How Growing a Business is like Growing a Marriage
This past holiday weekend, I had the honor of witnessing my little brother (Ok…he’s not little anymore) and his wife renew their wedding vows in a full-out wedding celebration. Ten years ago, when they originally tied the knot, they were in their mid-twenties and our father’s health was declining. For a number of reasons, they decided to wed at the courthouse with the intention to do it BIG one day.
That “one day” was this weekend.
Everything was absolutely perfect. The location, a 19th century historic home turn event space…the music, "I choose you" by Sara Bareilles…the flowers, white and blush roses…all were exactly as they envisioned for their nuptials.
More than the wedding regalia, I appreciate the example of love and commitment that my brother and his wife represent. They are patient and kind, humble and accommodating, flexible and forgiving with one another. It’s a joy to watch and be around.
It got me to thinking about marriage and how wonderful (and difficult) it can be. Unfortunately, many don't experience the good part of marriage or lose sight of it somewhere along the journey. The numbers tell the story. You’ve heard it before: More than half of marriages fail. It's disheartening. No one ever enters their marriage expecting it to end.
Here’s what came to me next…
Those marriage stats are similar to that of the entrepreneur. About half of all businesses fail within the first five years in operation.😱
I sat with this data for a minute.
Both marriage and small businesses progress on parallel arcs. Each develops through stages that are rarely fleshed out at the start. Much focus is placed on the wedding or the initial business start. Therefore, many of us are caught off guard, completely unprepared for subsequent steps, that challenge us.
In the beginning of any new relationship or venture, it’s easy to be driven recklessly by emotions. There is so much excitement around finding that someone who matches you or that business idea that aligns with your gifting. Nothing could ever go wrong, it seems. Emotions are necessary but must be kept in perspective during this stage. Temper them. Make big decisions slowly. Allow time to ramp up on the learning curve.
After some time, you hit a couple of roadblocks. It could be that a few aspects of your business plan must be tweaked or completely abandoned. In the marriage, you start to see differences arise. Maybe you don’t enjoy the outdoors as much as he does. But you go hiking every now and then because he loves to do it. You make adjustments for the sake of the other person or bigger picture. As long as you don't lose yourself, that's a good thing.
Growth requires change. And change is not easy. As your relationship grows to meet changing life circumstances such as a new job or an expanding family, pressures mount. Sometimes you could lose sight of what brought you to one another. Those differences begin to create a gulf between you. For the entrepreneur, the question is whether or not the business is worth it anymore. “Maybe I should just go get a job…,” the business owner wonders.
However, patience and perseverance are required elements for growth.* Together, they usher the spouse or the entrepreneur into the sweet spot, where real success is fashioned.
This is the phase where you and your gifts are fully expressed and they are accepted, loved, and celebrated. Challenges come and hard times persist yet the commitment to stick with it (the marriage or the business) is unwavering. There’s a great peace in that, a hallmark of real success.
Regular rotation through these stages in business and married life is common. The key is to not get shaken by a tough phase or take an easy one for granted. In business, like in any marriage, what you build should be cherished and protected.
Think about your professional and/or personal life. At which point would you place yourself? What could you do to get the most out of this stage? Make a list for each area of your life.
Now, do one thing today to move you toward real success.
Me? I plan to spend the next few days continuing this reflection as well. Only by regular reassessment can I remain in alignment with who I am and why I do what I do.
Until next time…
P.S. Congratulations, Cassandra & Rafael! #ForeverLawrence
*There are times when a relationship or business venture may need to be discontinued. That is when you do not persevere for the sake of persevering. Connect with your community, your circle of trusted advisors. Always seek wise counsel before making any final decisions.