On average, you spend 90,000 hours at work over the course of a lifetime, according to Psychology Today. You know you're a small-business owner when you look at that number and shrug, thinking it would be higher.
Here's the thing – that translates into a lot of time spent with business partners or co-founders. Chances are when business is good, these relationships are less like work partnerships and more like friendships. But when revenue dries up, expect interpersonal road bumps ahead.
Unfortunately, disagreements with business partners can sour the entire venture. In fact, co-founder relationship problems are one of the biggest reasons startups fail. It makes sense when you think about it:
- No matter how good your idea is, you need your team to help you get products or services to customers.
- If you and a co-founder can't agree on how to make that happen, a good idea may shrivel up before it ever takes off.
One way to avoid these possible pitfalls: start thinking of your business partnership like a marriage. It may sound like hyperbole at first, but your small business could stand to take some pointers from successful romantic relationships.
Business Partners: They've Really Got a Hold on You
In sickness and in health, in times of serious cash flow and in times of abject revenue drought, you and your partner can weather the ups and downs by committing to put the business first.
With that in mind, here are five marriage pointers that you can apply to your business relationships:
- Know when it's time for partnership counseling. According to a report by NPR, more startup partners are participating in counseling sessions to help iron out differences. It's a healthier and possibly cheaper alternative to bringing in lawyers. And after you've invested time, energy, and money into a business relationship, it may make sense to seek counseling rather than "break up."
- Focus on the long-term goals. No one signs on to be married for a few months. Instead, successful romantic relationships have forever in mind, which doesn't leave much room for petty annoyances to derail the thing. At the same time, this means you may have to make the difficult choices in the moment if it's best for the business later on.
- Make it about the whole family. The key to a good relationship? You have to be willing to work on it. It helps to have incentive to put in all that effort. For many couples, the family is all the incentive they need – they want to create a support system that helps their children or partners flourish. Similarly, you might turn your attention to your employees and clients. Once you start growing, you have to make decisions based on the needs of more people than just those who started the business.
- Understand that a rough patch isn't the end of the road. Disagreements don't necessarily mean the end is nigh. In fact, if you and your business partner learn how to communicate and respect each other, productive arguments can lead to a compromise. Your business may come out of these disagreements stronger and more focused than before.
- Don't force it. Though you often hear that half of all marriages fail, divorce rates have been steadily decreasing over the past couple decades, according to The New York Times. In fact, the report suggests if current trends continue, only 33 percent of marriages will end in divorce. However, the same outlook isn't true for small businesses. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 45 percent of small businesses don't make it past four years. And that's okay. Sometimes failure can lead to better and stronger ventures later on so long as you learn from past mistakes.
For some insight into how other small-business owners have found success, check out our Small Business Spotlight series.