“My partner and I are always fighting about the business!”
“At work, at home, on the way to work, on the way home. It just never seems to end and it’s driving us apart!”
Our client was at their wits’ end. They loved their partner dearly, and if not for the business, would hardly argue with them at all. But the stress of managing the business – their team, their cashflow, their sales, their production – seemed to create endless fodder for conflict and was tearing their relationship apart.
As a married couple who work as business coaches at Kaibizzen, we count it a blessing to work alongside each other as we support other couples in their business journey. Although we feel grateful for the opportunity to work together, we are very different people and have sometimes had to work through moments of significant conflict. What we’ve come to learn as business coaches is how, when handled appropriately, conflict is a wonderful opportunity for accelerated personal and business growth. Today, we enjoy a harmonious relationship across our business and personal lives because of the lessons we’ve learned throughout our journey.
Honestly, owning your own business can be extremely stressful. As life and business coaches, we have spoken to many couples who struggle to find a balance.
You provide leadership to the different personalities of your team, there are pressures associated with holding your team accountable to do what they are supposed to do, and there are many times when a mistake is made that you are held to account by your client.
You are ultimately accountable for everything which happens in your business. At times you may feel like an Atlas, carrying the problems of the world on your shoulders.
If your partner owns the business, but isn’t actively involved in it, conflict often arises when one person isn’t cognisant to the mental workload of the other. When both of you work in the business, you both feel the pressure of running the business. In this situation, conflict often arises because they have not clearly defined their individual roles within the business.
If you want to go home tonight without some fight fodder, immediately define your roles. Ask yourselves…
Define your two roles very clearly, starting with how your performance is to be measured and then what you do. Then, only perform the tasks in your role and allow your partner to do their role too.
The inability to stay completely out of each other’s roles is one of the biggest boxing arenas for couples in business.
One of our clients is a husband and wife who’ve own a legal company. The business was started by the husband, who is a lawyer that is passionate about delivering quality legal advice to his clients. As the company grew, he brought his wife into the business to look after the administration.
They came to Kaibizzen because they were stuck. He was working at least six days every week and she was working five full days a week whilst also having primary responsibility for the children and household. They were both so stressed, there were days where all they seemed to do was be at each other’s throats.
We took them both through the process of defining what each of them did best and what the business needed their skills, expertise, and experience for.
It turned out that the business didn’t need the husband to be the lawyer any more, as his greatest value to the business was to go out and find the work. It also turned out that the business needed the wife to take on the role of general manager for the business as she had the people skills and business acumen necessary to drive the business forward.
For the husband, this was a difficult transition to make. Having to report to his wife and let go of directly controlling the business operations – something he’d worked hard to build over the last 10 years – was also very uncomfortable for him. At the beginning of the process, tensions at home got worse before they got better.
As our clients’ mentor we encouraged both the husband and the wife to come to us when they needed to “vent”, or found themselves in a moment when they struggled with their new identity, or when they didn’t like how their former role was being done now. It worked quickly and the tension at home, the arguments dropped off dramatically. By us as their ‘safe’ space to let off steam (rather than their partner), we were able to help them effectively work through their feelings and move them towards the next best course of action.
Many couples in business try to co-captain the ship. In our experience this rarely – if ever – works.
It is crucial that one, and only one, of the couple be the General Manager.
However, as our previous client example demonstrated, this can be a source of acrimony in the partnership. It’s quite common for the technical expert who started the business, to not be the best person to drive the business forward. Although they may have started the business, they might not be the best people leaders nor are they naturally gifted at managing the process of business. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, it’s when these technical experts let go of their ego-driven desire to be seen as ‘the boss’ and accept they are of better service to themselves, their business, their partner and their family in this other role, that they are able to release the internal tension and feel happier in themselves.
Many years ago, one of our mentors gave us a helpful piece of advice about venting. She said, “it’s a blessing if someone is venting on you. You are the one person that they feel safe enough to “vent” on.”
That piece of advice gave us a completely different perspective about venting. Instead of getting upset, we ask each other questions and allow the other person to get things off their chest.
It is also imperative that we are willing to be called on, and are prepared to call out our partner for consistent poor behaviour. The behaviour we accept is the behaviour we can expect. If one partner allows the other to keep playing the victim about a situation, they will always play the victim in that situation.
For example, our lawyer was consistently finding fault with how the team was performing ‘his’ old role and getting upset by it. We called him out on it. With his extensive level of expertise, he could be a great mentor to others. We coached him to stop criticising and instead, teach and mentor his team so they could perform the work to his standard.
An extremely valuable lesson we’ve learned is that there are generally two reasons why we disagree on something – either we have not sufficiently prepared or communicated our thoughts, or maybe one person has thought of something that the other person hasn’t.
In our relationship when we are disagreeing it means there’s a much better option out there. Over time, we’ve learned to work with each other to find the solution, rather than work against each other.
It’s imperative we identify what the problem is and work together to find a solution.
It’s imperative we focus on finding a solution to the problem.
It’s imperative we not attack the other’s perspective.
It’s imperative we listen.
We have two ears and one mouth and one of the reasons we argue with our beloved is we don’t use our two senses in that proportion!
If you feel like you and your partner are constantly arguing over the business, here’s what you need to do.
If you’d like to know more about how the team at Kaibizzen could work alongside you to achieve harmony at home and at work, reach out. As two business coaches, we’re here to support you in achieving the business and lifestyle you want for yourself and your family.
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