To be honest, I thought it was a joke; irony, perhaps, or sarcasm. But no, to my surprise, I clicked on Love Your Business More Than Your Family, a column on entrepreneur.com, and he’s serious. Author George Cloutier says:
Your cell phone is for keeping in touch with clients and sales managers in the field, not for taking calls from your spouse throughout the day about what groceries to pick up on the way home. Cutting out early to take your kids to baseball practice three times a week, or picking up your Aunt Tilly or Uncle Ned from the airport, are unacceptable interruptions to success.
You can keep doing these things and waste dozens of hours each week. Or you can focus on the financial future of your business and work all day, every day. You are the only person responsible for fixing your business and making it better, and that isn’t going to happen while you take 14 personal phone calls a day and attend local Cub Scout meetings three-times a week.
That is extremely bad advice. I have absolutely nothing against George Cloutier. I’m even a fellow columnist on the same entrepreneur.com site, where I do a column on business planning. But sheesh, how can I read that, and not write about it? What would Bob Sutton (author of the book on business a**holes) say about this?
How wrong is George’s advice? Well, there’s no way to list all that’s wrong with it, but here at least is just a brief start on that list:
- It’s bad for your life. And business is to serve life, not life to serve business. Make no mistake about it; if you choose to “work all day, every day” do it purposely and knowingly, recognizing that you’re sacrificing your life for a business. Stay single and alone. Don’t ever have kids.
- It’s bad for your business too. You don’t manage a business, manage a team, make decisions, and get through the long hard days without balancing your life. People eventually blow up when they try.
- OK there are exceptions, but what if you aren’t one of them? What if you sacrifice everything and you don’t end up like Richard Branson, water skiing in the Caribbean with a naked model? Some totally obsessed people end up wealthy and happy; but obsession doesn’t create the success, and most of them are just lonely and full of regrets.
Am I exaggerating here? I should add that I’m not just quoting him out of context. He means it. He starts with an obsolete tale of an obsolete business school professor from about 40 years ago telling married students to give up because they couldn’t be married and successful. Here’s what he says about that:
He told them that a family would get in the way of their success, so there wasn’t much point in them taking his course. In the end he let them stay, of course, but he wasn’t kidding. That was his way of making an important point: If you’re going to be successful, you’ve got to love your business more than anything else–even your family.
And he finishes with this conclusion:
Often you will feel tremendous pressure to take time away from your business to devote to family matters. But in the end, the best thing you can do for them is to create the legacy of a business that is thriving and financially sound. When you’re retired, wealthy, and able to spend Valentine’s Day and other special occasions with your kids and grandkids at your winter home in Hilton Head, you’ll be glad you devoted so much of your time to your first love: your business.
Don’t believe him. I do hope that George is in Hilton Head with kids and grandkids. But if you or I follow his advice, we wouldn’t have anything at all to do on Valentine’s Day. Neither our kids nor our grandkids will be spending time with us. They’ll be with our ex-spouse and probably the step-parent who actually raised them. Skip the occasions, the practices, the parenting, and plan on being alone. And, unless you’re very unusual, regretting it. To paraphrase a line from Hello Dolly: “and on those cold winter nights, Horace, you can snuggle up to your cash register. It’s a little lumpy, but it rings.”
Life is way too short to lose to business. Bring business and life together, mind your balance, and be successful at both. That’s what entrepreneurship is really for.
(Image credit: by Loren Javier via Flickr cc)