Have you ever felt like trying to date someone while running a business is next to impossible—like trying to diffuse a bomb while blindfolded?
Unfortunately, the problems are not just in your mind. After all, trying to navigate the singles scene and piloting your own company are each challenging on their own. But mix them up, and you may soon feel as if your emotions have been run through a mixer.
If you're starting a new relationship or even just thinking about dating someone new, here are three key issues to keep in mind. Even just being aware of them may help your company or your love life—or maybe just your morale.
Your Date May Have Trouble Comprehending How Busy You Are
People who aren't business owners can often clock out from their jobs—both physically and mentally—at a certain point every day. But depending on your business and how long you've been running it, you may well be working a lot of late nights and weekends. To someone who's not used to it, those long hours may just seem insane. And let's give them the benefit of the doubt—sometimes it is insane.
But if you own a business, you may not have the option of dialing back. And that can wreak havoc on a budding relationship. Lori Feldman, founder of The Database Diva, a marketing automation company, says she once dated a "worker bee," a hospital administrator who was also a retired military man.
"We tried everything to make our schedules work, but as a business owner, I was always on call and often worked erratic late hours and weekends on client deadlines," Feldman says. "He worked from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., then went home, leaving his job at the office."
That problem might have been surmountable, except that Feldman says her beau saw her dedication to her business as a matter of her choosing her business over him. "All of our arguments centered on this single conflict," says Feldman, who has owned her business for more than 30 years. "Still have the business. Don't have that boyfriend."
The good news is, she's now dating someone who's much more independent and understanding about the hours she needs to keep. As she says, "Lesson learned."
On the flip side, being so busy may actually be a boost to your social calendar, says Ajay Pattani, CEO of Perfect Search Media, an advertising and Web design agency. "Running a successful business can increase your options in dating as you attend more events and conferences," he says, adding that this isn't just a benefit when seeking someone to date—but in having them stick around, too. "I think this actually helps our ability to date because busy people are probably more attractive than people who are always available."
It's just a theory, though: Pattani is still single.
Your Date May Just Be There for the Fringe Benefits
You may not be a celebrity, but if you own a business, that could sound glamorous to someone you're interested in. And there's nothing wrong with someone being impressed with you and you letting them be impressed. But if your date thinks you're rich and you're actually subsisting on a diet of ramen noodles, he or she may be in for an unpleasant surprise.
Even if you're doing well enough to eat more than mac and cheese for dinner, having a date who's overly impressed with what you can do for them can lead to some awkward moments. Just ask Donna Maurillo, who owned a public relations agency for 20 years before going to work at a research institute several years ago. She also earned a living as a freelance food and restaurant critic for the local newspaper, which she still does.
"I once dated a guy who figured out that restaurants would give us free meals and special treatment if they knew I was a food writer," Maurillo says. He started telling waiters her profession. "The guy knew that if we got free food," she explains, "he'd have fewer dishes to pay for."
If You're a Woman, You May Have It Tougher Than Male Business Owners
At least Lisa Schmidt thinks so, and she would probably know: She's a dating coach. "Being a woman business owner is worse, because men expect women to fall into a caregiver role," Schmidt says. "I care about my business, and that needs my full attention. If a man fits into my life, I would certainly care about him, but he needs to understand that he can't automatically trump that."
Schmidt adds a comment that most entrepreneurs can probably relate to: "Time is precious, and when I have it to give, I want to spend it with someone who appreciates that I've carved out a portion of that time for them."
Ashley Hunter points out another problem that single male business owners probably don't have trouble with. Hunter, who's the president of HM Risk Group, a commercial insurance and risk management brokerage firm, has noticed that when she's out and about before or after a business meeting, her professional clothing is a deterrent to anyone interested in approaching her. As far as she can tell, she says, "Other available men just assume I'm on a date. They look, they smile, and then they leave."
Hunter also thinks there's a small-town mentality in her hometown of Austin, Texas, where everyone who knows her because of her business only knows her work personality and assumes all she cares about is work. "Men [have] also assumed that because I own my own business, I'm so independent that I don't want a companion," Hunter says. "I have no idea where they got that from, but it couldn't be further from the truth."
Angela Mader, founder of Fitlosophy Inc., a Newport Beach, California-based company that sells fitness-related products, reports a similar problem. "I've been surprised to hear from my girl and guy friends that I'm hard to approach," she says, "because, to a guy, I'm a confident, successful woman who owns her own business. I would think that this is an attractive quality, but apparently, this is intimidating to some guys."
Sondra Sgarlato, the principal owner of S-tainer, a container and container chassis sales and leasing outlet in Miami, feels Mader's pain. As a business owner, she says, "It's my opinion that the only way to successfully date is to date other business owners—and preferably ones who are in the same business stage as you are."
That's because business owners tend to understand each other better, Sgarlato adds. "In my experience, dating someone who isn't a business owner never works because there's always some sort of resentment," she explains, saying that the business owner resents the 9-to-5 hours their romantic interest puts in, and the non-business owner often doesn't understand why their date needs to work weekends or burn the midnight oil. Seems for some, when you date the owner of another company, you may find that he or she is better company for you.
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