Starting a New Business

I would like to start a real estate investment firm, for two reasons. First, my employer reduced me to half-time, and second, I want to work from a home office so that I can help my wife with our child who has autism.

The question is related to engaging in entrepreneurship while the spouse opposes the idea of starting a business, for reasons of maintaining economic “stability.” I have dreamt of “starting a business” for years (but now believe it is almost a necessity because of my child) but have “settled” for a steady employer-based income to provide the sense of security my wife seeks.

In order to best bless my family, without letting my ego distract me, what direction might a person in my case pursue?

Michael

Dear Michael,

The intersection of family and money that we speak about in our 5Fs, is coming at you front and center. If we can untangle some of the ideas in your letter, we see two conflicting challenges. Your income has been cut in half and you need to address that and, because of your child’s needs, you want to spend more time at home.

One thing we hope you and your wife will realize is that working from home does not automatically translate into helping more with your child. Entrepreneurship, certainly initially, takes considerably more time and commitment than a full-time job, not less. You and your wife could end up more frustrated, not less if you are physically nearby but unable to help without risking your business. Starting a business takes full concentration and attention. We would expect you to have less, not more, time to help out at home.

That, of course, is in the short run. Over the long course, if you can build a successful business, eventually you will have more flexibility and more financial resources. However, your wife’s insecurity is well warranted. Many new business startups do not make it. Your son’s needs understandably make your wife less willing to take a risk.


We have a number of questions. A major one, is if your hours have been cut back, how are you coping? We would not recommend running through your savings as you attempt to build a business. Why were your hours cut back? Is your employer’s business struggling and might you be out of a job soon? Were you not delivering enough value? What skills, knowledge, and experience suggest that you will do well in real estate investment? How prepared are you for entrepreneurship? Are you both reeling in shock from a pediatric diagnosis and need some time to adjust or is your son in a stable situation? Being in crisis – and having one’s work hours cut back and receiving a difficult diagnosis certainly count as more than one crisis– isn’t the time for adding more stress.

In terms of helping you make a decision towards entrepreneurship, and helping your wife come to terms with the decision, your very first step is carefully to write a business plan. This in itself is a formidable task and must not be abbreviated or rushed. Many would–be entrepreneurs realize during this arduous process that they are not suited or perhaps the time isn’t right.

If you get through the business plan writing stage, the next step is to find a trustworthy business professional with some knowledge of the real estate industry. Be aware that you should offer to pay for this person’s time. Ask him to review your business plan and give you his honest assessment. If he is positive, this should go a long way toward reassuring your wife. If he is negative, that will help you come to terms with the painful realization that you are not quite ready to start a real estate investment firm.

Meanwhile, however, we would recommend doing whatever it takes, including finding additional work, towards building a steady and adequate stream of income. Also, work hard on a budget and explore exactly what your household’s needs realistically are in the present and then try to project ahead into the future. The best gift you can give your family might be being able to afford more help rather than your being able to give substantially more time. Working full-time and devoting evenings and one weekend day to developing your own part-time business may be the way to go. Most importantly, any changes require your wife and you to be fully on the same page. She needs faith in your ability to build a business to be willing to forgo time with you now in exchange for any future benefit.

Michael, caution now will help strengthen your wife’s faith. We find your opening sentence a bit worrying. Experiencing reduced income is certainly a reason to act. It may possibly be a reason to start a business. But why is it a reason to start a real estate investment firm? You may have already done a careful analysis and a meticulous business plan, but if not, those are the steps to take while you dismiss the dream and replace it with hard reality.

We hope you quickly find a way to create additional income,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

This Ask the Rabbi is dedicated in memory of Bilha Epstein, 81, who was murdered on October 7, 2023, along with her son-in-law, and two grandsons, one of whom jumped on a grenade to save his fiancé’s life.

With prayers for the release of Noa Argamani, 26, who was abducted from the Nova music festival on October 7, 2023, along with prayers for the release of all her fellow hostages.


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