The Most Important Merger

The harsh reality of starting you own business is that

Cameron Hake keeps a magazine ad for a Disney cruise as a reminder that when his parents open their 20th meal-prep franchise, they’re all going on vacation.

With eight stores still to go, looking forward to that cruise makes it easier for Cameron, 6, to accept his parents’ long hours and frequent travel.

Lisa and Jason Hake launched Minneapolis-based Sociale Make & Take Gourmet in 2003 and have grown to 12 stores by setting goals. The trip was Cameron’s idea. “He’ll literally help us pack because we’re getting close to his goal, as well,” Lisa says.

Many entrepreneurs start up because they want to call their own shots – in the office and at home. Self-employment, they figure, will make it easier to put family first and allow them to attend soccer games and dance recitals.

But they soon find that being your own boss can easily mean working all “shifts” every day and that, unless you’re careful, independence can leave even less time for family.

The Hakes’ solution was not only to blend their goals for business and family, but to set a schedule preventing one from overwhelming the other.

While working three days a week to meet their 3-year business target of opening 200 Make & Take stores, Lisa Hake stays home Mondays and Fridays to care for their kids.

“Of course, I answer e-mails and step away a few times throughout the day, but I really try to focus on the children,” she says. “And I work harder Tuesday through Thursday.”

If it’s Booked, it’s Sacred

Larry Genkin is the father of two, and CEO of Larstan Inc., a Maryland publishing company that has released eight books in its first year and a half. He schedules family time as he would a business meeting: If it’s in the book, Genkin says, it’s sacred.

His wife is a full-time parent; he coaches his kids’ soccer and basketball teams and takes breaks from the job to help with homework. “I didn’t set stringent hours for myself because many times I’m working at 2 in the morning,” Genkin says. “But when the kids go off to school, I’m there. I can say hello to their friends when they have a play date.”

Genkin set up his office in the middle of the house because he wanted to be in the thick of things. Early on, he taught the kids to be quiet when they played near him to help maintain a professional atmosphere.

“If you don’t take business seriously, you’re not going to have a business that will take care of your family,” he says. “When you have your own business, you work until the job is done. And the job is never done.”

Another solution: franchise

Buying into a family-friendly franchise is another way entrepreneurs find both independence and more time for family. With a proven business model, franchising relieves some of the pressure of a startup.

(The Hakes designed their storefront meal-prep business as a franchisor so they could be less hands-on as the number of outlets grows.)

Teresa and Keith Pinson, of Cookeville, Tenn., chose HoneyBaked Ham over other chains because of its family-first philosophy and store hours – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

They describe themselves as religious, and wanted a franchise that respected their Sabbath – a big family day. Not working Sundays guarantees them important time together, although holidays, graduations, weddings and other celebrations also offer “family time.”

At those times, when their business kicks into high, the six Pinson kids hang out in the office or help out at the store.

There’s truth in clichés

Entrepreneurs, like most parents, soon realize that children grow up quickly and are gone, while work will always be there.

Robin Nolan, a Raleigh, N.C.-based publicist, says she and her entrepreneur-husband Andrew don’t want to miss their children’s formative years, and credits a stranger with reminding her of the truth behind a cliché:

“This man looked at me one day when I was loading both kids in the grocery cart. He said, ‘This time seems like it lasts forever – but it doesn’t.’”

He didn’t waste his breath.

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