This month, I’m reflecting on a pair of conversations I’ve enjoyed recently on The LoCo Experience podcast, with a pair of married couples – Miles and Val Kailburn of Old Town Media, and Wally and Miriam Veigel of Wally’s Speed Shop. Interestingly, in both cases the business was started by one of the partners, and as it grew and needed more support – the other partner joined the business and helped take things to the next level. Both pairs exhibit strong relationships made even stronger through the galvanization of a business journey, and shared joy in having created an enterprise to be proud of.
Now, I’m sure they’ve had their challenges, and perhaps like myself and my honey bear, have sought professional assistance in repairing a strained relationship. And there is no judgment in it – in fact I think it’s smart and wise to know when you need help. However, the notion on my mind this month is not so much intervention when there is something broken, but prevention of relationships being strained – an ounce of prevention instead of a pound of cure, as the old saying goes. Relationship Vitamins is my title this month, and I’ll be exploring the small habits we can build to prevent straining our most important relationships – at home, at the office, at school, and everywhere.
When I began my entrepreneurial journey in 2013, my honey bear jumped in to help wherever she could. I started a business called Bear Capital Advisors – to help business owners navigate the ambiguous waters of the banking system. Later, BCA transformed into LoCo Think Tank – to help business owners navigate life and business, together, and then (still in the same 12 month period) I launched Bear’s Backyard Grill – to help local foodies and food fans enjoy yummy fare.
For each of these enterprises, she was our bookkeeper and bill-payer and primary organizer/helper – even though she and math have a strained relationship. She also chipped in where other help was needed – in the commissary for prep day on occasion, and at the service window for festivals or other big events.
As I may have mentioned before, my wife’s essence is that of an organizer/planner, able to take on many tasks and get things done and find joy in checking those boxes. My essence, in contrast, is that of a thinker/idea generator – I love philosophical topics, deep conversations, and interesting ideas – simple tasks and minor details rather annoy me. So during that season, when I was at a high boil starting a new venture every few months – none of which had enough revenue to be sustainable – and she’s doing her best to find a place for everything and put everything in its place – and I’m flailing away at this task of creating something – anything! – that will help to restore some stability to our finances and our relationship…let’s just say there was some strain.
Now’s a good time to give some kudos to Josh Emery, from Emery Counseling in Fort Collins. He helped give me some perspective on how much of an ass I was being – gently – and encouraged Jill to have patience with me as I figured out my shit. Well, it wasn’t quite that simple, and she had some stuff to work on too, but we got the treatment we needed – which was basically lessons on how to treat each other more better, and especially how to see the signs of strain and address it, rather than letting the infection spread. It didn’t happen overnight, but our relationship did heal well and fully, and as you read this we’re likely away from home on a 19th anniversary trip to the mountains. Josh remains a treasured friend, and I’ve learned so much from him about relationships and understanding myself and others – if you’re reading this – thanks buddy. 🙂
Where was I going with this – oh yeah – relationship vitamins! These days, honey bear and I joke with folks, that her favorite milestone in the growth of LoCo Think Tank was when we got big enough to fire her as our bookkeeper and outsource that work to professionals! During our shared journey, Jill got a big promotion that almost doubled her pay (which remains slightly higher than my own salary from LoCo) and provided our family with health insurance – which allowed me the free space to go full-time LoCo and given enough focus to grow it to what it’s become today. I admire couples that find joy in being together in an entrepreneurial journey – and I admire those who find their purpose along different paths – you do you, boo – and I especially admire those who build marriages and families and teams that are built to last.
As I’ve shared often before, I’m a proud member of the Fort Collins Breakfast Rotary Club (meeting Thursday mornings at 7 am at GInger & Baker if you’re curious), and one of the things that drew me to Rotary – and keeps me there – is the 4-Way Test: “Of the things we think, say, and do – 1. Is it the truth?, 2. Is it fair to all concerned?, 3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?, and 4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?” Though we come from many different backgrounds, faiths, and occupations – this test of our ethics is a common bond.
I’ve been a bit envious of this element of Rotary, and have been thinking recently about what it is that helps our LoCo chapters strengthen the relationships within…and then I woke up a few weeks ago with this little phrase on my mind:
Be Kind, be Present, be True;
Be Open, be Humble, be You.
I don’t know what this little phrase is – maybe a mantra? – but I like it, and I’m noodling on how to initiate this sort of repeated phrase as a part of our chapter meetings to reinforce our values and expectations during the meeting – without being dorky or compulsory about it! As I reflected, it became clear that these encouragements are beneficial habits for all of our relationships, and they were demonstrated heavily in my conversations with both couples.
Be Kind – In all our relationships, they prosper best when we have the ability to encourage corrective action, to point out when someone is being less than their best self. At LoCo, our initial list of values communicated that members might “encourage and admonish with kindness”, and I think it still holds true. In this polarized world we now find ourselves in, we can stand apart from the crowd by demonstrating kindness – always – and with whomever we engage, whether or not we agree.
Be Present – “Please turn off your cell phones, or put them on silent” is a part of our meeting format in many chapters, and it is an encouragement to be present. It makes me cringe when I’m out for lunch with a client or prospect or dinner with my honey bear, and I see pairs and whole tables full of eaters, staring at their phones as they wait for the food to arrive. One of the greatest gifts we can give to one another is our time, and that must include our attention. Practice active listening when you’re with your co-workers, or with your children – and be surprised at how much more they’ll be willing to share.
Be True – Truth is to be found not only in the words we speak, but also in our actions. Do we have a vision for where the business is headed, and are we headed in the right direction? Do our finances support a two-week vacation in Hawaii? Is your staffer’s work performance really as good as her review suggests, or are you being hesitant to speak truth about the gaps in her game?
Be Open – Openness is a trait that many of our members share – many don’t know any other way, and it’s easy for them to share in our meetings. For others, it’s a major challenge – but they know it’s good for them and so they do it. And the more they do it, the easier it becomes. All of our relationships benefit from openness, because when we don’t know what one another are thinking – we make assumptions, and we all know how that can go.
Be Humble – Of all the personality types I’ve encountered, the most challenging are the narcissists, I would have to say. I’ve had a few conversations with such types, and they literally think every decision that they’ve ever made was right! Which is crazy, because I’m nearly perfect and I’m only right about 99% of the time! We’re all a little bit narcissistic, is what I’m trying to say with that last statement… We all mostly think we’re right and that’s ok, but we’ll be right more often and have more love in our lives if we have the humility to consider – just for a moment – where we might have something to learn from others.
Be You – Even if you “fake it till you make it” – be you about it. Authenticity is one of the strongest binding agents in today’s society, whether we’re talking about employees to an organization, or customers to your brand, or listeners to your podcast – our younger generations have a strong focus on authenticity. I saw a T-shirt the other day that was clever – “Be Authentic, not Unique” – and it speaks so much to the friction points in our lives and society. If someone is trying to be unique – it probably isn’t authentic – to be authentic you shouldn’t have to try – just be. Kanye wouldn’t be Kanye if he was trying to be unique, he be Kanye because he be Kanye. 🙂
Shorty this month, but a goodie I hope, and I wonder what you would add to it? What are the relationship vitamins that keep you and your sweetie on the same page, or help you stay connected to your team, or build rapport with new client prospects? Drop me a line, I’d love to hear them, and I hope this small encouragement helps you build a daily habit of relationship vitamins!