Life after Startup – 5 things I learned from my new “open relationship”

It’s 17.30 on a Friday evening, I am about to call it a day and go home. Just when I am about to leave my office, one of the people I have been having multiple conversations with over the past weeks, walks into my office. He has a concrete proposal to work on a long term project together.

This would be the first long term project I would commit to ever since I took a step back from Funk-e 6 months ago.

Everything about the project matches my skillset and what I care about and I cannot really find a flaw with it. This is unlike some of the projects I have been approached with over the last months. Since I don’t need to start projects just for the money, I have been quitte strict with what I want to invest my time into and what I don’t.

 

A dirty secret

Somehow though I feel like I am doing something I shouldn’t, like I am tiptoeing around on a beautiful relationship with my long term partner Funk-e.

I have had the conversation with my team and clients that I am moving on to start something new. So just like in a relationship I have been clear about my intentions.

We are now not in an exclusive relationship with each other anymore and technically we are allowed to eh… “sleep around”.

I am however still the owner of Funk-e. This means I still have a clear connection to the company, and it’s financial well-being still affects me.

So rather than calling it a breakup I believe it is much more comparable to the often taboo status of an open relationship: we are still in a relationship, but free to see other people now..

 

My 5 learnings

I have never proposed an open relation to my wife or previous partners (not planning to either), so I cannot really speak from that kind of experience with open relationships.

But now that I have started my “open relationship” with Funk-e I can share 5 points that reflect what it feels like.

1. The conversation to get started with the open relation is a bit awkward

Telling my company (first the management and then the whole team) that I won’t be there every day anymore feels very strange at first. I didn’t really know what reaction to expect. Will people walk away angry? Will they be disappointed? Will they give up on the mission?

Instead in the end it was met with much more understanding than I expected.

2. Not being busy with funk-e still feels like cheating

Even though the crazy butterflies from the wild early days are not the same anymore, a long relationship with a company, that I nurtured through all kinds of times, good and bad, is very deep.

Once I let go it still feels weird to talk to new clients with a pitch that is not funk-e.

3. Seeing Funk-e flirting with others can still make me a bit jealous

From the moment I left the day to day work, I was very impressed with the way the team picked things up without me. The new general manager really knows how to motivate the team and they are on a clear journey together now.

The benefit of leading a company is that you get to surround yourself with people that you like and that are good professionals. So seeing that team from the outside is nice but sometimes also a bit sad 🙂

4. It is important to set clear boundaries

Because of the 3 points above it is all the more important to set clear boundaries. Even though I still have strong feelings for Funk-e, I did decide that I really wanted to set up something new, and that freedom is something I needed.

So in order to not make it too easy to get back in the day to day, I took an office in another building (later on they moved to the same co-workings space however, see my previous article), I got out of project sales (which generally triggered my deepest kind of involvement in the company), and I don’t attend every Friday drink anymore, but focus more on a monthly or quarterly event.

5. Just because I am open, doesn’t mean I like to “sleep around”

The first few months are definitely filled with a lot of experimentation, new customers, managing my new calendar (see my previous article on empty agenda), and developing new products, all the ideas eventually still flow towards a common set of values and themes I find important.

This means that even though I am not only active in the exact same industry as Funk-e, I stil gravitate towards the themes that have always interested me, such as change, innovation and startups. 

How I go about to give that shape however is still to be seen. 

 

Embracing the open relationship

So all in all, this Open Relationship is starting to grow on me. The perspective of calling it an open relationship helps to acknowledge that as long as I own a large part of the company I started, there will always be a relationship that carries some emotion with it. Just because I am not in the day to day, doesn’t mean that this just disappears. 

At the same time, embracing the open relationship status, should help me slowly let go of the feelings of guilt that can sometimes hold me back from the very goal I had set out to pursue in the first place: explore entrepreneurship beyond my first long term business relationship. 

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