Being Right vs. Being Smart

The dynamics of working with partners, friends and family.

Since the economic recession started a few years ago America has seen a huge incidence of people starting their own businesses, simply because there have been so few jobs available.  People who had never had an inkling that they would ever own their own business suddenly found themselves fixing people’s cars on the side, or helping their wife sell her home-made jams.

This created a situation where you had people who were now in business with family and friends – and this made for some interesting – and sometimes stressful – situations, as the ‘career employee’ tried to apply the corporate tactics that they were familiar with to a small business environment that they had no experience with at all.

There were a lot of explosions, yet a surprising number of those businesses have survived beyond the 2-year mark simply because they had no choice – there was no other option for making a living.  So they had to figure out how to make the relationships work along the way – or not.

We’re often asked what it’s like working together – because we’re a husband and wife business partnership – and there’s a certain expectancy that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to work together in business and in life.  Well, it’s a piece of cake!

Alright, actually it’s not a piece of cake and we’ve had some obstacles to overcome – a LOT of obstacles, you might say – but we’ve made it and we wanted to share some tips for how to manage the dynamics of working with partners, friends and family members.

The first thing to really wrap your head around is that everyone is different, and that that is NOT a bad thing.  We are all unique, creative beings with the urge to make our contributions to society – to our community, our children, our friends and even the world at large.

Now that means there are going to be people whose way of being creative – you might call it their “work style” – is very different to yours and that can definitely lead to conflict.

There also may be people who absolutely cannot work with others, and often you’ll be able to spot this up front and avoid a partnership with that kind of person.  Often they’ll let you know up front, or you’ll spot some clues.  They may say something like, “It’s my way or the highway!” Then you know you’re going to have trouble being creative around him or her so that’s a working relationship you’ll probably want to avoid.

But in general people have good intentions and especially when they are starting a business they’re excited to implement their ideas and build their dream business.  So how come some business relationships go so bad, and end up in ruins with people not speaking to each other, breaking up (if they are a couple), or closing or dissolving the business, sometimes in the midst of an ugly lawsuit?  Let’s look at that for a moment.

The truth is (get ready to be offended) is that it all starts with you.  Yes, you.  You are pretty much the only person who can handle – and resolve – conflict in your life and work.  This may not be what you want to hear, but take heart – you’re definitely not alone.

Big kid pants

Here are some tips to help you maintain control of your working relationships:

First, your approach to the working relationship needs to be one of EMBRACING different work styles instead of resisting them.  For example, if you are messy and your partner is neat, sooner or later someone is going to mention something about it.  Often the neat person will feel uneasy about sharing space with a messy person, and they will assert that the right way to be is neat.

But what about looking at it from a different point of view?  Perhaps having one organized, detail-oriented partner who will take the time to make sure paperwork is in order, and one who is more of an action-oriented risk-taker, for example, would be the perfect balance for a business.

One of our favorite words – besides ‘gratitude’ – is embrace.  We’ve learned in our relationship to embrace our differences – and actually celebrate, admire and respect them – because if you think about it, if you had two people with exactly the same skills and work styles, who would do all the other stuff that needed to be done?

We’ve realized that it is so much more important to be smart in our dealings with other people, than to be RIGHT all the time.  Being right is just not that important in the big scheme of things.  Asserting that your way is the best way and that your partner is doing it all wrong is a fast way to lose your business – and how smart is that?  How important is it for you to be right?  Is it worth losing your business and ruining a friendship over?

Upset man

One of the biggest issues we see with partnership conflicts in business is parent-child relationships.  The parents often cannot resist treating their grown-up offspring the way they always have treated them – like children.  They will still call them by a pet name, like Tommy instead of Tom, and this serves to continually remind the child of their (subordinate) position in the family – and by translation – in the business.

So the answer here is that you – if you are the parent – have to completely change the way you interact with your child and treat them as a valued business partner.  This can be very difficult when you have had 20 years or more of always having the last word!

You’ll notice we didn’t start out saying that this was going to be easy – and it gets worse!  When you have a situation, for example, where a retiree is suddenly not able to be a retiree and now he has to rely on his wife’s jam-making business, things can get downright ugly.  He may have been a manager directing employees under him, and he may believe he knows the right way to do things.  I’m sure you can imagine how a wife may feel about this and the possibly tense conversations this can lead to.

Don't push me!
Don't push me!

But if you look at the conflicts that you have in business (or in life, for that matter) often it simply boils down to your insistence on being right and doing things your way being the cause of the conflict.  Because your partners will usually resist you on that, and in turn they will feel compelled to insist that their way is best.

The truth of it is, all parties should take a moment and chill out, because there are really very few mistakes you can make if you are determined to succeed, other than not taking any action at all.  And engaging in conflicts are a perfect way to stop your business in its tracks.

It may be much easier to fuss at your partner than to pick up the phone and make an appointment with a prospect, but if you suck it up and decide you’re okay with your partner’s point of view, your business will thrive and you’ll have that extra money you need that was the cause of the conflict in the first place, see?

So the bottom line is:

  • Embrace the different work styles and viewpoints of your partners
  • Never talk down to them no matter how right you may be feeling, and
  • Decide that for a conflict to exist there must be two participants, and you are not going to be one of them.  Not today. There’s too much to do and too much fun to be had growing your business and being successful.

Truthfully nobody ever really “made it alone,” so at some point down the road you are going to have to learn this important strategy for getting along with your business partners, whether they be family or friends or – heaven help us – your spouse!

Good luck, and feel free to email us if you have any questions.

Hugs, Mandy & Wayne

To find out how to get some free business coaching, click HERE.