Starting a business is the hardest thing you’ll ever do – other than choosing the person you will marry. I grew up in an environment of entrepreneurship, in a family of generational entrepreneurs, and it is still hard for me sometimes to face up to the pressures that each new business brings.
An 18-year track record in launching multiple businesses may have given me a lot of experience, but the path to success still remains as uncertain as ever. All I do know, and can control, is my own commitment to the project, and my willingness to acknowledge the difficulties that surely lies ahead, once the rose-tinted haze of start-up infatuation has cleared up and the bottomline has come clearly into focus.
I always tell young entrepreneurs who are just starting out, to measure their commitment to business on the same weighing scale as marriage, and see how viable the proposition seems. Because in many ways, business is a marriage. And the unexpected obstacles and challenges on the way are often one and the same:
# 1: Marriage Is Sharing Your Name With Someone – And So Is Business
Traditionally, marriage involves a name change. The marrying couple surrenders their individual existences and bind themselves together with a common name.
Same thing with business. Once you have set up a company, your names become indivisible. For example, “Matt Rody of Mastodon Media” or “Mastodon Media, a marketing company by Matt Rody” – you become natural extensions of each other, and that is how the world will now view you.
# 2: The Novelty Period In A Marriage In Shortlived – And So It Is With Business
The first flush of romance in a marriage does not last forever. A British poll has even quantified the number of days that a married couple revels in the passion of their new union: 938 days.
After that, it is serious hard work that goes into nurturing the relationship, so it has a strong foundation that will last a long time.
The initial phase of a business’ life is also one of passion, inspiration and fanciful dreams of success. But after the novelty period has worn off, it is time for a reality check. You have to be 100 percent committed to nurturing the business to make sure it has good, strong legs to walk alongside you into the future.
# 3: Marriage Is A Readiness To Share Good Times And Bad – And So Is Business
Marriage comes with the promise that when the going gets tough, the couple will stay united and weather the storm. By the same token, when circumstances are good and abundance is plentiful, they will share equally in the joy.
Business isn’t ever going to be a smooth sailing either. There will be times when the fortunes of your company will dip, and you have to be ready to fight alongside it to stay afloat and ride the hump. And when the business is doing really well, you will get a fair share of its successes too.
# 4: Marriage Can Be Unreasonable, Moody And Willful – And So Can Business
Marriage isn’t always a bed of roses. There are times when partners get demanding, and want more of your time, more of your attention, more of your company, and pretty much more of everything else.
So it is with business. The demands of business can sometimes make you feel like it is sucking you dry. The lights are always on, it is costing you money even when you’re not in the office, and it is hungry to eat up all your time. As in a marriage, you have to establish boundaries, stay focused on your priorities and soldier on with the belief that the situation will de-escalate in due course, and all will be well again.
# 5: Marriage Can Sometimes Be Terminal – And So Can Business
In spite of everybody’s best intentions, some marriages are just not meant to be. No matter how much money, effort and heart you put in keeping it all together, a few marriages are just destined to fail. The same way that businesses fail. The important thing is to know when to walk away from such a union before it does irreparable damage to your health, well-being and happiness.
It’s a fine line – whether you should redouble your efforts to save either of them, or know that it is prudent to just let it go.
Call it business or call it marriage, there are no guarantees when it comes to organic relationships. But you have to start out with the solid intention to do your very best and give it all chances to flourish and succeed.
And if it doesn’t, well, as a human being, you can find love again. And as a businessman, you can start a business again…
Matt is a founder and CEO of Mastodon Media. He’s a Christ-inspired entrepreneur with a mission to help professionals grow and companies flourish with the Christ-led principles of Business Discipleship.