Couples in Business: Maintaining the level of trust in your relationship

As in any relationship, trust is essential for couples in business but sometimes tension can start to build if it becomes eroded.

Business Coaching Insight:

When couples start running a business together their previous ways of communicating with each other are rarely sufficient

It starts with small insignificant things that don't mean much by themselves but over time they start to undermine the trust you have in each other.

It basically comes down to making sure you communicate well with each other.

However when you're under pressure and busy it's easy to get complacent and sloppy communication can ensue. 

Common traps to avoid

Every relationship is different but here are a couple of scenarios that we've seen between couples in business:

1. Making promises you can't keep

Tension can sometimes build when one partner constantly makes promises they don't keep.

It’s natural to feel let down and start to withdraw trust when this happens but once this happens one partner becomes guarded. This can ruin an otherwise solid relationship.

2. Assuming you've got your partners full commitment when you haven't really

As an example of how this can easily happen, you might ask your partner about something but they're too busy to really think about it so they give you a quick response that they change their mind about later.

Or, they just said 'yes' to keep you happy in that moment but they're not really committed.

Either way these kinds of situations can lead to one partner feeling let down.

Tips for maintaining trust

Just because you communicated well as a couple in the past does not necessarily mean it will be enough when you're running a business together so here are a few tips:

  • Formalize your communication:

    As with any other business partners, couples in business need to formalize their communications in order to minimize misunderstandings.

    For example, have regular meetings with agenda’s with specific issues that need to be discussed. 

    This might seem a bit over the top when you can discuss things over dinner but in addition to making things absolutely clear in the business, it also frees you up to talk about non-work topics at home!

    In your meetings with each other, make decisions and assign tasks to specific people. Then get a commitment from the person and write it down before moving on to the next agenda item.

    Be wary if your partner just says yes to everything and allow them the space to say no.
  • Constantly revisit longer-term goals:

    Everyone understands that big goals change. What was once a priority (‘let’s expand into Asia’) may be less of a priority when circumstances change (a new baby arrives).

    Constantly revisiting long-term goals can maintain a clear understanding between two business partners.
  • Be careful of the little breaches of trust that might seem unimportant:

    It is the small daily and weekly breaches of trust that begin to cause problems, especially for couples in business.

    ‘She said she would be here by 3 and it’s now 5pm. I’ve wasted 2 hours waiting.’ ‘He said he’d ring the customer and confirm the sales amount so that I could complete the order. It’s been two days. I’m not sure if I should ring or leave it to him.’

    You can begin to restore trust in your relationship by making small agreements that you can keep and only say yes to doing things you have every intention of doing.

    If circumstances change and you can't fulfill your agreement let your partner know as soon as possible.

    If you can't complete a task or for some reason you don’t want to, just say so. Be honest. Don’t say ‘yes’ just to placate the other person. It’s better to say a convincing ‘no’ and be straight with a person than to say a half-hearted ‘yes’ that erodes trust and confidence between the two of you.
  • Adjust your expectations:

    Sometimes trust means knowing that the other partner won’t do what you're hoping they'll do.

    This might sound a bit crazy but sometimes you need to trust that your partner won’t make the phone calls on time because he never has. Or you may need to trust that your partner will be late because she always is.

    If you know your partner well enough that you can predict what they really will do you can avoid having unrealistic expectations.

For couples in business, incorporating some of these strategies will enable your business and personal relationship to prosper while giving you the confidence to take on bigger projects and shoot for larger goals. 

Business Coaching Insights:

  • As a couple in business, are you clear about each others strengths and weaknesses and the role you each play in the business?
  • What tasks do you implicitly trust your partner to do?
  • What are your expectations of each other?

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