How Divorce Made Me a Better Business Owner
Three fundamental truths my divorce taught me about entrepreneurship.
"Are you sure we'll still be together in a year?"
My husband’s question came on the heels of a bold proclamation. I had just told him I was going to go full-time with my side hustle in just twelve months’ time.
It was not the reaction I expected.
Suddenly, the firm foundation I’d spent years cultivating — my marriage, our friendship, everything I thought I’d wanted — crumbled beneath me. He and I realized, at almost the same time, that we were on rocky ground. And we were finally able to verbalize it.
Sure, it was a long time coming. It was the natural progression of a relationship that had been growing apart for years. A companionable, but passionless, series of going-through-the-motions.
Now I was faced with the very real prospect of letting go of the commitment we had made through marriage, ushering in the waves of self-doubt, the tears, and the “what the hell am I doing with my life?” moments. For both of us.
It took me a long time to recognize why the process of divorce, and the accompanying process of deep soul searching, made me come out the other side a better person, a better friend to my now ex-husband, and a more fulfilled business owner.
When all was said and done, I walked away from our separation invigorated. I had a new lease on life, and a new perspective I could apply to anything, including the business I had, in fact, gone full-time with.
As my business has expanded and grown, I’ve found this perspective increasingly important. The parallels between my business relationship and my personal relationship became inescapable. Hindsight colors all of the decisions we make, from what programs we create to which clients we serve. It’s how we learn, and how we heal.
I’ve managed to narrow that perspective down to three fundamental truths:
1. If your heart isn’t in it, it’s time to reevaluate
When you first dip your toes into entrepreneurship, it’s exciting. There’s passion. There are websites to build, blog posts to write, and clients to find.
Like any good relationship, it starts strong and, after awhile, the honeymoon period dries up. Projects you once looked forward to suddenly have you dragging your feet. Initiatives that were so bright and shiny in the beginning suddenly feel heavy.
Desperate to reignite the spark, you start looking for whatever solutions you can find. Oddly enough, these solutions are rarely rooted in what excited us in the first place (desire, passion, leaps of faith…you know, emotions). They’re rooted in logic. This is when you start buying into strategies, formulas, and programs that teach you what you “should” do.
Listening to your gut? Trusting your heart? That’s for the back burner.
When my business (and my relationship) first fell victim to this, it took a long time to realize what was wrong. I couldn’t figure out why everything was suddenly stagnant, and why what once was met with passion suddenly felt like drudgery.
Eventually, I wised up and realized that logic and intuition like to work in tandem. As it turns out, your gut knows you pretty well. Just like it tries to get your attention when a relationship starts to sour, it will let you know when a business decision isn’t right for you.
As soon as I started checking in with how I felt, I was able to make the adjustments that would truly move me forward. In life, that meant going through with the terrifying — but survivable — prospect of becoming a divorcee. In business, it meant seriously evaluating the work I was putting in, the results we were getting out, and making sure they were in line with our vision for the business.
Does your business have your heart in it? When was the last time you paused and checked in with your intuition? If you can’t remember, now is a good time to start making it a habit.
2. Your voice is powerful, but you have to use it
There’s nothing worse than being in a relationship with nada in the communication department. When you stop talking to one another, you hop on the fast track to resentment. This is why it took my ex and I so long to figure out that we needed to part ways. We weren’t talking to one another — at least, not about what mattered.
And communication is just as important in your business.
As an entrepreneur, you have an audience. You are constantly building relationships with them and, like any relationship, communication is key.
I’m not just talking about taking the time to talk to your people (also important). I’m talking about being visible and recognizable. This is all about knowing who you are and what you stand for as a brand — and sharing it with your audience every chance you get. It’s about making sure there are no unexpected surprises.
Just like in a relationship, your audience wants to know who they’re signing up to spend time with. Are you snarky and no-nonsense? Nurturing with a little rebellious streak? Be forthright with your audience, and they’ll not only appreciate it, they’ll sing your praises.
Not sure where to start? This ten-question quiz will help you identify your brand’s personality.
3. You are stronger than your fears
My ex and I clung to our marriage because the alternative filled us with stomach-jolting terror. It took years before we mustered up the courage to admit that we were holding one another back by staying together.
We are our own worst perpetrators when it comes to taking risks in business. Desperate to stay within our comfort zone, we do crazy things. Things like charge pennies, maintain relationships with toxic clients, and hold out on investing in something you know will move your business forward.
Each new challenge brings its own unique fears. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of visibility. Fear of your own mind, and the insane excuses it concocts.
But here’s the thing. Each new challenge also brings its own unique opportunities for growth. This is where trust comes in. By trusting your intuition, reaching out to your support system, and simply putting one foot in front of the other, you will come out the other end, and you will be stronger for it.
Do your fears make your stomach flip? Congratulations — you’re human! And you are not alone.
Embrace your relationship with your business
Progress happens when you allow your mind and heart to work in tandem, communicate openly and freely, and take the sometimes-scary, but necessary steps forward, even when they terrify you. It’s how you grow.
While I wouldn’t wish divorce on anyone, it provided me an opportunity to learn and grow — and those lessons translated directly to my business. As a result, I’ve become a better entrepreneur, partner, and person.