How Your Partner Can Support You During the Startup and Growth Phase of Business

How Your Partner Can Support You During the Startup and Growth Stages of Business

Today, we are walking through how your partner can support you during the startup and growth stages of business. You’re going to be able to identify which stage of business you’re in. I’m going to put some context in there about what you’re experiencing for you but also for when your partner listens to this. I want them to hear from me an objective part of what you’re experiencing in my words. Then I’m going to share maybe a little bit about what I was experiencing during this time and how my husband and I, John and I, navigated through that. 

We are going to start today with these stages of business. Just as a reminder, if you have a spouse that works in a traditional 9-5 job where they get a paycheck working for somebody else, you have to realize they most likely do not understand how to run a business. I don’t even say that with any disrespect, honest to God. Most business owners don’t know how to run a business. They weren’t taught. They were taught to do the thing that they’re experts at which is amazing. They have a wonderful skill set that they are offering to the world for whatever their reasons are, but they were not necessarily taught about making business decisions and running a business. 

Your partner or your spouse, they’re not a coach or a consultant. There is a really good chance, they wouldn’t even want to run their own business. They most likely have a very different risk tolerance than you. I was having a conversation with a client of mine who runs a very large business. She was networking with some other female business owners. She’s like, I wish women knew how high their risk tolerance needs to be and how much they’re going to need to leap. How playing it safe and playing it conservative isn’t necessarily going to get you to those big goals that you have, those ambitious goals that you have. It’s not that you’re constantly leaping and taking these big risks. It’s more than you’re taking these incremental baby steps, these marginal gains. Then you stack these gains, these marginal gains, these incremental steps up, and that allows you to take that big leap. Yes, it’s a high level of risk tolerance but it’s also calculated. 

You really need to understand what support your partner or spouse can give you and what support they can’t give you. 

That doesn’t mean that your partner or spouse is bad or wrong. It’s just they can’t be your everything. They can’t be everything to you. 

That’s a really unfair expectation to have of them. We all have that expectation of our person. I’ve had to really navigate that myself over the years with John and like, “Okay, what is he really great at? What can he support me with? What does he do a really wonderful job supporting me with? And what are some of the things that maybe I need to be supported or want to be supported by somebody else?” I don’t want to have these conversations with him because maybe they’re emotionally activating for me, even though he’s not doing anything. There’s so much of our humanity here for us to look at. 

There’s the assignment of navigating running a business and doing risky things that impact your financial resources with your partner. Then there is the thing of running the business. They’re separate and yet they’re integrated.

You also need to take into account where their advice might be coming from and that they could be very freaked out by your growth. They might be scared at how you’re growing and the risks that you’re taking not necessarily for your family. Maybe they have a little bit of a fear of you outgrowing them. That might be there for them. They’re so much here to have these open conversations with. Even if your partner or your spouse is a coach, consultant, an accountant, a business person, you really want to be clear as to what role you want them to play in your business and in your life because it gets tricky. 

I know because I’ve struggled with this myself as John shares with me his business stuff. It’s not uncommon for me to ask, “What do you need right now, a wife, or a recommendation as a consultant? What hat am I wearing in this conversation?” Over the years, I’ve learned to default to wife mode with him because it’s very easy for me to fall into coach/consultant mode given that I’m doing that every day. Typically if I’m not careful, this will cause defensiveness and hurt feelings. I don’t want that. That’s not my intention. My intention is to be supportive and to be helpful, but sometimes our intention and our impact are different.

I can come at this with the intention of wanting to be helpful, but the impact is that he feels emotionally invalidated by the directness at which I’m approaching him because to me it’s surgical. Businesses can be pretty surgical to me, especially if I’m talking to John because he’s a very stoic guy. Sometimes I forget that even though he’s stoic, there are emotions underneath that tough exterior. 

I can get that wrong a lot of times and it’s caused a lot of friction for us. We have both struggled with wanting to rush in and solve the problem when we really were just wanting the other person was just wanting to be heard. We’ve both needed reactionary comments because we’ve been afraid to hear what the other person was saying when that person really just needed emotional validation. We have both sat on opposite sides of the couch staring into the abyss of our phones while sitting silently.

Like I said in the other episode, I’m not a marriage counselor. I have been married for 21 years. I have been with my husband for 26 years, a really long time. I realized that. I say that because I realized that’s the perspective that I’m coming from and you might not all have that same perspective. 

I do hope this episode sparks a conversation. I hope it encourages you to ask for what you need and helps you understand what you might want each of your roles to look like as a business owner and as someone who loves and cares for a business owner. 

Now some hard truths are mostly for your partner but also for you. 

I hear women that I work with have a tremendous amount of shame and embarrassment around their money and how well they are doing monetarily and financially. Their revenue is tied to their self-worth. I don’t know how to unpack this any differently so I’m just going to be very straightforward in how I talk about this. 

Your revenue is a necessity for your business. It is not a measure of your self-worth. It might be an indication of the strategy you’ve chosen to apply. It might be an indication of your know-how and maybe you need to identify some areas where you need some growth and development. It might be an area where you have inconsistent action for any number of reasons but it does not have an impact on your worth. I also know that it very much feels that way. But I want to put that out there because when we get into these conversations with our partners, they need to understand that the way you perceive your revenue might not be just a number. It might have more meaning to you than that.

One thing that I have learned from the last month of assessing where women are in their businesses from probably the $150,000 in revenue to the $400,000 in revenue, is there’s a lot of financial struggle. Nobody’s talking about it. We just want to band-aid it. We just want to get clients now. Or we don’t want to talk about the impact that is having on our emotional health, on our families, on our stress levels, on our decisions, on all of that stuff. 

What I want to share right now is both for you and your partner that lots of your favorite brands and companies out there either aren’t profitable or carrying loads of debt. You go look this up. Favorite brands are not profitable. Favorite brands losing money because it’s called business. That’s what happens. Businesses take on debt. Businesses have periods of time where they’re not profitable. Peloton, Snapchat. Snapchat might be profitable now, but until 2019, they hadn’t been. Even Amazon from its inception in 1994. Until just a few years ago, Amazon was not profitable. Tesla has been burning through cash and in danger of running out of money since its inception. I think they might be turning the corner now but it’s also very unclear how Elon, I think, is looking at his profitability. I know I’ve seen and read articles about he’s made more money selling Bitcoin and then he has selling cars. 

I want to talk about these businesses because we don’t understand and we don’t zoom out. We only look in our echo chambers and what’s immediately around us. We don’t understand the breadth of industry and how businesses are run and what happens. From Profit First, we talked about a statistic that 83% of business owners are living paycheck to paycheck? This is reality. This is business. We don’t have to accept that. I don’t accept that because as a very small service-based business that gives you a huge profitability advantage. Running a small service-based business the way many of you are running. In that sense, you’ll be way more successful than some of your favorite brands who are way in debt and not profitable. 

There’s no reason that why within 12-24 months, your business can’t be paying you a paycheck. It should be. If you have the know-how to do that which a lot of women don’t. They get hung up in making this means lots and lots of different things about themselves. But listen, look at these captains of industry, right? They are struggling with profitability and managing debt and all those things as well. I think some facts around what it really means to run a business are important. 

Understanding The Stages of Business

I’m going to share what is happening in your business and what you might want to pay attention to. Do not skip the startup part because you aren’t in your startup phase. I guarantee you there are things that maybe you wanted to talk about that you didn’t and it’s never too late to go back and have these conversations. I talked about the stages of business, lots of people talk about stages of business. It is a very common framework out there. I also want to reference where it came from. In a landmark, Harvard Business Review article in 1983, authors Neil Churchill and Virginia Lewis, outlined the stages of growth for small business owners. 

The article reports on their research observing small business owners in various industries, sizes, structures. They concluded that small businesses vary widely in size and capacity for growth. They are categorized by the independence of action, differing organizational structures, and a varied management style. Yet on closer scrutiny, it becomes apparent that they experience common problems arising at similar stages in their development. 

I say common problems because there’s a lot less individualization in your businesses than you think. This is one of the reasons why I’m not taking one-on-one clients right now. Because everybody thinks they need a one-on-one solution, that they need a one-on-one coach. They’re wanting to pay to have that one-on-one experience. In reality, I’m saying the same thing over and over and over and over again. If you join one of my group programs, that’s a much more cost-effective way for you to work with me. Because unfortunately, I know we all want to think that we’re like these unique snowflakes and flowers but we’re not, we’re not. Business is business. There is some difference even among stages but I got to tell you sometimes the same stuff comes up over and over and over again. 

Through my work with small businesses and which ranges from $0 to $60 million in revenue and 70 employees as well as my time that I have spent in corporate with much larger revenue and much more employees, these are varied industries including service-based businesses, agencies, manufacturing, construction. My conclusion, as I said, is absolutely the same, common problems, less individualization than you think. My framework on the different stages of a business is meant to build upon what Churchill and Lewis discovered almost 40 years ago. What I hope to add is more current and relevant language as well as sharing not only the strategic growth challenges but the human-centered. The emotional and mental challenges that go with this as well. 

Having a keen understanding of these stages is a missing piece in small business education today. It’s causing harm to the entire small business ecosystem. During times of economic distress, most of the western world looks toward small business owners to spur financial recovery. That’s what’s happening right now. We are in uncertain economic times and we are looking toward small business owners to spur the economy. Small businesses are known for creating their own economy. However, there is a caveat that isn’t being mentioned. 

Profitable businesses spur financial recovery and create their own economy. 

This is why I want to talk more about profitability than revenue. Because when all of you have profitable businesses, you can then spur the economy by creating jobs for others because they have the financial resources and business needs to spur employment. Utilizing services and products of other small businesses is creating strong vendor-service provider relationships. Supporting consumers and because they’re paying themselves, paying others, and providing revenue for other small businesses to pay themselves. 

This is how we create this economy when we are profitable. 

Much of what I see happening today, thanks to the onslaught of internet marketing geared towards small business owners, are aggressive growth tactics that serve an egoic pursuit of revenue for revenue’s sake. However, all this hype leaves business owners chasing benchmarks way before they’re ready or their business prepared. Leaving a sea of broken businesses, burnt-out business owners, and a lot of unmet expectations. 

Learning the different stages of growth and working through the appropriate stage for you is the very definition of business self-care. 

One important note, categorizing stages of growth by revenue amount is incredibly tricky. My main reason for trying to avoid it is because your revenue is only one point of reference and there are many other things to consider. 

The success and growth of a business have more to do with your skill, capability, mindset, and propensity for action than your industry, revenue size, and other demographic factors. In the subsequent episodes, we are going to walk through the stages of business and how you can have better conversations with your partner at each stage. Now, big ask here. Share this podcast with your friends who also are running a business. I believe this is one of the most underrepresented topics in business education. I know that it’s going to help so many people. 

What are the conversations to have with your partner during the startup stage of business?

If you are in the startup phase, you have set up your business by creating an entity, opening business bank accounts, setting yourself up properly from a legal standpoint. The purpose of this stage is all about proof of concept or confirming that your initial service is a match for your target market and who your target market is right now because that will change. You most likely have a handful of clients testing your offer and all of your time is spent bringing in more clients and customers. 

Much of your time at this stage is being spent being adaptable and in discovery mode. Tweaking your offer based on the feedback that your first clients are getting on board. This is also a great scale because you’re still going to do this later in your business. Churchill and Lewis say that this stage of business which they refer to, they have different names for their stages and I felt like there were a bit dire so I changed them. I call it a startup but they refer to it as existence. 

When you’re trying to be in existence, you need to answer the following questions. 

  • Can we get enough customers to deliver our products and provide services well enough to become a viable business? 
  • Can we expand from the one key customer or pilot production process to make a broader sales base? 
  • Do we have enough money to cover the considerable cash demands of this startup phase? 

Energetically, this is an incredibly exciting phase of business. 

The energy of excitement and in the past for me, there’s been a lot of naivete and I call it newbie naivete. That really works in favor to push you through a lot of those initial fears and hesitations. So while yeah, you’re going to experience some fear and hesitation. I think this is also you’re pretty adrenalized right now and your adrenaline is really spurring you on to put in the hours that are required to get your dream into reality. 

Mentally, you have a clear vision of leaving your 9-5 or the time freedom you’ll get working for yourself. You’re why-ing your purpose are strong during this phase in business. I know for me, I had a very strong why for leaving corporate. Then after I hit that, I was lost for a little bit. I’m like “wow” I achieved that big vision that I had held for so long. Now what?

Challenges at this stage may include you’re working a lot of hours. Essentially, you are the business. This is where I want your partners to hear what’s going on for you. You don’t have standard processes to make things easier or repeatable. You’re relying solely on intuition because you don’t have any historic data. 

Your cash flow is probably all over the place, pretty irregular. You lack operating capital to invest in marketing, training, and development. Everything you are earning right now, if it can go back into the business, is going back into the business. This is normal and I fully understand that you may be in a financial position that doesn’t allow you to do that. Please know that being undercapitalized is a big challenge. We’re lucky that in service-based businesses, the capital required is fairly minimal. But that’s one of the main reasons why our manufacturing business went under. It’s because we were undercapitalized from the beginning. 

When I was talking about your favorite brands and companies that are losing money, they’ve got capital behind them. They’ve got shareholders. They are maybe ventured backed. People are finding funding whether it be angel investors. What you and your partner need to understand is you are self-funding this business right now. You are self-funded and that’s amazing. I love when we can really get smart and self-fund ourselves and know what self-funding levers we have to pull, whether it be through our own savings, whether it be through working a standard job while you’re starting this business as a side hustle, whether it is strategically borrowing using credit cards. Hopefully not, that’s pretty high leverage. Or if you can somehow get some kind of loan from the bank or SBA, where there is not such a high leveraged debt there. 

The other challenges at this stage are a lack of business knowledge and skills. You most likely know a lot about the thing you do, but not a lot about running a business. There is an impact on your energy and decision-making while you juggle all of these roles and responsibilities not to mention what you have going on at home. For me, when I started my business, I was working full-time, 9-5. I don’t know what I was thinking but I volunteered to be a class mom and I was starting a business. That’s a lot of strain. Of course, there was soccer and other extracurriculars that my kids were participating in. It was a really hectic time and I know we’re a shame. We’re doing a lot of shaming around being busy but this was a very full hectic time in my life. I was very busy. A note for your partner, this is a very roller coaster-y. There’s a lot of amazing firsts and there’s a lot of mistakes. Your partner is coming face-to-face with themselves, their limitations, every single shitty thought in their head. Now is not the time to be watching the clock and reminding them that they haven’t made money yet. Now is not the time to question their decisions. 

This is the time to be a partner who builds up their confidence. 

Their confidence needs so much building right now. They need a soft space for them to land. I remember… Shout out to my husband. He just did the best job at this time in my business. I remember quitting. I finally quit my multiple 6-figure, 9-5 job, where I had the cushiest of cushy benefits, and life was easy. I did that job with two hands tied behind my back. I did not work in that job the way I work in this business. I will be fully transparent about that. I remember quitting. It was August. I just celebrated my 7-year anniversary of quitting. I’m really proud of myself that I’ve been able to provide myself with a paycheck for the last probably 6 years. That first year I didn’t take one. In the second year, I took a little bit. But that I have been providing a living for myself. I have made something out of nothing. For all of you out there who are running businesses where you have made something out of nothing, please, please take the time to be grateful and celebrate that. I’m so proud of you. I’m so proud of myself.

I remember quitting and I’m plopped on our bed. I am just hysterical crying. I am so scared that I have left this cushy paycheck. I’m absolutely certain that I’m going to drive our family into ruin and that we’re going to go bankrupt again. I remember that’s in my story. I remember him looking at me. Crying is not my jam. I remember him coming in and just being very gentle and calm. I’m sure he probably wasn’t having the best day given the time frame that this was in. He was very loving. I remember him being very loving like his energy was just very soothing. He looked at me and he said to me, “You just need to burn the boats.” I don’t know if you know that saying, but it’s about this army general and their navy. They bombard this island or a beach or whatever and he knows that he’s going to fail. He knows he’s outnumbered. I believe this is the story. He gives the order to burn the boats. They have to go and fight and make it work or that’s it. There’s no retreat. 

John looked at me and he’s like, “You just have to burn the boats.” There is no plan B. This is going to work. That was so much of what I needed to hear at that moment. Having him be able to share that with me was just probably one of my most memorable moments of how scary it was starting a business and then the support that I received. You need your partner who is going to build up your confidence and provide that soft space to land. 

They are going to be distracted and working a lot. If your the partner listening to this, you’re going to have to be clear about your needs during this time. For the love of all that is holy, don’t be a coward if you see changes that alarm you about the mental health, fatigue, and physical health of your partner. You are on mental health watch. I know that may feel like a lot of pressure but I need you to have your person’s back. I need you to notice the small changes. I need you to notice your mental health. I need you to notice the fatigue. I need you to notice the physical health issues. I need you to notice the color of their skin. Is their hair falling out? This is what’s happening. 

For the last year and more, but particularly in the last year, I’m having business owners come to me confiding to me the physical and emotional toll, the anxiety, the stress, the lack of sleep. This is happening on a very wide scale and I’m not living in your home. I can help them but they have to come forward and say they need help but they are living with you. So, please, please watch them.

What does this time look like for John and me?

We have different skill sets, strengths, and energy. When I first was starting out, John did my books for a while. I didn’t have the money know-how that I have today or the confidence. I did know that I did not want my husband managing my business finances and involved in my business decisions. To be honest, I don’t think he loved trying to make sense of what I was doing with my money. He had his own stressors and problems that he needed to solve and I had my own. This is a time where we needed to do this dance between what are we talking about. What’s relevant that we need to be talking about? And where do you need to take your hands off and where do we need to have some space and independence?

At the time, it was very much like I am a woman, hear me roar. I want to do this as a female and not have a man and in my stuff and all that stuff. I know that’s coming up for women and I just want to acknowledge that. For me though, we need to go, “What do we want to be independent around, and where does there need to be a conversation?” We need to be talking to our partners about finances. What it might look like to start a business way before you even hit the startup stage? If you haven’t had this conversation and you’re way further out of the startup stage, now would be a good time to back up and go through some of these things. I want to share the things that I want you to think about talking about in this startup phase. Starting a business does not guarantee income, period. What happens how long can you go without income? How are you going to plan and prepare for the inevitable peaks and valleys of early-stage business? Let’s just have that very honest conversation right out of the gates. 

Being a business owner comes with a high degree of risk and effort. What is your risk tolerance? What is the effort level? Have that conversation. Your mental health will be tested as I said. Have those conversations. Learn how to express how you feel to your husband, to your partner, to your spouse, to your wife, to whoever is in your life, to your most important people. Learn how to do that really scary thing and let people in to how you’re feeling. 

I know that’s hard. I’m obviously a big proponent of therapy. I’m a big proponent of reading books on emotional agility. I am a big fan of Brené Brown. I’m a big fan of getting the support however you need it and being messy about it. Saying I need the space to let you know how I feel. It feels like word solid. It feels very uncomfortable. I don’t know if I even have the words. See if they can just sit there and listen to you express how you feel. Sometimes you don’t know how you feel. I don’t know how I feel. You might have to Google. I’ve had to Google. What are feeling words? There’s a wheel of emotions, it gives you the range of emotions in these feeling categories. It’s very helpful just putting that out there. 

You need to decide what your rock bottom is. 

We did not do this the first time around in our business. We found our rock bottom in that experience. I’m going to just try and save you all the pain of finding your rock bottom and say like, “Can you talk about it?” Our rock bottom was and we’re not there anymore but in our first business, when we had tried everything, we had been financially devastated for a number of years at this point. I was starting to get some notices that we were behind on the mortgage and that really brought me up short. I said to John, “I will not move in with my mother.” I hope my mom isn’t listening to this right now that she was my rock bottom. I’m like I will not move in with my mother. I’m not packing these kids up. As an adult, I’m not moving with my mother. If you have moved in with your parents as an adult, this is not against that. This is about my relationship with my mother more than anything else. That would not be healthy for my mom and me to have us all under one roof. So no, that’s not going to happen. 

What’s your rock bottom? Where is that? Maybe it’s a specific savings amount in your bank account. Maybe it’s a number of years that you may or may not be able to take a paycheck. Whatever it is. What is your rock bottom? The other thing you might want to talk about is how will you bridge the gap between leaving a job with a salary and the time it takes to make a consistent income. Like these peaks and valleys that may happen for even a few years. It is normal for these peaks and valleys to not iron themselves out for a while.

If you need startup capital, how much do you need? Where will you get it from? Are you borrowing it from your personal savings? What agreement do you have with your partner around paying that back? Yes, you will pay that back. If your partner’s listening to this, make them pay that back. That’s a real business. Businesses pay back their debts. Businesses pay back their loans even if it’s from a personal savings account. It’s good to have that clean energy around our money. 

For me, in the beginning, I borrowed $2,500 from our personal savings account. I’m not going to tell you what I did with it. I’m totally embarrassed by it. I wouldn’t advise anybody to do it, but I might have put a website up with that money. It could have been much better used somewhere else. They did not need a website at that time. Anyway, so I used $2,500 and I said to my husband, I’ll make sure that I pay it back by the end of the year. It was absolutely I was so panicked about it. I’m like if I do nothing else, I will pay this money back by the end of the year. I did. I paid the money back by the end of the year and I went on to… I don’t know. Make 15 times that amount that year I think. Listen, that was a 15 times ROI on that money. I had nothing to do with what I spent the money on by the way. 

Talk about it, have that agreement. Don’t just be putting money on your credit cards and not telling your husband about it. Don’t just be taking money from a savings account and not telling your partner about that, if you have joint money. You want to be trusted because this is what you’re telling me that you feel like your partners don’t trust you. You want to be trusted and they want to trust you and that’s a great way to do it. 

What are the conversations to have with your partner during the growth stage of business?

Growth is a messy and chaotic phase that usually leaves a business owner bleary-eyed and a bit bedraggled. You’re coming right out of working your tail off in the startup phase and you’re going into the growth phase, which is messier at times. Without the right guidance or too much resistance from the business owner, this phase can also last a tedious amount of time. 

As a matter of fact, many businesses never make it out of this phase which is why we see statistics like 83% of business owners live paycheck to paycheck. Many businesses get stuck in this stage never being able to free themselves to create the growth capital needed and really leap. There is a big leap of faith required around making investments often before you’re ready. Releasing control of your baby and doing the tedious and often boring things required to set your business up for its next level of success. 

This is also the phase where things aren’t working. The business is making money. There becomes a reluctance to change when things are good. Churchill in Lewis refers to this stage as survival. 

Remember this is why I changed the names, survival. While it’s true, I’m hoping to take a more positive spin on this stage because being in survival, can feel really really bleak. Energetically, you’re starting to feel fatigued and most likely have some other negative emotions like frustration. What am I not getting? What am I doing wrong? Desperation, you might feel the financial pinch. This is where a lot of women share that their spouses are questioning when the business will start making money. Impatience, you might be tired of this concept of delayed gratification. You want what you want and you wanted a heck of a lot sooner than it seems to be coming. 

Resentment, you’re putting in a lot of effort, giving a lot of value in the hopes it turns into sales. You’re giving a lot of energy most likely to the wrong things and you’re still not making the money you expected to be making. Mentally, you are starting to get some chatter around not being good enough. Self-doubt is creeping in more now that the newness is wearing off. You might be wondering, is this all a fluke? Can I really keep the revenue going? Where am I going to find all the clients and customers I need to keep growing? Am I really good enough to do what I’m doing? 

Providing a service that I can get paid well to deliver because right now you’re probably thinking and rightfully so we need to be looking at increasing our prices. Can I really make money and be in alignment with my values? This is also a time where there’s a lot of fear around money, raising prices, discontinuing work with clients who aren’t a good fit for your business, and honing in on what matters most to you. 

This phase is experimental and naturally comes with a lot of mistakes. It’s how we learn. Growth and learning go hand in hand. What makes this phase so extraordinarily hard is a lack of financial and business literacy which leaves a business owner not knowing what the heck to do with the money they’re making. And what to do next in their business? They are likely doing things out of order. The mantra here should be to stop trying to run before you walk. 

Challenges that you might be facing, cash flow and financial management, creating systems and structures to eliminate routine tasks, understanding how your business operates and the different functions within your business, knowing how to hire the right people to fill those different functions and operational roles, learning how to delegate, funding investment for strategic growth. Remember, lots of us are self-funded. Being aware of and differentiating from your competitors, managing efficiency and productivity as your customer base and team expand like you’re being pulled in so many different directions. 

At this point, you’ve most likely found some maybe entrepreneurial or business groups. The likelihood is you have navigated your way onto the internet to see what is happening with other businesses. Maybe you have joined a program around supporting you in your business. 

What I really want to say here that I want your partner to understand is their role is an outside voice. 

If you’re in some of these group programs, there’s either a lot of anxiety or group-think around what is happening in the business. Just like if your partner works in a corporate role there are echo chambers there as well. When I go in and consult in corporate organizations, I’m the one who’s breaking the echo chamber. We’re sitting in the boardroom and I’m like, “You’re in an echo chamber. You’re only hearing yourselves talk.” You’re in an echo chamber. You’re only hearing what’s going on in your business or you’re only hearing what’s going on in the immediate areas around you. Having an outside viewpoint as like the peer set echo chamber is really helpful. Growth can be very long. This is a tedious phase. It requires patience and resilience for both of you.

If you’re the partner, you might just be as tired as the person running the business. You might be feeling ignored and frustrated. I have felt those things when John was in heavy growth phases in his business. Where all of those promises of financial independence, big paydays, and time freedom, aren’t quite here yet. I’ve been on both sides of this equation.

I remember one day. I can’t believe I’m going to tell you the story. One day, John came home and told me that one of his employees quit. He had thought really highly of her and trained her to take on more responsibility. This was like a big, big blow to him. He was devastated. He was just so worn out and tired from this growth. This person who he really liked and trusted and who he’d been training, quit. The employee said that she was feeling the pressure of the company growth and quit saying that he was burning her out. Before I can even filter what I was saying, I blurted out that I was envious that she could just quit. That pretty much sums up how you might be feeling about supporting a partner who is in this growth phase in their business. 

Needless to say, John did not take that well. He wasn’t particularly thrilled that I said that and I appreciate that. That was hurtful to his feelings. I don’t remember if I apologized for it because I felt pretty justified in saying it, but if I have not apologized to him, I’m going to go do that today. That pretty much could really sum it up. 

Here’s one thing that John did for me when I was in my growth phase and it speaks to that echo chamber and it really, really pissed me off at the time that he did it. But it turned out so well and I’m so grateful that he did that. Probably 2 years in, at the end of 2016, he said to me, “You know, I don’t really get this online business thing. I don’t think it’s working for you. You’re doing all these Facebook lives. I’m watching you do this Facebook Lives, and you’re just not coming across as you. You’re just not as good on camera as you are in person. I think that you should really go and do some in-person networking and really look to establish your business, not in this online space.” I was really, really upset when he said that to me. It was like a real bubble burst moment. 

At the same time, I knew that there was so much truth to what he was saying because locally I was very known for my background. My Master’s is in Industrial-Organizational Psychology. It’s not a very common degree. It’s one of the least common psychologies. Typically, if people just see that on my resume, or on my CV, or in a proposal, I’m hired. People understand that in larger businesses that are in my local environment. I can pretty much just walk in, do a presentation, and walk out with a very large contract much larger than what I would necessarily get paid from some of these programs that I run online with smaller business owners. Because we’re priced for where you all are in your business. So, I did. 

I did do some local networking. I actually went to local networking at the time and I was new in my business. It was so awkward. But I did. I actually only went to one networking event and it doubled my business that year. I still have clients and contacts that I met at that one event. I know you’re not going to like what your partner or spouse has to say to you sometimes, but when they give you an objective outside opinion, that is outside of your bubble. In this phase, it could be really, really helpful. Even though you might not appreciate it at the level. You might have to go back and look at it from a later date after it was said to you, right?

Those are some of the ways that your partner can support you in your business and in that startup in that growth phase. In the next episode, we’re going to talk about the three other phases of your business and how your partner can support you in those phases.