Thinking of Partnering Up With Your Partner? Read This First.
How living and working with your partner really works, and why balance is bullshit.
Speaking on the panel about Empowerment at the City Gala Summit was amazing. I chatted with celebrities like John Travolta, and sat alongside power women like Endyia Kinney Sterns, Former VP of Programming for Oprah Winfrey Network, Lillian Walker, Luxiam Media CEO and Livia Caudell, Founder of Conscious Wealth Builders.
My favorite question, during my time on the panel, was asked by the dynamic moderator Greg Reid, bestselling author, speaker, and entrepreneur extraordinaire. He asked the “girl” question. You know, the one that literally no one asks my husband, but feels fine asking me. How do I do business with my husband and how do we stay in our own lane?
Lanes? What? I should warn you that if you’re looking for some lovey-dovey fairytale about glass slippers and romance saving the day, you’ve got the wrong girl. Skip over the article, go straight to Cinderella and we’ll meet up later. For the rest of you, who are seriously considering starting a business with your spouse, or already have and want to know how I’ve learned to make it work, let’s talk about the whole “stay in your lane thing” first.
There Are No Lanes and Balance Is Fleeting
We don’t stay in our lanes. Those of you who think that you will achieve balance in life and business when you work with your partner are delusional. Balance is bullshit. As a former ballet dancer, I personally know that balance is fleeting and momentary, not something that lasts. Balance is also boring — think a teeter-totter that can’t get off the ground. I want a business and a marriage that lasts (and is exciting, too!), so we aim for harmony instead. Harmony allows us to actually have it all — together. We can be greater together than we can be alone. In music, for there to be harmony, everything must be blended perfectly, and this is no different. In harmony, we each can shine in solo mode and transcend and build something bigger than ourselves. In design though (my specialty!), harmony has its own meaning:
■ Balance — This is not the kind of balance of one, it a balance of both people and all elements. Nothing is ever equal or even, or in a lane. Period.
■ Unity — This is about being unified in message and purpose. When two people work together for the same purpose, the same end goal, the same bigger picture, amazing things happen.
■ Repetition — For us we don’t really like repetition but prefer Self-Similar, it allows for fractal variations that are more natural and less cookie-cutter.
■ Contrast — While we are so compatible, we are also not the same at all. Tom’s strengths in intuitive engineering are essential to our business as are my strong strategic and organizational skills.
■ Gradation — Shades of grey, nuances are important — tuning into the details and the subtleties means we don’t miss what’s critical.
■ Dominance — I know, I know… this is sounding less like business and more like a dirty romance, but in a partnership someone has to lead. For us in general that is me, but we typically switch based on strengths as well. This is where a high level of trust has to be involved, along with stellar communication.
If There Is No Trust, There Is No Path Forward
Building a business is not a straight road or a direct path, it is very windy and curvy. For us, the key to our harmony has been the ability to seamlessly go with the flow and switch between each of our strengths without a power struggle. This can only come from years of experience working and living together (we celebrated 25 years married in January) and from a high level of trust.
A business partnership is marriage whether you expect it or not. It pays to have both of you going to the same destination with the same values and personal and professional goals. For me, it’s also great to have my best friend harmonizing along on the ride with me.