By Karen Axelton

small business ownersIf you watch the AMC series “Mad Men” you’ve no doubt been captivated by this season’s story arc of five admen starting their own upstart agency. This past Sunday’s episode took us to the heart of entrepreneurship with an episode that will hit home for any small business owner. (Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched, don’t read any further.)

Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce launched with one big client—Lucky Strike cigarettes—and although they have landed more, this episode dealt with the fallout when the big client suddenly took its business elsewhere, devastating the company’s finances.

A key theme in this episode was the central role a business plays in an entrepreneur’s life. When they suddenly learned their biggest client, Lucky Strike cigarettes, was leaving, the partners in Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce unquestioningly dropped everything to deal with the crisis—with Pete, the youngest partner, even leaving his wife in labor in the hospital.

The tug between business and personal life played through the entire episode, as the funeral of a successful adman at another agency was presented as a chance for the desperate Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce crowd to network with new clients. At the funeral, which was crowded with nothing but suit-clad admen, the eulogies celebrated the dead man’s “success” at spending all his time on the business….and none with his family. His wife and daughter sat looking shell-shocked as eulogists lauded the trinkets the dead man had brought them from his far-flung business trips to make up for never seeing them in person.

Any business owner knows that the battle between your business and your personal life is ongoing. That’s why so many successful startups are launched by young, single entrepreneurs with no family ties. But is ending your life having succeeded at nothing but business truly success?

That may have been the way of the 1950s, but “Mad Men,” now firmly in the transformative ‘60s, hinted at changes to come from the upstarts in business—young people and women.

Although Pete Campbell, at the urging of many older men, did leave his wife at the hospital, he hesitated, wanting to stay at her side. Faye, one of the few businesswomen in the series, berated her flame, Don Draper, for thinking that business was more important than their relationship. And Peggy Olson, who until recently had no life outside the office, has a new boyfriend. Although she’s not letting her work slide, she had gone home by 8 p.m. when Don Draper was still at his desk.

Of course, Mad Men takes place 45 years ago, and the battle between business and personal life is still going on today. But while an entrepreneur’s business will always be his or her “baby,” today’s young entrepreneurs and women entrepreneurs are slowly tipping the scales in favor of a better balance.

Photo Courtesy: AMC