacharakis, a professor at Babson College’s highly rated entrepreneurship program. However, both say their own observations support the notion.

A business owner who writes about family issues for Inc. magazine had an interesting column on the topic in November. Meg Cadoux Hirshberg isn’t aware of supporting stats, either, but she bets the divorce rate for entrepreneurs is higher than average.

Hirshberg’s piece, headlined “Why so many entrepreneurs get divorced,” admits the tensions of the business she runs with her husband have resulted in the occasional stony silence and slammed door. The very things that push any couple apart—finances, neglect, minimal communication and different goals—“produce a toxic cocktail of resentment and anxiety created by putting the family’s security constantly at risk,” she says.

Many spouses can’t compete with the intense passion many entrepreneurs have for their businesses, she adds, and business ownership can intensify traits not known for nurturing relationships—bossiness, self-importance and impatience.

Set the heartbreak of divorce aside for a moment to consider the implications for the economy. You probably know people who aspire to start a business but don’t follow through out of fear of the impact on their marriages and families. Yet, without entrepreneurs, fewer good jobs materialize and fewer products and services are introduced. In other words, the rest of us benefit from their sacrifices.

What are your thoughts? Any insights on the entrepreneurs with both successful companies and marriages? How do they do it?
 

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