It takes tremendous effort to keep a marriage intact, just as it takes tremendous effort to start and build a successful company. Is it possible to do both? It can be done, but the odds are not good.
The list of notable entrepreneurs who failed to make their marriage work – at least the marriage they were in when they started their company – is long: Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Google co-founder Sergey Brin. Most recently, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie announced they are divorcing after being married 25 years.
Business and marriage may not mix
While there is no research that proves it’s difficult to start and run a company while also making a marriage last, many family law attorneys say anecdotal evidence indicates this is true. Some estimate the divorce rate for entrepreneurs is 5 or even 10 percentage points higher than the national average of approximately 40 percent.
It’s an enormous challenge to devote the time and effort that is necessary to run a startup or even an established, growing business, while also mustering the effort that is required to maintain a healthy marriage. Communication between spouses often is lacking. Add kids to the mix and it becomes even more complex.
Kristen Hamilton, an entrepreneur with several startups on her resume, got married the same year her first company went public. She and her husband had two children before divorcing eight years later. Managing problems at work and home felt like “Whack-a-Mole,” she told GeekWire.
Entrepreneurs often have high-risk personalities. They are singularly focused and, frankly, can be impatient and honest to a fault. These may be good traits for leading a business, but they can be the downfall of a marriage.
When successful entrepreneurs decide to end their marriage, things often become even more complex. There may be substantial assets to divide, and obtaining proper valuation of a business is rarely straightforward. It is critical to work with a family law attorney who has extensive experience in this area.