How My Girlfriend Almost Wrecked My Million-Dollar Business : Under30CEO How My Girlfriend Almost Wrecked My Million-Dollar Business : Under30CEO
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How My Girlfriend Almost Wrecked My Million-Dollar Business

| February 27, 2013 | 5 Comments

Business and RelationshipsThe most important career choice you’ll make is who you marry. —Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook

As I watched my life play out on the big screen in the movie The Social Network, I smiled, reminiscing about my college days when I, too, was an instant campus superstar like Mark Zuckerberg, cofounder of Facebook. It was a defining moment in my life.

Just like Zuckerberg in the movie, I was a geeky computer science major with a handful of brainiac friends; then suddenly I was “the man” with more friends than I could have ever imagined. I had created a popular, online community for college students, complete with a dynamic book exchange, a dating service, chat rooms, news, photo galleries, and other neat features. Naturally, with my newfound fame came the groupies, the women who didn’t necessarily have an interest in me as much as my ability to rub elbows with moguls like P. Diddy and Kanye West.

Before long, I had my first serious girlfriend, a very demanding one who didn’t take no for an answer. (Recall Eduardo’s crazy girlfriend in the movie.) She didn’t understand that I was a geek and that there was nothing more satisfying to me than coding a brilliant new feature for my website. In other words, she couldn’t accept that she was a distant number three at best, just after PHP and mySQL (computer programming languages).

One night I knew things were going south—and fast. The hour was late. I was in my room working on the computer and in walked my girlfriend. She seductively sprawled on the edge of the bed, naked except for high heels and nylons. I barely noticed. She erupted with fury, screaming, “I don’t need this. I could call some other guys in my black book.” I didn’t respond. I was too busy, already making love to my PC. I had an epiphany that climatic night; I realized just how much ground I had lost in building my company.

Fast-forward. She broke up with me. Simply put, she wanted sex, and I wanted success. Of course, both desires are not mutually exclusive, but the former surely can be a distraction—and in my case, that’s exactly what it was. The fact that my college crush dumped me for being extremely focused was the best thing that happened to me at that moment.

After the breakup, I devoted myself 100 percent to growing my technology and media business. It paid off. Within weeks of implementing my monetization plan, I received my first check from a firm that purchased a banner ad for $1,800. Soon after, I partnered with a classmate and computer whiz. Together we created OmniPublisher, one of the first online content management applications. A few years later, I sold it to a publishing company.

Perhaps this story is a circuitous and somewhat inflated way to prove a basic point, but it is certainly a lesson that all young entrepreneurs must learn: Choose a mate who understands that your drive to succeed at times trumps satisfying their sex drive—among other things. Distractions in the form of bad or draining relationships have wrecked so many businesses. In fact, many venture capitalists devalue a company’s worth based on the increased risk that married cofounders present. When choosing a mate, make sure that person is an asset, not a liability.

Epilogue: Last time I heard, my ex isn’t doing so well. But things have turned out pretty well for me, as it relates to success and . . . you know. I married an awesome woman who loves my entrepreneurial focus and encourages me all the time.

This is a revised segment from the new book The Entrepreneur Mind: 100 Essential Beliefs, Characteristics, and Habits of Elite Entrepreneurs.

Kevin D. Johnson, president of Johnson Media Inc. and a serial entrepreneur, has several years of experience leading his multimillion-dollar marketing and communications company that now serves many of the most notable Fortune 100 businesses. As an innovative leader, he has appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS, Oprah Radio, and in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Moreover, he has appeared on CNN frequently. He is author of the new book The Entrepreneur Mind: 100 Essential Beliefs, Characteristics, and Habits of Elite Entrepreneurs.

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Category: Startup Advice

  • gregjeffries

    Focus on career first, then finding a spouse. Or just try to find some balance. It’s difficult though. If you notice, a lot of the people who were the best at anything often didn’t have very strong relationships with their spouse or family. You gotta choose or go all in on career first, build up some passive income streams, that way you can focus fully on your spouse and family when that comes around as you’re getting paid for work you did a long time ago.

  • Brandy Anderson

    Great article. Definitely a tough thing to balance. I got married right after graduating college, the summer before starting grad school and a career. I won’t say marriage has made it much easier — but there is a benefit to feeling secure with someone that has committed to not leaving you, despite how busy you are pursuing other goals. :-)

  • Eric J.

    Wow! Reading this post was right on time. I have a girlfriend that is seriously jealous of my business because I focus on it more than I focus on her. This is just more affirmation of what I was thinking, though I didn’t want to admit it. Thanks. Definitely going to check out the book, too.

  • MattWilsontv

    Come on, nobody is going to call this guy out on this? This is the douchiest article I’ve ever read on this site, and as the author admits for this to be an inflated account of what happened, I’m pretty sure his life didn’t look like the P. Diddy version of The Social Network. Sorry, I just don’t hear any authenticity behind his post.

  • Kevin D. Johnson

    Thanks for reading the post, everyone. I appreciate the feedback. My book launched today, and we received 1,276 pre-orders, a huge number and a testament to how much people have enjoyed my content. Some of you have purchased my book and have helped to make it a bestseller. Many of you have contacted me on Twitter. Thanks. As I mention in the book, sometimes I have to pinch myself; The experiences I have had in building my company over the last 13 years are quite unbelievable. I loved writing this post, because it was a milestone in my life, an occurrence that is as real as my company’s success is today.