Startup Therapy Podcast

Episode #18


Ryan Rutan: mm hmm. Yeah, as a founder, you likely spent years in the build up to actually starting your company. But how much time did you dedicate to preparing your spouse for the leap into entrepreneurship today on the startup therapy podcast, we'll talk about the importance of getting on the same page with a spouse before your startup and staying aligned while you're running it. This is Ryan Rutan back for another episode of the startup therapy podcast, joined as usual by my partner Wil Schroder. Will I hope that there's some people listening today that are on the carnivore diet because we've got another super, super, super meaty topic today, Preparing one spouse, preparing one spouse for startup land,

Wil Schroter: prepare a divine spouse.

Ryan Rutan: Oh man, it feels like that. Honestly having gone through a couple of times. That's exactly what it feels like.

Wil Schroter: Well, you know. Okay, so just some backstory for both of us were both married men, we've gone through the spouse prep process extensively. How long have you and Argus been together? 12 years wow. 12 married or are longer than that?

Ryan Rutan: No, 12 is together. It'll be gosh, 10, 10 married next summer

Wil Schroter: and I'm just a little bit behind you. I'm about to celebrate seven years of wedded bliss. Actually, a couple of weeks here and my wife and I have been together for about as long as I say that because that means you and I and respectively, our spouses have been through this a lot together.

Ryan Rutan: We've had chances to practice this. Like my dad was fond of saying practice makes permanent? Not perfect. So learn to do it right?

Wil Schroter: Uh yeah, and so when we're getting into this topic originally, when writing the article about it and everything else like that, the question came to what is what can you possibly do to prepare your spouse for this startup life? And if and if you're already into the startup life, you know, what can you do to help communicate? Yeah, how this, how this whole thing is going to go, because you know, it's a bit of the ship show and when we broke it down, we kept giving the same advice to entrepreneurs over and over about the types of things, just say so we figured once and for all, let's pull together kind of the best of mixtape that talks about all the different points to cover and what we can do to actually help walk our spouses through this pretty challenging process.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, and absolutely, you know, mileage will vary because just like every startup, every marriage is a is a different institution. Um, but there are absolutely some fundamental issues that need to be discussed and so let's, let's bang through man.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, So first and probably foremost, and I don't think this comes up enough is this isn't a job, it's a startup right now, everybody understands how the job works right. You know, you go to work, get paid pretty straightforward spouse, probably understands that this ain't that

Ryan Rutan: half of that is still true. Yeah,

Wil Schroter: we go to work part right to work. And and it's it's funny to me because I think like, if my kids were to ask me, hey dad, you know, what do you do for a living? And I would explain how a startup works. And I said, yeah, you know, I go to work and uh working something I really care about inequality. Do you get paid for it? Like sometimes maybe I'm pretty sure a job you get paid for, right? And it's really hard to explain to people that a startup looks and feels like a job, but it's not, you know what I mean?

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. Yeah. It doesn't come with all of the same luxuries, right?

Wil Schroter: Yeah. And and look, I explained to it uh, explaining to my wife in the early days when you're first getting started together in our relationship. I said, and I think I used this in the article, I said, look, a startup is like, it's not like caring for an adult where you just have to feed them, make sure they're okay. That's a job. You know, it's going to be there. You know, it's going to fend for itself. My startup is like this child in the woods, that if I don't come back and feed it on a regular basis, it's not going to be there tomorrow, right? That's hard for a lot of people, not just our spouses, but all the people in the world to really wrap their heads around because, you know, maybe they're, they've gone to work for a big company, right? And yeah, if they do a terrible job, they could get fired demoted, etcetera, but the company will still be there, right. We're like, hey, if I don't keep at this thing, that company actually probably won't be there. And I don't think a lot of people can wrap their heads around that, you know?

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, the consequences are significantly different.

Wil Schroter: And, and if that's the case, if I said, hey, if I don't show up for my job at google tomorrow, google may cease to exist. I think people would really understand that what you're talking about, you know, it's a big company, but for us, we're probably the only employee, literally if we don't show up that company doesn't. Right? And so when, when, when our spouses saying, hey, you know what, why don't we just take a day off or take some time off, etcetera, and we're scratching our heads going, I don't, like I couldn't possibly do that if I'm not there to deliver the customer's product, our business doesn't have a product anymore, right?

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. There isn't somebody standing in line waiting for my job either. There's literally nobody there that was like, oh, well, since you've dropped out of this, I think I'll just, you know, pick up your slack for you, It never happens.

Wil Schroter: Yeah. And, and so we've got to put everything we have into this startup, just to keep the damn thing alive, right? And so I think the best way I've seen folks, their founders described this to their spouse is I am the business of keeping something alive, not in the business of nurturing, not in the business of growing. I'm in the business of keeping it alive right? In when people understand the the startup in that context, I think they start to understand why you're making these sacrifices in the same way no one would be like, why do you keep getting up in the middle of the night to feed that thing that you call your kid, right? You know, it's just, you know, it's it's boring, it's lame why don't you come back to it later? I don't have

Ryan Rutan: a choice. I can't sleep while it's screaming. That's why that's that's the reason, right? Like if startups made the same noises when they were hungry as Children do, everybody would understand this would be the

Wil Schroter: easiest conversation ever. And and so I think positioning what you're doing, not that everything is this life or death matter, but that this isn't a job. And and I think if you were to sit down and you were to say, look, here are the attributes of a job that you're familiar with, that everybody's familiar with and here's the attributes of a startup and here's where they just aren't even remotely close, right? At least paint the picture of that separation for your spouse because it's not likely that they're going to be able to do it as accurately themselves.

Ryan Rutan: No, absolutely not. And you know, I was just thinking through this and you and I were both in the same boat on this one. We both had startup experience before we had spouses. And so we had the benefit of firsthand knowledge of what this process was like. I'm just I'm trying to imagine right now what that would have been like, what the conversation would have been like if during my first startup, I also had to really explain that to my partner in life, and I'm I'm not sure I would have done a very good job of it because the reality would have been, I wouldn't have known, right? I probably thought it would be like a job. Okay, we started the company, I went down, I printed business cards, I signed up for our bank accounts. I registered domain name and now I just wait for the paychecks. Right? That's that's that's what I thought would happen and I just keep doing work and I keep getting paid for it. Yeah,

Wil Schroter: I think, right, I think the underlying kind of issue here is when our spouse sees us uh you know, leave the house in the morning, so to speak, er probably in our case, put on our sweatpants for the 9/100 time and go down to the basement and work like you

Ryan Rutan: don't sleep in yours might

Wil Schroter: as well at this point, like, But I think that that if we don't paint the context for them, uh there's no version where we can expect them to understand what we're going through. I think that's the problem in any relationship is when you don't provide context, it completely loses meaning. And from the spouses standpoint, when they're watching you run yourself ragged nonstop and they're trying to think to themselves, why would you be doing this if they can't answer why you're doing it? That's on you.

Ryan Rutan: That's a boundary. Right, yep. I just did I just did a talk on on storytelling a few weeks ago, and the one of the major points I was trying to drive home was that you use story to provide context to the world, right? Whether that's an individual or whether that's you know, you know, your spouse or whether that's your your market, you're using story to give people context and it's through that context that they know how to interface with you, right? Without that context they don't know. Right? So without the backstory on what this is likely going to be like or what it's already like, your spouse can't do a good job of supporting even if they wanted to. And so it is that context that becomes so critical. We talked about this a few weeks ago, well together when talking about engaging with advisers, it was the same thing, right? Without that context, Right? So if you're getting advice from somebody, they're not asking questions that lead to context, or you're not giving it to them. You're not going to get good advice in the same way in this context, you're not going to get good support if you're not letting them in on what's going on or what's likely about to happen.

Wil Schroter: Yeah. And to your point, you know, often you don't know, it's your first time out, right? You don't realize how intense this is going to be. But here's what you do know. And I think whether you're a first time founder or you're a veteran founder, here's what you do know, nothing will exist at this company anytime soon. Unless you put it there you go. If you're not there, it ain't there, right? There's no copy on your homepage unless you wrote it right, There's no product going out the door unless you built it. I mean, nothing can exist without you in the short term, and therefore, if you don't exist at the start up, the startup doesn't exist. Yeah.

Ryan Rutan: And I think that's an important distinction. No, it really is because what you're really talking about is and and maybe that is a great way to catch the conversation, right? It's it's less about I'm starting a startup and it's more about I'm becoming a founder, right? Because to some degree, you can almost forget about the startup at that early stage, because there's no separation between the two And I think maybe from a spousal standpoint, that would be easier for them to understand, stay focused on me, think about what I'm going through, forget about the business because the business isn't a business yet, right? It's something I'm working on, it's something I'm going to create and so that the constant there is the is the me, it's the founder. And so I think that if you can you can kind of even keep your language focused on that, it will help your spouse greatly to understand truly the connection between you and the non business at this stage.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, look at some point, there will be a conversion event where this actually does turn into a job, right, Jeff Bezos now has a job pays pretty well, but he has a job, right? Um this isn't that or this is you're not at that point yet. You know, you could you could honestly say, look, I'm right now trying to build a company that will employ me someday. But right now I'm still just trying to build a company part, I don't have the employment part yet. So when we compare my work hours or my comp and things like that, think about it very differently. That will come, we'll have that discussion someday when this becomes a company that can employ me, we're just not there yet, yep. Exactly. And so I think that's one point and I think that's a great place to start because it sets a foundation for all the other things were about to talk about, right? Because again, you're now saying, okay, this is something different. This is something, you know, it's not a job per se, right? And so the next thing we talked about, which is kind of part and parcel is the sacrifice. And we say the sacrifice will be constant, right? There's there's no version of this journey where it burns off quickly in in Ryan unite to oppose all time, all the different types of sacrifice, Right? Well, we've got financial sacrifice, emotional sacrifice, relationships. If there's a sacrifice to be had, you're going to give you an altar for it. You got it. Yeah. And I think there's a notion and and I love the fact that you brought up kind of first time founders that don't know any better. But I think there's this notion that the sacrifices, you know, the short term kind of commitment and then eventually it just levels off. Does it,

Ryan Rutan: mm, No, maybe that particular, maybe that particular sacrifice does. But the minute that one levels off, another one comes to continue building your pyramid of sacrifices, Right? And I think that is, you know, to your point sacrifices constant. You know, the sacrifice itself may not be. Um, but you will continue to sacrifice in different ways throughout the life of the business

Wil Schroter: and, and sacrificing probably more dimensions than people are used to in a job. I'll give you some examples because, You know, we both know some people who are, you know, W2 employed people with regular company and, and they worked their assess off. So by all means, I don't want to suggest that founders or you have had this monopoly on sacrifice. However, I'm going to offer that we probably have a few more sacrifices than other that other people don't sacrifice. Things like, hey, I may never get paid. Right? You may work 100 hours a week as an attorney, but you'll also get paid,

Ryan Rutan: Right? Yeah. For 150 hours.

Wil Schroter: Exactly. Right. That works exactly. The other thing is, there's a fairly good chance that not, were you not only will you not get paid? You'll actually take all of your life savings and pour that into the company and never see it again as well. Right? Yeah.

Ryan Rutan: That, that rarely happens in the W two world. Right? Very, very like, can you guys bring your savings accounts to work today? Sure. Why not?

Wil Schroter: Absolutely. Right. There's another piece of it. And I'm not suggesting again that folks in the W two world don't have work anxiety, etc. You might get fired if you do a shitty job or if you do something horrible. Yes, you might get fired. And, and by all means that, that that's a very real emotion, but it's unlikely that you're going to single handedly ruin the entire law firm the entire company, the entire whatever, right? Whereas with what we're doing, if we screw this up, there will be no company to employ us, right? So this sacrifice, the stress that comes along with it is exponential, pretty much anything that we can funk up can be fucked up in our world, right? And it's mind blowing to think of from a spouse's standpoint, why would we sign up for that? That's like,

Ryan Rutan: this is the hardest part to explain, right? When you're like, when you get down to, and in the article, you talk about putting the skunk on the table, um it's actually, and I'm not sure what the term for this is. You know, I know it's a murder of crows to flock of seagulls, I don't know what a group of skunks is called, but it's a small herd of skunks right and end up on the table. And and when you start to compare the number of skunks on the table to to the potential upsides, it looks really lopsided out of balance for somebody coming from the outside, particularly if you've not done it before and haven't had a good or you've done it before and didn't have a good outcome, right? And I think that both of those things, making a harder conversation because then you've got nothing to lean on other than other people's efforts, which really hard to lean on.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, Yeah, absolutely. And so I think that through all of this, right, Being able to sit down early on and say, I'd love to tell you that this is a short term sacrifice, right? I'd love to say that, you know, I'm just gonna work really hard this year. I'm just going to spend some money this year. You name it, right? Um, and, and, and that's gonna be all it takes. But we both know that's bullshit, right? You know, I'm 25 years into my career and my wife's been with me through a very long part of it. Do you know that even at this point, you know, we've been successful on a few trips, you know, throughout this whole journey, etcetera. We have, we don't even forget about the sacrifices, constant part. We're just like, yeah, of course, like, you know, things could be doing this going great this year, next year, we could be bankrupt and having to restart. Like there's, we've never gotten out of the sacrifices constant mentality, even though we probably should have. And you,

Ryan Rutan: yeah, you could have at this point, Right? But it's, it's sort of ever present, right? And, uh, I think it gets even more interesting than when we start to, we start to talk about the fact that, right, that this, there's going to be sacrificed. It's going to be constant. It's going to be diverse. It's going to be painful. And by the way, it's likely to fail

Wil Schroter: despite all right. Yeah.

Ryan Rutan: Right? All of this is likely to be for not, right? So, you know, imagine telling your spouse that you are going to spend the next 3-5 years missing family events, putting in lots of time adding gray hair and probably some weight around the middle, draining some of our savings over like a 3 to 5 year period to walk to 7 11 to buy a lottery ticket. Right? I don't think anybody would say yes to that. Like that sounds like a horrible plan right to buy one lottery ticket. And yet, you know, there's, there's some alignment with that and what we're truly doing the startup, there's lots of other benefits and lots of other reasons to do this, that there are far more impactful than that walk to 7 11. But statistically that's sort of where we're at. Right.

Wil Schroter: Right. But but its its underlying the next point, which is that it probably won't make us rich. Okay. So this is kind of the, the, the ends justifying the means argument that I think almost all of us have, I'm going to sacrifice my time, my money, my sanity, my health, you know, you name everything I could possibly sacrifice because it's going to pay really well in the end right now. I'm not saying that everybody makes that statement. I would say that it's pretty pervasive part of startup life, right? You're gonna get stock options and those stock options could be worth something in the future. That's why you're going to work all these insane hours for next to no pay. You know, that seems to be the give gap. However, to your point, the probability statistically that it's going to make us rich is pretty damn low, right? In fact, startups have this wonderful benefit that not only will we not be rich, we will actually be exponentially poorer. If you combine the fact that we didn't make any money with the fact that we spent all of our money and incurred new deaths that weren't even attached to us being the company's debts that we get to enjoy as well. For example, if you were to say, I want to become a lawyer, a doctor can easily say I'm going to rack up a ton of, you know, school debt, etcetera, I'm going to sacrifice some years that I'm not in the working force because I'm still getting educated doing a residency, what have you. But statistically the probability that I'll at least make revenue, I'll have a job that pays money is pretty damn high, right?

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. This is, there's a repeatable and calculable return on that investment.

Wil Schroter: Exactly. But now if we're sitting across from our spouse and we're saying, look, I hope this company goes on to become, you know, in insert your, your narrative for what big company you want to be similar to. Yeah, There's a 99% chance. That's not going to happen. What spouse in the world is going to get on board with that plan. Yeah, that's the

Ryan Rutan: apparently some portion of six million registrations per year actually say yes to that, right? Businesses starting. So there are a lot of people saying yes to this, but we'll talk about this in a minute. We'll talk about this in a minute. But that is not, that's not the reason they're saying yes, right? This is, this is not the justification is not the financial outcome. Um, that should be the reason that you, that you gain alignment and decide to do this because it's, well, that might be the reason that you do it, but that will probably also be the reason that that alignment falls apart in year 235, 10, whatever.

Wil Schroter: I think it becomes a hard conversation to have it now. Now folks understand it. You know, when I told my wife, hey, we're going to, you know, make these sacrifices in order for this outcome. I mean, she understood it. She understood that it was a gamble and that it might not work. And we talked at length about what the downside looks like. Hey, if it doesn't work, here's roughly what we're up against, right? If it does work, not hard to think about, right. You know, we'll have a lot more money than we do now. But if it doesn't kind of, here's, here's where we stand work gets tricky. I think as far as, you know, kind of how this conversation goes is you're trying to explain why you're making the bet right? And if all you say is more money, I don't think that fully explains the outcome. And what I'm trying to say is I think we need to explain what we're going to do with that money, what we're going to enable what, what part of our lifestyle we're trying to change because if it's just this amorphous thing, like things will be better. It's easy to lose sight of, right. But if you were to say, I want our kids to be able to college because we never got to go to college. I think people can really understand that and get behind that, you know what I mean?

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, there's something concrete, right? It's something you can you can kind of put the lever against and pull. And I think that this is a really critical point. I think that for a lot of reasons and this isn't this goes well beyond the spousal alignment. If you are only saying like I want to do this to have more money for example. Well, number one, like I know you and I both told people this in varying ways, but there are easier ways to make money than starting a company, right? It's typically called getting a job. That's the easiest way to make money is get a job or sell something I do do something right. And so I think that if that's if that's the only thing that you're leaning on is like, we've got to do this, you know, let's do this for us, honey, let's do this. So we've got more money so that, you know, whatever, right, that falls apart at so many levels. Because if that's the reason you're doing this when it starts to get really hard, if you're not doing something, you have some underlying need to do something that you really feel compelled and called to do, you're going to run out of energy, passion money time, all of those things, probably all at the same time, and it's going to fall apart, right? Whereas I think that if you do have that deep drive need passion to build something and with a good reason your spouse will get behind that, right? That's something that they can see and care about with you. Maybe not to the same degree that you do, but because they care about you by proxy, they're going to care about what you care about

Wil Schroter: agreed. And I think this is where you start to really set the foundation and you start to say, look, this is why doing it this way. Why building this thing while creating this thing. I'm going to put all this time and attention into is so important to me. Yeah, here's the problem for some folks. Often the founders don't really have that conversation with themselves, right? The process looks something like this, they say I have a novel idea. I see an opportunity in the market, I'm going to pursue it and I wanted to win because of course I don't want to lose. What they don't necessarily step back and say is why is this important to me? Right? Could be any number of things. And the answer isn't quite as important as the question the answer could be. I want to do it because I just want to be my own boss. I just, I don't want to listen to other people, right? You know, I want to do things my way perfectly fine, right? It could be, I want to make tens of millions of dollars and this is the most probable way for me to get to that outcome. You know, what also a legit answer, right? It doesn't really matter what the answer is. It matters that you have an answer and you've really thought it through and bonus you communicated

Ryan Rutan: yeah. And and probably again and again and again, right. You know, it's it's easy to forget that we spend endless mental cycles on these things, right? Like we may have so thoroughly considered this. And this is something that I find myself guilty of all the time and not just in in getting alignment with my wife, but just generally speaking, I like to over analyze everything. I'm not sure that I like to, I just do I over analyze everything. And by the time I've gone through my analytical process, I am damn certain that I have thought of most of the likely outcomes, right? And so going back through and communicating, those can be painful for me. It can be very painful to walk people through all of the steps that I went through to get to that point. And yet the payoff for doing so is always there, right? Because when people understand the why of what you're doing, they have a different way of thinking about it. When they have the same level of information that you do, they can make their their decisions differently, they can think about it a different way. I just heard my dad say this a few days ago, he was, he's a foot and ankle surgeon retired now, but one of our friends broke their ankle while didn't break, luckily, but injured their ankle really badly during a sporting event. Um, we were just Spectators. So it wasn't, it wasn't quite as exciting as it could have been. But in treating my friend, he gave her a lot of background information, he said, I want you to know as much about this injury as I do so that you can think about in the same way I do. So I'm not just telling you what to do, but you understand why. And again, every time I taken the time to make that investment when I'm trying to communicate anything to anybody, walking them through my process of how I arrived at this is what I want to do has paid off. It never fails.

Wil Schroter: I agree. And I think when you give it some backstory and context, you know, when I was early in my career, uh, and I talked about, you know, I wanted to be able to build a company and I wanted it to be successful. Everything. Okay, that sort of makes sense. But then I explained to them, you know, kind of where I came from, I said, you know, I had a tough childhood, I grew up in poverty, I want to be able to do all the things that I couldn't do as a kid. You know, I wanted my family to have the types of opportunities and the kind of solid base that I never had as a kid, people really understood it when I gave it that context. Sure,

Ryan Rutan: sure. How how, how important do you think it is to go beyond that, that macro from the, here's why, because that, that to me explains why you wanted it to work, but not why you wanted to do this specific thing that you were doing, like, you know, I want to build a company that helps launch millions of other companies versus let's buy a used car franchise, right? You could, you could put your kids through college with both of those things theoretically, but one of them matters a lot more to you. Um, I hope,

Wil Schroter: Yeah, well I'll tell you what, I don't think that there are that many jobs out there. Start up companies or otherwise where people happen to be working on something that actually is their personal passion. I mean if if you're fortunate enough to do that, I mean, you know hats off to you, that's certainly Ryan what you and I get to do. Um and we feel fortunate, but you and I have also worked on lots of other businesses where that wasn't the case, right? You know, you and I worked on

Ryan Rutan: have now refused to do that, but yeah,

Wil Schroter: yeah, yeah. You know my first job, I was building web pages, right? I loved it. I mean, I couldn't have been happier, but it was, yeah, yeah, it was because of the novelty of it, because I was getting paid for something that I was enjoying doing at the time, but if I zoom zoom out and look at the, the personal passion, would I have been doing that on a saturday? If I had nothing else to do. Hell no. Right? Whereas now on saturday, you know, most of my friends are founders, we talk founder stuff, not exclusively, probably talk more parenting stuff now, but, but regardless, um, you know, I get to kind of pursue my passion, you know, my family sees that, you know, they know how incredibly passionate I am about helping founders build something and I think it seems pretty obvious why I'd want to do this for a living that said, it's also obvious because I communicate the hell of it. I talked about it all the time, right? And so they understand. Yeah, I

Ryan Rutan: mean, to me, those two things are so aligned though, in terms of like what your personal passion is and what you're talking about all the time, right? I find it hard to believe that, you know, if you're just building something for the sake of an opportunity that you're still going to be talking about all the time. I just I find that people tend to gravitate towards that. And I've actually called some friends out on this and saying like, you know, it's it's interesting when you're building a company that does X, Y, Z. But all you talk about is abc like how how how do you align those two things? Like, what about your business and X, Y Z is actually bringing you joy and, and excitement and like, when you're getting out of bed, is it really just an opportunity, right? Are you looking at it just from a pure financial standpoint? And there's usually some justification and they'll say like, well, no, there's actually this aspect of my business that that really allows me to kind of focus on this, on the, on the, on the more of the passion side, but, you know, it's at least my sincere hope that everybody gets to build at least some of that into what they're working on,

Wil Schroter: Yeah, and can communicate it accordingly right again, and that's why our spouse needs to understand that I'm willing to kill myself because because what I am working on uh means so much to me and I think that the way to bring that home and I think this is as important as knowing what you're, what you're passionate about is explaining why today mattered right. You know, when I come home every day and I sit down with my family at dinner, I talked about what I did today and why it mattered right now. I've got a seven year old daughter in a two year old son. Maybe they care, maybe they don't, but but they still hear about it, they're going to hear about it right. You know, every day in, in my, my daughter is super smart and she asked me questions, you know, every night she'll ask me something about, you know, why did I do that or why was that important to me, etcetera. So she's going to grow up with what I do and why I do it is very much a fabric of kind of how she understands startups and entrepreneurship. My, my wife, on the other hand, my wife has worked at venture funded startups before. She's, she's by no means start a person per se and I'm not putting words in her mouth to say if she never had to work at a startup company ever again. She'd be the happiest personal life. So like, you know, she's by no means, you know, crazy pro startup, all she cares about is is raising our kids right now and she's awesome about it. But my point is every day I come home and I say, look, you know, here's a win that we had today or here's something that you know, that we lost today and here's how it affects the overall trajectory or goals of what I'm trying to do.

Ryan Rutan: That second piece is so important because when we dig into like what the winds are that we talked about on a daily basis, it's not like, you know, we landed the the Salomon Account, right? And it's it's $42 million. Yeah, right? It's tiny little things, right? And I don't think that anybody who's not living inside it like we are, I can understand how that does impact the trajectory of the company, right? It's not like we won the super bowl. Right. Well no, we bought a ball, right? That's that's in the, in the context of what type of winds we're talking about. That's the level that we're at with a lot of these and they're still super critical and super important. But explaining how it impacts the trajectory of business I think is really, really important stuff. I'm glad you brought that up.

Wil Schroter: Well I talked to my wife about our open rates on newsletters, right? You're like, man, what we're in conversation. You guys have a dinner. But but I give it context. I say, look, we have a really important message. We're trying to get out, right? We think that, you know, if we can get in front of a lot more founders, we can help them tackle issues like stuff we're dealing with today, right? Or educate them on some small thing that's been kind of beating them up, that we can maybe help get them over the hump. And if .5% more people open our newsletter, we can help that many more people. Right? My wife doesn't give a ship about open rates of newsletters, but she sure as hell cares about how many people we can help, Right? So she'll understand the victory a bit differently than Ryan. You and I will, you know, when we're looking at the open rates, you know, in our newsletters. But when I come home and say, Hey Ryan and I have been like banging our heads against the wall trying to figure out how to increase open rates, she now knows why, right? Because she knows what part, it doesn't matter to me. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And, and I think that the more things that we can relate and again, when we're talking about our spouses, I don't think it's much of a leap here to talk about our kids as well, as far as them on understanding there's events that I miss. I hate to say it. There's events that I miss. There's there's there's moments in their life that I'm not there because I'm off doing something else and I feel like I owe it to them to understand why I'm not there, right? It doesn't happen as much as it used to. You know, Ryan, you and I have been through this, you know, we've done a good job of making sure that we're not missing as much as we could, but when it does happen, I want my kids to understand, you know, dad's not here for a reason and here's why in my litmus test would be if someone asked my daughter, hey, you know, why isn't your dad here for this, that she could proudly, in her own words, defend it and if she can't, she's like, I don't know why my dad's not here. Like, you know, I really thought it would be, it doesn't make any sense then that's on me, man.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, yeah. And that's that's a big deal. Yeah, I know the communication goes a long way, right? And again, it's it's providing that context so that again, they can justify it, they can build their own story around it, they can think about it in their own terms, right? Because if the answer is just I'm not going to be there, why I'm busy with work. That's shitty context

Wil Schroter: demonizes work.

Ryan Rutan: It does and that's a horrible thing. That's the other thing that I try to bring to the conversation all the time. That yeah, there is constant sacrifice and you know what? It still feels good, it still feels good to me right now. I don't ever want to miss an event, right? I don't want to spend time with my family, but when I am, I am doing something that I also enjoyed doing right, I'm doing it because I have decided in that moment that that's what I want and need to be doing and that's okay too, right? Because I think that that will give them that same north star, like if I could give my my Children any gift, it would be to understand that sometimes we will make choices that go counter to what people around us are doing or thinking, but when we believe strongly in accomplishing something that's okay, right? And it's okay for them to make that same choice as long as they don't miss my birthday's,

Wil Schroter: it doesn't affect me in any capacity. No, but I do think that there's an important value there on a, on a constant basis, even on the little things that we feel like our spouse, you know, or in this case our family whatever may not understand. I think it's at least important to try, you know, I remember I used to come home, you know, when I started my first company, I was building it in um in Ohio, but I grew up in Connecticut and from time to time I would go back to Connecticut and I would see my grandmother, I would try to explain to her what the hell I was doing right now, Mind you was building one of the first internet companies. So my grandmother still had never heard of the internet, right? And I remember so passionately trying to explain to her how well things were going and I was like grandma, you gotta understand like this new thing, the internet, it's going to change the world and I'm so just bustling with optimism and I'll never forget her response. Her response was that doesn't make any sense. I don't understand why you dropped out of college. I mean it wouldn't matter what I told her, I could say grandma, I flew here on my own rocket ship right in her mind what, she couldn't wrap her head around was I was the first person in my family to go to college which made me the first person to drop out. So in her mind, I had already become the biggest failure of all time and she doesn't understand what the hell the internet was or why I kept talking about it right? And she didn't understand why it looked like I hadn't slept in six years, right. Like all she saw exactly all she and I didn't, I didn't understand at the time, I was too young, but all she saw was the downside, right and there I am again looking like I haven't slept in weeks because I hadn't completely broke out of college right now and never happier Ryan never happier. And and and you know what, you can't pay

Ryan Rutan: rent with happiness

Wil Schroter: will Exactly right. And I guess if you, if you look at it objectively, she was in the right, she was in the right because with the information that she had available to her, I look like an idiot right now, things worked out okay,

Ryan Rutan: well that's the thing. These aren't objective decisions, right? And like we've said like statistically speaking, objectively speaking, this will never be the right choice, right hindsight proves that wrong in some cases, but objectively speaking, this isn't the easiest way, this isn't the right way. This isn't a defined path, there's no clear outcome. Alright. That's not where we do it.

Wil Schroter: Yeah. And and and and it was on me and again, I've learned this much later in life, it was on me to arm her with the information she needed to be proud of me and I didn't, I armed her with all the information she needed to make me think like I was an idiot and I love her, but based on the information she got. That was exactly the right response, right?

Ryan Rutan: She used the tools that you gave her.

Wil Schroter: Yeah. And they were really horrible tools and so in retrospect and uh you know, I would have handled it a lot differently. But again, I didn't know. But what I'm hoping is that Ryan for the folks that are listening to this wherever they are in their life and whatever relationships that there um that they're working with, that they understand that just because you understand what it is that's valuable to you and what the opportunity is and why you're optimistic doesn't mean anybody else can or will right now. I have

Ryan Rutan: to wear it on your sleeve. I have to wear it on your sleeve so that they can see it and they may or may not understand it, right? We can't force the understanding, but at least with the proper context they have a shot.

Wil Schroter: And I would say in a lot of your relationships, you know, not trying to paint one that's more important than the other. But generally speaking your spouse is kind of your ride or die partner, right? For good or bad. And what I really mean by that is that's the person you've got to come home to every day, right? Your parents, you may not see them all the time.

Ryan Rutan: Getting this wrong is, is significant.

Wil Schroter: Exactly like exponential, right? And with with my wife Sarah and I, what I've always explained is this only works if we're on the same page, right? If we're at odds Dude, if we're 5% off, right, it's a problem, right? It is

Ryan Rutan: right, because if you give them the full context and grandma still thinks you're an idiot or your spouse still thinks you're an idiot, there's a problem, right? It's not enough to simply give them the information, right? They have to you have to give them the information. And then, as you said, they need to be on the same page. There has to be alignment at that point. Otherwise it's going to be very, very problematic. And again, they may not see things the same way that you do, but if you're looking in completely opposite directions, unless you're trying to watch each other's backs, it's a problem.

Wil Schroter: Yeah. And what I say is, and this is a whole other episode into itself someday You cannot fight a war on two fronts, right? You can't go to work and fight the war and then come home and fight another war about work, right? And by the way, couples do it all the time, right? I just want to be clear that this isn't unique to startups. But on this one, if if your spouse feels that this is a terrible decision and it's going to look at every slip up and every mistake and every frustration as an I told you so moment, dude, life's about to get really, really hard. And and and if you're listening to this and that's your situation, I I don't need to tell you that because you already know there has to be some foundation of compromise. At the very least this startup can't feel like, and I told you so moment, otherwise, it's just going to drive you absolutely insane.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, and and and the likelihood for that happening this is why the alignment upfront is so important because there will be plenty of opportunities for them to drop the I told you so right, as many as they go looking for, right, and you cannot be in that situation where like you go to school and get shoved into a locker all day and then you come home and get kicked down the stairs for not being tough enough, right? It's just it's it's it ends very very poorly because, you know, it we talked about this before, but it takes so much energy, so much emotion to to keep things up to to to maintain the front inside the startup that the minute you're outside the startup, when you're at home where wherever you are, that's not work, if that is also a constant challenge. I mean, I can't even say good luck, I'd say like get out of it and figure out something different because it's not gonna work

Wil Schroter: Well, right? And so at the end of the day, our our dream scenario is that our spouses 100% on board as supportive as possible, etc. I'll give I'll give my wife credit in this, my wife's incredibly supportive. However, however, I think this is important to say she has no lack of opinions on things, right, and I say this in a very positive way, right. You know, I'll come home and say we made this sacrifice and we tried this and we did that and she'll say, you know, honestly, I don't think that's a great idea, right? You should have a very strong, well established opinion of, of why I probably made the wrong decision. And I would say nine times out of 10, I welcome that discussion, right? Nine times out of 10 I'm like, dude, you know what, you're probably right in and often I'll say to her, you're probably right about this. Even if I go to the opposite thing because of whatever conditions I'm dealing with, I still think you're probably going to be right about this The other time. The one out of 10 times, we just don't see things the same way, right? Sure. Like you should have totally fired that person. I'm like, yeah, I don't see that whatsoever And we agree to disagree on that one. But if we were to flip it Ryan, if we were to flip it and say nine out of 10 times we don't agree and we're at odds on things, I'd be so fucked, right? I I I've got a lot of fortitude, I don't have that much fortitude. I couldn't come home and and argue about this stuff every single night and in all fairness, I bet a lot of you listening you are doing that right. So I again, I'm not going to paint my situation is your situation. But if it feels like you're working two full time jobs, that's exactly what it is.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah, it is. And and then you've got no chance to recharge and without that ability to recharge and and be ready to face the next day's worth of challenges. Uh, it's, I'm not gonna say impossible, nothing's impossible. But it is highly improbable and you're already in a highly improbable situation. So when you start, when you start multiplying really tiny decimals together, the number gets real small, real quick.

Wil Schroter: And that's why with this whole concept here preparing your spouse, I think an important part of the conversation is what you just said, Ryan, look, we're about to do because we're in this together. What we're about to do is hard enough as it is. If we want to lower our chances of success, we'll divide ourselves right and go at odds with each other. Right? And I think that the discussion is, look, even if you don't always agree with what I'm trying to do, you know, or or the, the approach that I'm going to take, I still need you to be on my team, right? Because I can't do it in opposition with you. There's no version for as fucking hard as this is that I'm also going to do it by myself and have an entire other wars to fight at home if you want to deep six, what we're doing here the fastest way to do it is to create a whole, another war for me, right? And again, it's it's this concept of even if you don't agree with with the approach I'm taking or what I'm about to do at least beyond my team through that process because I I can't do it alone.

Ryan Rutan: Yeah. The the the way that information gets delivered often has everything to do with, you know, whether it's, you know, perceived as positive or negative and you know, you talk about being on the same team and I think there's another really important point here and that's that it is a team and it's not always equal roles within that team. And I think that, you know, if it's like with trying to remember the exact phrase, but you know, if you, if you want to have a good friend, be a good friend, if you want to have a really good teammate in terms of of spousal support in startup land, you need to be a good teammate to. And it's something we haven't touched on quite as much. We talked about how to be good communicators, how to do some of these things. But I think there's something that's easily overlooked right? Like you and I are both very, very lucky in terms of the way our wives support what we do. And I probably don't do it often enough. But I do try to find ways of recognizing calling out and honoring her contribution to this because at the end of the day, we can't score all the goals without their help and yet we get credit for 100% of the goals. And I think that that can take a toll over time, right? It's, you know, we get to go out and fight and, and you know, we take the wounds, but we also take the glory. And so I think that, you know, it's, it's really important to find ways to show and to quantify and qualify what that support really means. Like because you know, I tell my wife all the time I could not do this without you. And that's not lip service. That's not me saying, hey, I don't want to hear your opinion on this thing. I couldn't do this without you. So here's, here's some playstation now. Shut up! Leave me alone, Go away. Um, I really mean it right. Like it's it's it's real, it's real service too to her contribution. I think that that's super important, right? If you want somebody to support you, show them how important that support is. Because I think in the same way that those little victories that we take home from work, I don't have any context to them in terms of how that changes the trajectory of the company. I also don't think it's easy for somebody who's supporting you to understand exactly what that support means and how that changes the trajectory of you in the company.

Wil Schroter: You know, when I think about different moments in my career where my wife became the difference maker for me, they're so clear and so obvious not now to your point right? I think there's there are a whole bunch of places where we probably just don't appreciate, you know, kind of what that ground support looks like. I recall, you know, a few years back, you know, we talked about earlier episode, the time where we bought virtual, you know, when we inherited 450 people uh in about three hours and I remember telling my wife about,

Ryan Rutan: which was equal to the amount of sleep we had over the next exactly.

Wil Schroter: You know, I remember, I remember waking my wife up at like six in the morning and being like, and I've been, you know, on the phone for the past nine hours and saying, hey, you know, we're about to make a significant contribution to another company by virtue of buying it and taking it over. And my wife gave me the look and the reaction which reminded me of um Leonidas, his wife in 300, which basically said, come back with your shield or on it and which I thought was, you know, it's the coolest thing in the world and what she was basically saying and I don't want to let this go. She was saying, I've got you either way, but take it as far as you have to, You know, I'm on your team and this is the case where we made such a massive commitment, right? That there's, there's almost no other answer that could have been stronger. And guess what happened for the next four weeks. I didn't sleep now. I'm trying to get out of this narrative where this is always this badge of honor. You know, I didn't sleep, et cetera. There's nothing cool about it, right? It was horrible. It was, it was one of the most stressful intensive, you know, sacrificial times of my life. But I have to say it only worked. I only had that opportunity. I was only able to say yes, so to speak because I knew my wife was in my corner, right that I knew no matter what happened, I could do the no look pass to her and she'd take it and dunk it right. Like anything that needed to happen. We were living in two different cities at the time. We had uh, you know, my, my son was was sort of on the way, if you will, we had so many things going on. And I just knew my wife because we had all these conversations just had my back and so I could just run through a wall and not have to think twice about it. That is a ultimate superpower, right? Not just cultivated because she's such a cool check cultivated because we spent so many, countless hours talking about why these things were important and why these sacrifices mattered that she was. She already knew what the answer was before I even had to explain it. Like

Ryan Rutan: all the context she needed to make her decision. In this case she made a decision to fully support you, but she could do that with with full clarity, right? There's a hell of a lot of power in that, you know, to your point without that life looks really different without our spouses in that moment, particularly that the virtual was was such a crucible of of startup and you wanna talk about sacrifice. Like we poured it all in right there man. Um yeah, I could probably pull five or 10 moments where my my wife absolutely kept me literally kept me alive during, during that process it's it's incredible and you've got that support. The difference that it makes is so crystal clear and I hope that that's shining through because what I'm not sure about because I've always been on the right side of this curve, what I'm not sure about is that if there's people out there listening right now that don't have this level of support, if they understand exactly what they're missing, I hope they do, I really hope they do and I hope that some of what we've talked about today helps them to turn the corner on that if they're still getting started or if they're already started, but don't have that alignment, that there's some, some nuggets that we've dropped today that can help them get there or at least understand the value in trying to turn that corner.

Wil Schroter: Yeah, Ryan look, we've talked endlessly and we will talk endlessly about the value of building different relationships in a startup, right? With your co founder relationships. It's your employer relationships, it's your investor relationships, your customer relationships, you know, your networking relationships, all of these things. I would trade them all. I would scrap them all for the relationship that I have as it relates to my business, you know, personal of course with my wife, right? Because the truth is, I've seen, you know, with with other friends and and and founders, etcetera, what it looks like to not have that relationship and without it, I'd be fucked. It's that simple.

Ryan Rutan: I'll bet Jeff Bezos wished we had done this episode a couple of years ago, he'd have half his fortune. I wish I could be Jeff

Wil Schroter: Bezos and lose half of the fortune and still be the richest person in the world. But yeah, but but it's it's absolutely incredible. Again, we talk about, you know, why this will help you with your startup, your personal life, etcetera. But the truth is if you can develop that extra gear by having that relationship at home where you can kind of go further and faster than anyone else because you have that, it is an absolute superpower. And I'm hoping that part of this conversation frames what can take you to that level

Ryan Rutan: agreed. And you know, you, you said it we would be willing or should be willing to trade all of the other relationships in the business uh, for that one because of the amount of power that it has. And you know, there's, there's something very practical about that too. All of those relationships are tied to that specific business, right? Your customers, your staff, all of that is tied to that business. Your spouse is tied to that and everything else you do in life, including anything else you do in the future business wise or otherwise. And so having that continued support, right? That longitudinal teammate is super, super critical. That's a wrap for this episode of the startup therapy podcast. This is Ryan Rutan on behalf of my partner Wil Schroder and all the startups dot com. Family thanking you for joining us and we hope you'll continue to join us. Be sure to subscribe rate and comment on itunes or wherever you love to listen to startup therapy. You can find all of our episodes at startups dot com slash podcast. If you're looking for more amazing resources to launch or grow your startup, be sure to head to startups dot com and check out startups unlimited. It's everything we have to offer from our online university to our amazing community of experts and founders and even all the tools we've built like biz plan, fungible and launch rock. It's everything a founder needs, visit startups dot com slash begin that startups dot com slash b e G i N. You'll thank me later.

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