It’s been said that marriage is much like a business partnership. After being with my husband for over 25 years, I can attest to this truth. From humble beginnings and blind passion to new products and unplanned scaling and growth, to sound and unsound investments and succession planning, business and marriage could easily be seen as one in the same. In my case, they both involved some hard lessons, plenty of long stressful nights and active participation but just like most entrepreneurs, I’d do it all again. We took a great risk and produced great reward (well, two great rewards that are now 23 and 27).
You can’t put a price on the “rites of passage for entrepreneurship.” Just like any long-term marriage, you have an experience that is unique to you with memories of life changing events and all of the people who helped you along the way.
Businesses can’t survive on passion
My husband asked me to marry him within the first 15 minutes we met. At the time, I was two days away from turning 19, with my parents and underage in a nightclub celebrating a family friend’s birthday. He was 26. I didn’t know any better and he was “smitten.” As entrepreneurs, we call this “passion.” Sometimes with blind passion, we overlook risks and we forget all about due diligence. Passion can help start a business, but without a plan, fundamental skills and a vision (that goes beyond “happily ever after”), you’re in for a tough ride. Business risky because passion can fade and/or be redirected. You need purpose, principles, priorities and you have to put them into practice, daily. That is what will help you sustain your passion.
Reduce the learning curve
Just like in business, there is a whole lot of trial and error that takes place when you get married. You experiment with products (and dinner), you test processes (and personalities), you stretch finances (and faith) and you learn just how long you can go without doing the laundry or speaking.
Despite the new business (and ironically, marriage) failure rate hovering over 50%, seek the wise counsel of mentors and advisors to help guide you, learn from their mistakes and trust the process. If you are a new business owner or have an idea for a business, be mindful of where you get your advice and support. Not everyone is going to be in your corner or want success for you. The right mentor or advisor can be worth their weight in gold. Recognize you’re going to have some growing aches and pains. Don’t expect too much too soon. You’ll have set backs, but if your vision is real and your purpose is solid, honor your commitment with determination and diligence.
Stay in your lane
There are some things I’m really good at, things that my husband is really good at. It didn’t take us long to figure out that when we tried to ease into the other’s lane, an accident was bound to happen. You have to let people do what they do best and focus on your own strengths and responsibilities. You can’t do it all and at some point, you are going to need some help. Give people the space they need to work and do what they do. You can be supportive without taking over. There will be times when your opinion is solicited, but you should avoid the urge to give your “two cents” unnecessarily. You’ll find people are at their best when they are given the space, support and tools they needs to work effectively.
Also, whatever your specialty, niche or USP (unique selling proposition) is, honor it. Don’t sell out, don’t hide it, don’t try to be something you’re not. Your competitors have their strengths and you have yours. Don’t be envious of the success of others. You don’t know what they did or had to go through to get it. Your journey is your own. Do the work.
Closed mouths don’t get fed
It goes without saying, communication is essential to a functional partnership (business owner to client, husband to wife). Despite living with someone day in and day out, you can’t assume they know what you want, need, like, think etc. In addition, you have to be able to effectively communicate the same; which is not much different than communicating with clients. Instead of guessing what your clients want, you can simply ask them. Guessing games, innuendos and silence can kill a business. Your communication needs to be clear, concise and frequent. Your clients need to hear from you, not just when you need or want something, but an exercise in genuine concern and thoughtfulness.
You can do it alone, but you don’t have to
I can’t tell you how important it is to know that you have someone on your team despite your failures, your mistakes and your flaws. I’m not talking about the “honey, how was your day” kind of support. I’m talking about the “shake it off, get your ass out of bed” type of support. The “cry your eyes out now, but tomorrow, you have to try it again” type of support. Entrepreneurs need that kind of support. Why? Because entrepreneurship can be a lonely exhausting journey. You have a vision and you are the only one who can drive that vision to fruition. Friends and family may not always understand or care about your trials and tribulations. You need someone who gets it, who gets YOU. No one will want that vision or dream more than you, but knowing someone is there to support your efforts is priceless. Having a shoulder, ear, arm or hand to offer support at your lowest low and highest high will be just what you need to continue on. See my list of 5 people you need your corner for a healthy business.
There is value in your name
Your brand is your name. You are not your product/service, but your product/service is you. It speaks to who you are. It is what you have to offer the world. Don’t besmirch it with poor service, poor products, broken promises, haphazard policies, etc. How you care for your brand will determine the value it has and whether or not people will trust your product/service.
Be careful whom you invite into your family. Their actions reflect your brand. Be accountable for yourself, your staff, your suppliers, your vendors, anyone who is an extension of your business because in the clients’ eye, the buck stops with YOU.
You need an exit plan
After 25 years together, our exit plan is simple… ride this train till the wheels fall off or we run out of tracks. The business lesson? Enjoy the journey for what it is, a journey. If you know where you want to get off, great. Pack accordingly. If you’re along for the ride, be sure to take in the view and bring someone you love with you.
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Simplicity expert and Micro Business Therapist™ A.Michelle Blakeley is the curator of the online magazine, Micro Business Therapy. She helps new and seasoned entrepreneurs align their purpose, principles, priorities and practices for accelerated growth. Minding the gap between your personal and professional life™ Connect with her on Twitter at @simplicityinc