If you ever worry what it will look like when your kids take over your life, this is it: lunch at my investor’s favorite restaurant to discuss my son’s cello lessons. Me getting there two hours early because one son has an orthodontist appointment and one son has a cello lesson and my husband is taking cows to market, so even in a family with two cars and a nanny and a driver, there is no way for me to get to my meeting on time unless I’m two hours early.
I am working like most people who work from home. I am at a coffee shop. Except I am two hours from home and I am in front of the coffee makers at a gas station which I happen to know has great wi-fi.
People who live in New York City keep a running list in their head of reasons they could never leave New York City. It’s a list of self-delusions (I’d have no friends) and sort-of delusional needs (there’s no roof-raised watercress). A frequent item on the list is I’d have to drink gas station coffee.
I drink so much gas station coffee that Starbucks doesn’t taste like real coffee to me.
I am debating whether or not to wear glasses at the meeting. It would be good to not have to see the investor. Who I will not name because he doesn’t read my blog, but I’m sure his family does, and I don’t want them to tell him that I think a lot about what I wear because I think the biggest value I bring to him is being fun.
That’s why investors invest. They say, “We invest in people not ideas,” but what they mean is, “My life is boring, and the only thing money can’t buy is interestingness, but I’m trying by investing in your company.”
So I have to be interesting by toeing the line between hot and quirky. This is something that is not available to him because he has his wife who is just hot.
I was going to wear big stripes and small stripes but I worried they made me look fat.
When I told Cassie I am thinking of brocade because stripes are fattening she said, “Don’t worry. You’re so old that no one notices if you‘ve gained weight.”
I think she meant that to be comforting. I have to get friends my own age. I wore brocade.
On the drive into Madison I slept in the car. It is easier for me to sleep in the car than sleep in my bed. That’s how much driving I do. Well, that’s how much driving my driver does.
I have not told my investors that I have a driver. Because while two out of my three investors have their own drivers, I’m pretty sure they’d have a thing against funding founders with drivers.
The trick to funding a company, for those of you who think you might be doing that, is to keep the founders in a state of financial insecurity so they think their life depends on getting the company off the ground. As a founder, it’s my job to convey financial duress but not financial meltdown.
Today I am going to have to confess to driving twenty hours a week for cello lessons. And I am going to have to confess that while I did get a hotspot for the car so I could work in the car, I do not use the hotspot because the minute I get in the car I fall asleep.
I was reading The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a book about a boy whose father is a high-level Nazi. The family has to live next door to Auschwitz, and to cope with that, his mom sleeps all day. The boy does not see the correlation between his father’s job and his mother’s sleeping. In a similar way, I hope, that my son does not see the correlation between the insane lengths we go for cello and my own sleeping.
I hesitate to write insane. Because I see other parents doing it all the time. I see families relocating for their kid to train for the Olympics. I see families filing bankruptcy to keep their kid at an Olympic training facility. I see parents sending their kids halfway across the world to study with a special violin teacher—while the parents remain in their home country.
I am not the only one. It’s hard to tell the kid no when their whole life is about this one thing they love doing more than anything. It’s hard to say no when everyone around that kid is saying there’s a chance for him to be THE ONE.
I am telling this to my investor. Over salmon, because under stress I order salmon because it’s always on the menu. Does it mean that I have a reading comprehension problem if I can’t read a menu in a social situation?
My investor listens in a concerned way, and I know he’s hoping this doesn’t lead to a big mess. He’s funded two of my companies and he’s seen me through a financial implosion, and divorce, and massive relocation.
“I’m okay,” I tell him. I’m hiring someone to help me deal with cello so that I can have time and focus to hire people at the company. Management takes focus and right now I can’t do that while I’m handling all the cello details.
So I hired a music student from University of Wisconsin to practice with my son twice a week. But really I don’t want to miss being with my kids right now. I don’t mind doing all the music stuff, and I’m happy to be helping my other son prepare for his bar mitzvah and his dreams of getting a science Ph.D. I just worry that the company is not moving fast enough.
But my investor says, “Quistic is profitable. You can run it as a lifestyle business until the kids are older. Just keep profits increasing by 20% a year.”
“Increasing profits by 20% a year is fine.”
Wow. That blows me away. It takes so much pressure off of me. And it means I’m doing everything fine.
When I coach people who are trying to take care of kids and manage their career, they often book the coaching call to see what they can do to keep their career from flat-lining. And I tell them they are doing great. I tell them it’s an achievement to have a career you love and still have the time you want to be with your kids.
I tell those people their career doesn’t need to be growing as fast as it was before kids. It’s not a rule.
It turns out many people need a coaching call just to hear from someone they respect that they are doing fine. Their decisions are good.
On the call it is so easy for me to see they are doing fine. It’s so clear to me. But in my own life, it’s not so clear. The biggest benefit to me having investors in Quistic is not their money – I would make enough money without having investors. The biggest benefit is having someone I respect involved with the company at such a close range that he can tell me it’s okay not to grow the company at a break-neck speed, because I am growing two kids at break-neck speed, and that’s enough for right now.