What My Marriage Has Taught Me About Owning a Business
I used to have a very different picture of what my life would look like and who I'd be sharing it with. If I'm being totally honest, I always imagined that I'd marry another creative or designer like myself. I had this grandiose plan that we'd join forces and spend our days making incredible things together, with no discernible line between work and play.
Then I found Sam—a hard-working, strong-willed, volleyball-playing, IT guy with the absolute best heart. He wasn't what I'd always considered my “type” to be, but life's funny that way. Sam wasn't what I expected, but he's exactly what I needed.
When Form Marries Function
When it comes to how we operate, Sam and I are polar opposites. IT versus design. Function versus form. Logic versus emotion. I want to make everything beautiful, and he wants it to be as efficient and inexpensive as possible.
Our differences come up constantly, from decorating our home to planning getaways and even making quesadillas (mastering that 1st flip was quite the ordeal). Of course it can be a bit of a struggle, but our differences have also taught us both so much.
Sometimes what you never expected is exactly what you need.
As we celebrate our first wedding anniversary and my first 6 months of owning a small business, I can't tell you how much I've grown. I've discovered so many parallels between my marriage and business, and my relationship with Sam has taught me so many priceless lessons I use constantly in my business. So without further ado, I'd love to share a few of my favorites.
1. Prepare to be surprised.
Your marriage—much like the rest of your life—isn't going to look the way you thought. More than being okay, that's amazing! Life wouldn't be much of an adventure if everything turned out exactly as we expected. Some days you'll be pleasantly surprised while others you'll need to knuckle down and roll with the punches, but it's all part of the journey. Each bump has its own significance in your story. Just like I found with Sam, sometimes what you never expected is exactly what you need.
Takeaway: Owning your own business is going to be absolutely brimming with surprises. You'll make mistakes that feel a lot like failures, and you'll need to make some seriously tough calls. But you'll also find a kind of freedom that's beyond compare and grow in ways you never could have imagined. It's fine to plan and set goals, but don't get too fixated on those preconceptions. If you loosen your grip just a bit, you'll be amazed at what life will send your way.
2. Communication is everything.
Marriage comes with a whole beautiful mess of expectations, some realistic and many not even close. If we're going to have successful relationships, we need to talk early and often—especially with those tough conversations. If we're both pulling in opposite directions, that's a tug-of-war that's not going to get us far. The key is to work together in the same direction. Then we'll truly go the distance.
Takeaway: This one can apply to countless areas of your business—partnerships, clients, employees, and contractors. The list goes on and on, but the lesson is the same. Set expectations early and revisit them often. Keeping those lines of communication open will ensure you're on the same page and working together for the same goals.
3. It's a two-way street.
As I've mentioned above, those tough conversations and decisions are crucial in marriage as well as life. Spoiler alert: you're not always going to get your way. Marriage is a two-way street and requires quite a bit of compromise. Some days it feels more like a negotiation, but the key is to realize that you're in this together. It's not about winning, and it's amazing what we can accomplish together when we're both focused more on giving than what we're getting in return.
Takeaway: You may be the boss of your business, but you need to realize that you won't always know the way or the right answer. It's crucial to know when to ask for help, change direction, call the experts, or give up control in service of the bigger picture.
4. Don't Just tell them. Show them.
It's easy to say “I love you” to your spouse, but it's quite another to make sure you're showing it. Without the actions to back up those three little words, they fall flat and empty. Instead, make it a point to show you care and do those little things that will make your spouse feel heard, valued, respected, and truly loved. Maybe that's taking your turn to do the laundry, procrastinating less so you can spend more time together, or just tuning out from social media and leaving the phone upstairs for the night.
Takeaway: I'm sure you know plenty of brands that are all talk. They've got a great sales page, killer presentation, and say all the right things up front. But when it comes to the follow-through, you find their communication is nonexistent and their attention to detail is seriously lacking. Don't be that brand. In everything you do, show up and give it your all. Fight for quality and consistency. Prove to your customers that you mean what you say—day after day, week after week—and build the track record to prove it. Don't just talk about making magic. Show it.
5. We're better together.
Marriage is not easy. I don't know that I've ever embarked on something quite so challenging, but I wouldn't have it any other way. My marriage has helped me grow in ways I never would have imagined. Even though Sam and I are total opposites—and, believe me, we feel that friction daily—we're so much stronger and better together. He keeps me on track, and I help him slow down. He lifts me up to achieve my goals, and I make sure he enjoys the life we're building together. We make each other whole and there's no one else I'd rather have beside me on this adventure.
Takeaway: Owning a business is incredibly challenging, but it's also infinitely rewarding. It will make you a stronger person and challenge you to grow in totally new ways. Better yet, it will bring you to a community of people that will change your life. Forget the idea of competition. Let's build each other up instead. Together, we can do anything.