Compromise Is Not a Dirty Word

Necessity really is the mother of invention; like many, I took an involuntary course in compromise at work when I found myself with two toddlers, a husband with three jobs, and a small business that would not, no matter how hard I wished it, grow magically by itself. Over the past couple years I’ve observed several brilliant women and men manage both life’s demands and the big dreams they have as entrepreneurs or corporate players. You know, the kind of people who are very successful but still manage to meet the school bus most days (yes, they do exist). I’ve been inspired by people who consciously live what they call a “Third Path,” where men and women prioritize work and home time equally, even if that means both mom and dad work four days a week. These leaders have figured out to maximize their time, their social networks, and their skills, but they may not do it from 9 to 6. They have found what Cali Yost calls their “work-life fit,” often because they simply had no other choice.

You think compromise is a negative word, but life demands adaptation: a toddler needs you at home, or you’re in grad school while working full time, or you have a sick parent, or you need to keep your day job even though you don’t like it. Compromise connotes less than the best, and indeed when you’re compromising you may not be achieving your full potential. But you will get things done, and in doing so you will learn skills and tactics that prepare you for success.

Compromise, like negotiation, is an art, and an important one. It’s not something they often teach in business school, and it’s never going to be on the cover of Forbes. Instead we read of great leaders’ relentless drive for perfection. Never stop; never settle.

I’m very lucky, because I truly have my dream job. I’m very proud of what I’ve built, but I recognize that I built it out of compromise. A freelance project as a digital consultant turned into my life’s work mobilizing women online. Once the work started to gain traction, I dreamed of making it big, of creating an empire in women’s new media. Still, mine is a small business, and it probably will remain so — because I make many trade offs in order to run it. That’s not to say we don’t have an impact, but small isn’t sexy in the entrepreneurial world. Women in fact are often dismissed as entrepreneurs because our businesses are “small”: from banks and credit card companies who won’t extend credit to women-owned businesses to those who exhort us to think bigger so we can get more venture capital, you’ll hear time and time again that while women start small businesses at a very high rate, these businesses remain small. As if that’s always a bad thing.

In year three of my company, I’ve accepted there is simply no way for me to be the hands-on mother I want to be, and to build a company that scales quickly. What I can say is that I’m fortunate enough to be able to pay the bills, work with incredible clients and grow the company — slowly. I do miss high-level meetings and important industry networking events, and sometimes, clients need me and I can’t be there. I also miss my children’s milestones. But the truth is, I don’t miss either that often. My mentors have taught me to judge keenly which events are worth the price of childcare, so to speak. I can only travel in limited doses, so I’ve learned how to plan my trips to exact the most value from my time. I’ve learned from my friend Christine the “no fester” rule: don’t churn your time with unnecessary meetings or emails, and minimize drama, because drama is very time consuming.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *