As an entrepreneur and business owner, I have shared my ownership interests with my business partner for 25 years.
I totaled up the hours we have spent under the same roof discussing, planning, fretting, arguing and laughing, and it exceeds 50,000 hours that we’ve been “joined at the hip” legally and working together in a number of businesses. During those years as partners we have experienced the most dramatic highs and debilitating lows.
Given that amount of time and the volume of deals we’ve done, both in terms of sheer quantity as well as in dollar amount, you would think that our business partnership was second to none. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The truth is that in November 1980 the most important partnership I ever entered into occurred with significant fanfare but involved no formal partnership agreement, no drawn up contracts, no negotiating of ownership interests, and in essence none of the routine documentation of an entrepreneurial partnership. In fact the “deal” didn’t even involve a handshake.
Rather, the partnership I formed in 1980 was based on love, commitment, trust, integrity, and mutual respect. By now you probably know to what I am referring: the day I walked down a church aisle and gave away my most precious possession at the time: my life, to my wife. That was one of the most joyous occasions in my life.
As I think about marriages, and in particular those that involve a spouse who is an entrepreneur, what is truly sad is how many spouses leave their wedding day, following the formation of that sacred partnership, and then begin to slowly and gradually diminish their commitment and attention to that partnership. The temptation to supersede the marital partnership with a business partnership can grow stronger over time. I know because at times I too have elevated my business over my marriage.
As entrepreneurs, you and I possess a drive and commitment to success that most will never understand. The passion that exists within us is something that is nearly unquenchable. While it may wane from time to time, it is always there and continues to push us on to that next goal, that next project, that next mountain that lies ahead.
This drive can easily result in our assumption that once our marital partnership is in place it is permanently secure and we are then free to pursue with near total abandon our business partnership or enterprise. But this temptation is a dangerous and deceptive one. Because there is no partnership from a business standpoint that can even begin to measure with the one that you and I formed at the front of a church.
After 25 years in my business partnership and ten more prior to that as an employee of a large corporation, I have come to realize a truth in the workplace. If your home life is a wreck, your professional life will unravel as well. At a time when my company’s employee count exceeded 1,500 associates in six states with 25 locations, I could nearly always tell when an employee’s marriage was in trouble. The clue was that his work performance also began to suffer.
So what does this have to do with entrepreneurship? Well, if you value your business and desire to give it the best opportunity for success, then value your marriage. Place it ahead of everything and everyone else in life. Think back to those endearing thoughts and feelings that you had when you stood at the front of a church and pledged your all to your life partner. But if those thoughts and feelings have diminished, recommit yourself to your #1 partnership.
You can always do a deal, build a business, launch a new product. But you can never replace a marriage.