The importance of a good business marriage
Halebury Chairwoman and Co-founder Janvi Patel writes for Real Business on the importance of a good business marriage.
Recently, I attended the wedding of my amazing friend, who is also my Halebury co-founder and business partner. It got me thinking about not only what makes a good marriage work, but what makes a good business partnership work.
I recently read a quote by Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, Co-Founder of Gilt Groupe about the importance of a strong relationship. As business partners of Halebury I can say there has never been a dull moment and we have, as any other business owners, gone through challenging times, but our journey in growing together as business partners highlights what it takes to make such a partnership work.
I was looking at pictures of each of our weddings: mine nine years ago (just before we launched Halebury) and Denise’s just a month ago. During these nine years, we’ve had six children between us (three each) and undertaken two major house moves due to our husbands’ work (me from London to LA and Denise from London to Southampton). During this time, we also launched and grew Halebury to what is now a multi-million pound law firm within the NewLaw space.
It has not been easy growing in a competitive market place especially with no funding, but what has been equally as hard has been balancing our growing business life with our personal life. Here are a few of the lessons we have learnt along the way about how to succeed in this:
Firstly; we realize that for our partnership to work it has to be flexible to accommodate our personal life. ?Many years ago I went to a talk by a successful female entrepreneur and she mentioned that shortly after they set up their business, one of the founders announced that she was pregnant and the other co-founders thought it was bad timing on her part. ?From early on, we decided that the business had to work for us on a personal basis. ?That does not mean we do not want to put in the hours, do the work or to make the sacrifice, but we just want to have a personal life, so we needed to give each other room to have it, but we also needed to support each other during our various moves. We do not see change as an obstacle but need to reassess, adjust and make the best out of every opportunity.
On a basic level this means that we talk about our logistics all the time and actually make sure that the other is not too overstretched. Denise made a point of telling me that I was not allowed to book any trips to London in December as that would mean I would miss being with my kids on their birthdays. We look out for each other. However, on a higher level, we have a great deal of respect for each other and our individual career aspirations; whether in TV, business or for our charitable causes.
Secondly, we are each others back up. We both understand our industry well, can talk at the same level on each subject and can manage each situation. That is not to say that we have our individual strengths and weaknesses, but we are interchangeable, and I am sure you will get pretty much the same result whoever is making the decision. A friend of mine described our management of the business as “harmonious parenting” and it is really harmonious because we trust each other’s decisions.
We have a similar decision making process and we tend to have the same gut feeling about things. That is not to say we always agree – we sometimes don’t – but we respect each others judgement and talk though any issues and move past them quickly. One major common ground is that we are big on open communication and straight talking; to each other, to the team and to our clients. We like transparency and it goes to the heart of how our model is designed and how we operate.
Thirdly we have similar goals. Yes to make money, to change the market place, but overall it is to make a difference and an impact; on our lives, the lives of our families, but also to our team, colleagues and the next generation. We have a shared vision, which is essential for any marriage.
And finally, loyalty. We made a pact early on that we are in this together. Life might change when one of us has to move out or move on, but firstly that has not happened and secondly, we would not “leave the other in the lurch”. You hear stories of friends forming businesses and one leaving the other taking all the capital and leaving the remaining partner with all the liabilities. We agreed that we would not do that to each other. Either of us might want out, but we have a responsibility to look out for each other. It is the basics of our friendship and any successful partnership.
Coming back from Denise’s wedding has been an emotional moment, not just because one of my best friends has just got married to a greatguy, but because it is a moment to take stock. It is amazing what we can achieve if we work together as a unified team and when we support each other. Business partnerships are like a traditional marriage; it’s a journey. You need time to grow and to breathe, but you also need to support each other during the hard business days and as any business owner will tell you, there are many of those. Five factors have helped us on our journey: trust, honestly, respect, communication, a shared vision and loyalty. As Wilkis Wilson puts it “I don’t recommend you work with just any friend” but with the right business marriage the sky is the limit.
This article first appeared in Real Business in September 2015: http://realbusiness.co.uk/article/31470-the-importance-of-a-good-business-marriage
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