As a business owner, I know with 100 percent certainty that if my wife didn’t support me and believe in my business, it would fail (or it would at least be a struggle to keep it afloat). Without a doubt, her support is critical to my success. Even if I spend eight to 10 hours at the office, that still leaves me spending more hours at home every day. And if my wife were in my ear, making me doubt myself or spilling all of her resentment on me, I know I wouldn’t be able to sustain the drive and commitment that a successful business requires. If she was constantly attacking my business ideas and spewing fears, it would surely spell trouble—she may say the words just once, but they would stick in my mind forever.
Fortunately, that’s not the case for me. My wife has always been a big supporter of my businesses, and we're both committed to seeing these companies grow and be successful.
I’m so convinced that support from a partner is critical that I’ve developed a tradition in my office every time we hire a new employee. On the employee’s first day, I present them with a gift and a card—not for them, but for their partner. When they go home after their first day in the office, my new employees give their partners the gift and the card that reads, “We know you’re key to our success.”
But what can you do when things aren’t so idyllic? When things are rocky between you and your spouse and your business is at fault, here’s a six-step strategy you can use to regain your partner's support:
1. Nip it in the bud.
When it’s clear that there’s a problem, the worst thing you can do is ignore it and hope it goes away. Only once you’ve addressed the problem can you start to work toward a solution. There may not be an immediate solution, but putting it on the table always makes a difference. It is far better to talk about it than to have an elephant in the room.
2. Validate their position and listen to their concerns.
Understanding exactly what your partner’s concerns are can give you a chance to address them. As with any other discussion, try not to minimize your partner’s feelings or explain why they’re unjustified. Listen carefully and with an open mind.
3. Share your feelings, and be open.
Once you’ve listened, share what’s troubling you. Do you feel as if your spouse has no faith in your abilities, or do you think your partner’s expectations are unrealistic? Be clear, specific and thorough. Move beyond the money matters, and talk about what’s really troubling you.
4. Figure out a plan.
Now that you know what your partner’s concerns are, you can hammer out a plan for how you’ll react if those fears start to come true. As a family, how will you deal with the situation if it starts to go wrong? If there are financial aspects, it can be useful to put in some stopgap measures—financial indicators that will prompt specific remedies.
5. Get a commitment.
If you’ve agreed upon satisfactory plans should things go wrong, you and your spouse can focus on having all the support you need if the worst does happen. You’ve solved the problem, and you both need to move forward with a positive attitude.
6. Maintain open communication.
Once you’ve gotten your spouse to agree to support you, your part of the commitment is to keep your partner informed. Whether you share monthly or daily business updates, or simply share successes and challenges as they arise, you must commit to being open and honest about any potential problems.
Whether your partner fears financial ruin for your family, or whether you feel like you’re being undermined at home, the solution is the same: Clear, consistent communication with accurate information is the only path to clarity and understanding.
Is it possible to succeed in business without the support of your partner? Probably. Is it easy, pleasant or likely that you’ll succeed without support at home? Probably not.
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This article was originally published on September 22, 2014.