My Wife Won’t Let Me Start My Own Business

I hear this one a lot: I want to start my own business, but my wife won’t let me because she thinks it’s too risky.

There are variations using “girlfriend” or “fiancée,” but so far I can’t recall a single instance of a woman telling me her husband/boyfriend wouldn’t let her start a business, not to mention male-male and female-female relationships or those involving pets. Certainly other situations are possible, but I’ll just address the most common one and avoid getting lost in a quagmire of pronouns.

My wife won’t let me start my own business…

Would it help if you told her I said it was OK?

Or perhaps you could get a note from your Mommy:

Dear Kim,

Johnny has my permission to start his own business if that’s what he really wants.



Would that make it all better?

Your wife won’t let you start your own business? What’re you… six years old? Have you softened your will so much that you now live only by the voice of the collective: “You will not start your own business. Individuality is irrelevant. Resistance is futile.”

Your wife won’t let you? Are you a homo sapien or a wimpus maximus?

Perhaps the reality of the situation is that your wife thinks you’re incompetent, and if you were to start your own business, your family may go broke and lose all the nice stuff you’ve acquired.

She’s probably right.

After all, most new businesses do fail. If this is the first business you’re starting, it probably won’t work out too well in the long run.

Remember the scene in The Matrix when Neo tries to do his first superjump and smacks face-first into the ground. What does it mean? “Nothing,” came the reply. “Everyone falls the first time.”

But guess what… you know what happens after that? You get up and do it again. You just keep going. The world doesn’t actually spin off its axis just because one business fails. Well, some business failures cause quite a wobble (Enron… cough cough), but the earth soon rights itself once again.

Even if there’s a great prophecy about your first stab at business and it turns out you’re The One, you’re still probably going to fall flat on your face. Even Bill Gates and Paul Allen threw in the towel with Traf-O-Data. (Otherwise traffic lights everywhere would now be participating in DDOS attacks.) Geeky enthusiasm will only get you so far. Experience makes quite a difference.

So I’d say your wife is right. Your first business probably will tank. Your first product won’t sell. Your first web site will look like a college professor made it. Everyone falls the first time. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for it anyway. Nor does it mean you have to fulfill the part of the prophecy that says you have to die trying.

Did you know that it’s possible to start a new business without risking your entire life savings? (I wish someone had explained that to me back in 1994!) When I started this personal development business in October 2004, I went right out and plunked down the hefty sum of $9 to register the domain name. After that I required that every other dollar I wanted to spend on this business would come out of revenue. Partly that was just to see if I could do it because starting a business on less than $10 cash might make for a good story someday (hmmm… perhaps that day has finally come.) I didn’t bother to get a DBA or business cards or cutesy stationary or have a cool logo made or anything like that. Just the domain name. I even got free web hosting by sharing a web server with another site. I still haven’t spent a dime on marketing.

In truth I was taking a greater financial risk than just $9 because I sacrificed a lot of potential income – obviously I invested my time which could have been used to generate income elsewhere. And I had other sources of income and savings to temporarily cover my personal expenses. But I didn’t go into debt to do it, and I didn’t dip into savings for business expenses. If this was my first business, I’d probably be in serious trouble by this point, or I just wouldn’t be making money at all. Instead I’m actually enjoying a positive cashflow. It’s not making me rich yet, but it’s reached the point where it should be relatively easy to sustain and grow.

This isn’t my first business though. Technically it’s my third. First I ran a computer games business developing retail games for five years, then I switched to a shareware games model for six years – those were really two completely different businesses, although I kept the same company name throughout. And then there’s, which I think of more as a mission than a business, but it’s still technically a business. The first games business flopped completely. The second one worked nicely, but I chose not to continue growing it. And I expect will be the best of all, especially since it’s a much better fit for my own strengths. I wouldn’t be nearly so far along with this business if I didn’t already have a decade’s worth of experience from my games business.

Even if your wife expects you to fail in business, did you know that it’s perfectly OK to go out and prove her right? She’d like that – it will build her self-esteem. She gets to be right, and you gain experience. And eventually that experience will make you right too. It will just take a bit longer.

If you start a new business and it flops, you just have to do what Neo did. Get your butt back up on top of that skyscraper and try again. If you fall it’s going to sting a bit, but it won’t kill you (unless you happen to borrow money from the wrong people). And pretty soon you’ll be flying around, dodging bullets, wearing cool shades, and saying, “Whoa” a lot.

How many tries did it take you to learn to walk? When you fell the first time and cried your eyes out, did your Mommy grab you and say, “That does it! No more walking for you, mister! You can just remain seated for life.”

If you ask someone out on a date and get a rejection, does that mean you’re sentenced to celibacy? If you endure some bad Chinese food, does that mean you should never enjoy fortune cookies again? If your five-year old daughter decides it would be fun to tear certain Christmas decorations to shreds and sprinkle the living room with Styrofoam rubble and pretend it’s snow, does that mean – oh, never mind.

Your wife may be right, but that doesn’t mean you need to let her stop you from starting your own business. In truth you’re just using it as an excuse to stop yourself. You don’t have to take a huge financial risk to start a business. You don’t even have to start one full-time. But there are few things in life that will do as much for your own personal growth as the act of starting a business.

If you’re seriously whipped though, I’ll give you an extra secret that will allow you to get anything you want from your wife. It’s called a foot massage. Master the art of the foot massage, and your wife will never stand in your way again. Don’t even ask. Just grab a foot and go to it. After 5-10 minutes, you can ask for anything you want with a 95% chance of agreement. And if you get that rare 5% rejection, just gradually work your way up through the rest of her body, and try again once you’ve squeezed all the resistance out of her. Endorphins are your friends.

Lost a lot of money in stocks? Foot massage. Accidentally wiped your digital wedding photos from the hard drive? Foot massage. Told your wife you think she’s looking older? Foot massage… performed orally.

It took me a good 10 years to become a master pedomasseur. It’s well worth the time to develop this skill though, especially if you expect to be with the same woman for many more years. But even if you’re new to foot massaging, I think your wife will find that even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good. Once you develop a reasonable degree of proficiency and can send your wife to la-la land in a matter of minutes, you need only remember the phrase, “Honey, would you like a foot massage?” Even when she’s certain that you’re up to no good, she’ll be unable to resist such guaranteed pleasure. Ten minutes later when the endorphins have taken her brain offline, you will pretty much own her. This is far more efficient than any amount of verbal persuasion. And it’s a lot more enjoyable for your wife. Words will only make a mess of things.

If your wife won’t let you start your own business, don’t try to convince her of your glorious battle plan to go out and conquer the world. She’s right anyway – you’re going to get pummeled to a pulp. No amount of flowery verbiage and colorful bar graphs will convince her that she should listen to you instead of her intuition. Just make her feet feel yummy, and you’ll be free to suffer the slings and arrows of your own incompetence for years with her full support. Eventually you’ll become competent. But I recommend you continue the foot massages anyway… just in case.

Now go grab a foot and start squeezing.