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5 ways running a successful business is like being in a successful relationship

Most of us will have worked in at least one, if not several businesses. That business likely sold a specific product to a customer, whether it be widgets, a service or skill.

Now consider the time, resources and money that a business needs to spend on strategy, finance, people management, marketing, team building, and efficiency; in addition to the core product or service they sell.

All this is required just to ensure the business can function, let alone succeed.

If you were looking to buy a business, you would want to know what their five year plan was, their financial health, their growth strategy, and the quality of their people; just as much (and perhaps even more) as their product.

However, if we put the same lens on our relationship, we might reconsider the acquisition!

Relationships are just like a business. In a relationship you too are working with limited resources and must allocate them deliberately on the right things, so the relationship can survive before it grows and thrives.

By looking at some of the key characteristics of a successful business, we learn a lot about what it takes to succeed as a couple.

Here are 5 common traits of a successful business and relationship:

1. They know what the future will look like and have a plan to get there

Every successful business (hopefully) has a vision and a strategy. This means they have a clear picture for the future of the company, often 5-10 years and beyond.

This vision provides a target to aim at. How they hit this target is through a strategy (or strategic plan). This breaks down the steps required to achieve the desired future state into workable goals (with milestones, timeframes, success metrics, etc).

Successful couples also have a shared vision of the future.They understand what their definition of success looks like in five years, 10 years and beyond (incl. where they want to live, how they spend their time and how they’ll find fulfillment). To realise this future, they set goals together and have a plan for achieving them. They review those goals frequently and take the time to reimagine their future as life changes.

2. They Understand their “why”

If you haven’t seen Simon Sinek’s 2009 Ted Talk (or read his books) on finding your ‘why’ – watch it now. Through what he calls the golden circle, he shows that while every organisation may know “what” they do, very few know “why” they do it.

He believes that companies who operate through their “why” go straight to the hearts of their customers and employees. People for many years bought Apple products because they believed in the brand, not just the hardware.

If I am a customer service employee on the front line, getting abused by customers daily, but I believe in what the company stands for (their ‘why’) it will motivate me to keep putting on a smile and help Karen solve her problem.

A relationship is the same. When you have a clear and agreed “why” (or as Kim and I like to say a “north star”) and are aligned in that purpose, you’re less likely to let the little things get to you.

That’s right! You’re less likely to argue about the little things that pop up day-to-day and less likely to let disagreements fester when you and your partner are aligned to something bigger.

3. They have shared values

Values are guidelines for how we will act when trying to achieve our vision and goals. They’re also known in relationships as “non-negotiables”.

Whilst a couple may have a common vision of where they want to be in five or 10 years, if they don’t have shared values (which are clear and understood), they are more likely to fight over how they get there.

For example, if a couple had a goal to pay off their mortgage in eight years, which would take some scrimping and saving, if they didn’t have clear values around what was important to them in the meantime they may scrimp on the wrong things (like their kids’ education or their health), negatively impacting their quality of life.

A business is the same. It must have a clear and well communicated set of values to ensure that all employees (from CEO through to front line staff)make decisions that are aligned with who the company is and what they believe in.

4. People are safe to be themselves

Google believes employees can do more working together than alone. With this in mind, they launched Project Aristotle, a wide ranging study to see what makes a great team.

They found that the number one trait shared by high performing teams at Google was psychological safety. Psychological safety is an individual’s perception that they are safe; that no one on the team will embarrass or punish anyone else for admitting a mistake, asking a question or offering a new idea.

The same goes for a strong relationship. We have the right to be ourselves, speak our minds and bring new ideas to the kitchen table without fearing we’ll be shown contempt or criticised by our partner.

When people feel safe to be themselves in their relationship and secure within the four walls of their own home,they’re less likely to be stressed. As a result they’re healthier and have more energy to focus on things that really matter.

5. They are always striving to get better

We’re not the same people we were 10 years ago and we won’t be the same people in 10 years time. Nor will our partners. Growth is a key part of living a fulfilled and happy life.

Plus, as we get older, life seems to get harder. Mortgages, kids, deaths, and illness (and yes good stuff too!) are a few of the significant life events likely to hit us all.

If we aren’t constantly working to improve our relationships, if we believe that because we are OK now we’ll be OK when life gets real, we’re setting ourselves up for a big wake up call when we could be setting ourselves up for success!

The best companies also know that if they rest on their laurels and don’t innovate, while they may achieve success in the short-term, in the long-term they expose themselves to failure. Kodak, Blackberry and Skype are a few examples that spring to mind.

So, companies spend money on R&D (research and development), they launch business improvement programs aimed at decreasing costs and improving customer satisfaction, and they upskill and train their staff to improve output and retention. This means, as global market conditions change, they’re able to pivot, survive and then thrive, meeting the needs of the new world.

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To learn more about Kim & Rog's story and what inspired them to start their podcast.