Just because you’re excited about your new business, doesn’t mean everyone else in the household will be. When you start a business, expect every person you live with to have “issues” with it. Some issues will be positive and pleasurable, but some are bound to be challenges. And while it doesn’t have to be your partner that presents the biggest challenges, often times it is. Hence, this post.
I am not just typing out words to fill up my blog here, or repeating what I’ve seen other women entrepreneurs blog about. I am writing to you, heart to heart, from my own experience and the experiences of women I have coached over the years. I have made a lot of mistakes when it comes to integrating my business and my marriage. My husband has made a lot of mistakes too. But we’ve also done some things right, and we’ve learned, by doing, how to navigate many of the rough spots. We’ve been married for 12 years and I’ve been the CEO of IBN for 12 years. Against that backdrop, I am pleased to share 5 ways to encourage your partner to respect your new business — things I wish someone had told me before I got started.
- Allow him to feel how he feels. You may not agree with his feedback about your business. If it’s negative, actually, you won’t agree with it. But you must allow him to feel like he feels. If he expresses fear, uncertainty, doubt, jealousy, or whatever, allow him to express it and don’t tell him he should not feel like he feels. Let him know that you care about his emotions and you’re glad he shared them, and reassure him that it is not your intention to make him feel any particular way, since your business is not about him. Ask him how you can help him adjust to your new choice to be an entrepreneur.
Hopefully, he’ll answer you, but either way, in your own secret corner, you can create ways to help him adjust without making a big deal about it. For example, if he says he fears your new business won’t allow for together time, then set a regularly recurring date with him where there is no business talk allowed. Every situation is different so the same thing here won’t work for everyone. The point is, once he expresses a fear or apprehension, you can proactively begin to do what you can to make things easier for him.
- Respect your business. Demonstrate to your partner that, first and foremost, YOU respect your business. Set up an office space that is off limits to everyone, especially during business hours. By showing your partner you are serious and that nothing will get in your way — especially you — you send a clear message to her that you are serious and that it is not OK to interfere with your mission to make your business a success.
- Don’t feel guilty. Unfortunately, some new entrepreneurs feel guilty about the amount of time they must invest in growing a new business. Even more unfortunate is the fact that some partners (and other family members), either intentionally or unintentionally, encourage these feelings of guilt. You must resist this at all costs.
Managing a business is one of the many things in life you can leverage to improve yourself. Success in business builds confidence and self esteem, and frankly, some people are threatened by that. This sometimes results in them trying to manipulate you into feeling so uneasy with your success that you begin to sabotage yourself just to make other people feel more comfortable. This can create extremely uneasy situations in a relationship, but it’s your job to separate personal issues from business ones.
If you feel compelled to achieve as a small business owner, and you believe in your heart of hearts that doing so is your calling, then you need to be true to that calling — even when it makes others feel uncomfortable. Your success is not a statement about anyone but you. Don’t allow others to make you feel guilty for improving your life. When your partner sees that you are determined, regardless of how she feels, you will eventually earn her respect for your business as for you as its CEO.
- Establish business hours. One easy way to encourage respect for your business is to establish office hours, and insist that, barring emergencies, they be respected. This sounds simple, but when you share your life with a partner and a business, it can get dicey. Don’t be overly rigid, but at the same time, stick to a routine that you and everyone else can get used to.
Sometimes, people resist their loved ones becoming entrepreneurs simply because they don’t know what’s coming next or how things will work day to day. Establishing office hours goes a long way toward letting your partner know what to expect. Not having to wonder what’s going to happen next is a great way to relieve pressure and stress on the people who love you. It also helps you maintain consistency as a business leader, and gives your partner a structure to work with.
- Insist on your self improvement time. In order to manage a business over the long haul, you need to be committed to keeping yourself up. You need time around other entrepreneurs, to be uplifted, encouraged, and challenged. You need time to yourself to read, strategize, contemplate, and plan.
While your partner may be a good sounding board, unless he is also an entrepreneur, your need for this time may irritate him because he doesn’t understand it. Your job is not to deny yourself these rich times of self-improvement, but to insist on them in the most loving way possible. It may take some getting used to — for both of you — but if you don’t regularly prioritize these types of activities, your business will suffer and so will you as its leader.
This article barely scratches the surface of what I have learned about running a business and managing a relationship, without compromising either.
In a perfect world, everyone would support your business and cheer you on without question. But the world is not perfect, and neither are the people in it. It can be tough when entrepreneurship steps into an otherwise quiet, happy relationship and turns it upside down. Yes, that’s often what happens, and it cannot always be avoided.
If you are as determined to be true to your calling, as you are to fulfill the non-business commitments you have made to your partner, you have a great shot at making both your business and your relationship work out for the benefit of all.
Be kind, respectful, and gentle. Also be firm in your determination to create a successful venture, and then share the spoils of your victories with your partner. Over time, you’ll win his respect. You’ll also position yourself to grow a successful venture as well as a successful, satisfying relationship.
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