3 Business Lessons 15 Years of Marriage Taught Me

Technically, I am a little “late” with this post because my husband and I actually celebrated our 15-year wedding anniversary a few weeks ago. However, the lessons are still valid, so I am going to go ahead and share them anyway.

3 Business Lessons 15 Years of Marriage Taught Me

Image by 277974 (2017) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

In reality, I learned many more than 3 lessons (both business and personal) in the last 15 years of marriage but here are the top three business lessons:

1. Manage Expectations

One thing I learned rather quickly in my marriage is that my husband can’t read my mind. 🙂 No one can. So, it has been important for my husband and I to be as clear as possible in regards to what our expectations are in as many scenarios as possible.

Business Translation: When you bring on a new client, team member, contractor/vendor, or anyone else. Be as clear as you can in explaining your expectations for the relationship. Make sure they understand your policies, procedures, how to handle conflict/problems, the importance of deadlines, or anything else that you want them to understand about you and how you run your business. Don’t expect them to “just know” or read your mind. They can’t.

On the flip side, make sure you have a clear understanding of their expectations too. What are their policies, understanding of deadlines, etc.? Make sure you are both on the same page before you start working together.

AND, make sure you revisit your (and their) expectations as things or projects change. You will (and should) have many conversations about expectations during the course of your business relationships.

2. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt

Let’s get real. Misunderstandings are going to happen. Disagreements are going to happen. My husband and I have had (and will continue to have) arguments and/or difficulties. It is part of relationships so matter how well you manage expectations. And, it may be just me (is it?!) but sometimes it is so much easier to jump to conclusions and expect the worst from my husband (or other people). It took a while before I realized this and now, when misunderstandings happen, I can remind myself that my husband isn’t the devil incarnate and give him the benefit of the doubt! LOL

Business Translation: In your business, you are going to have conflict and misunderstandings with clients, team members, vendors and contractors. Know it, accept it, and deal with it. How? First of all, take a few minutes to breathe, calm down, and get yourself under control before confronting the person with the offense or mistake. It IS possible she/he doesn’t even realize that an offense has occurred.

Second, remind yourself that the person probably isn’t trying to sabotage you and your business or committed the offense on purpose. Give the person the benefit of the doubt. (Yes, that does happen, but most of the time – if you are partnered with the right people – they aren’t trying to harm you or your business.)

Third, arrange a time with that person to talk in person or over the phone about the situation. You don’t even have to say what it is about right away. You can say something like, “Hey, I’d like to talk to you about something. When would be a good time to talk?” Email or text isn’t going to cut it here. Too much is missed or taken the wrong when in text form. So, do your best to talk calmly with the person about the situation.

3. Forgive and don’t hold grudges

All spouses hurt each other once in a while and my husband and I are no exception. I have done or said things that hurt my husband and he has done the same to me. I don’t know about other couples, but for us, the first year of marriage was HARD. We learned early on that it is important to forgive each other, as hard as that can sometimes be. No one is perfect, and forgiving and letting go is essential to a healthy relationship. Holding grudges and bringing up past issues in every argument or fight isn’t healthy or good for a marriage.

Business Translation: Your team, your clients, your colleagues, in fact everyone, is going to make mistakes. They may unintentionally (or occasionally, intentionally) hurt you. They are going to do something or say something that you don’t like or that hurt you in some way. So, you are going to have some decisions to make.

I encourage you to start with point number two and give them the benefit of the doubt and talk to them about the problem. Then, forgive them, let it go, and move on with the business relationship. However, if the problem persists or the person is difficult or even unwilling to work on the business relationship, you may have the difficult task of ending the relationship, even if it means loss of income or having to find a new service or vendor. Only you can decide if it is worth trying to rebuild the relationship or not.

If that is the case, and you have to end the working relationship, it doesn’t relieve you of the duty to forgive and not hold grudges. We don’t forgive other people for their sake but for our own. It is unhealthy to hold on to the past, especially to situations that have hurt us. If you need to, talk to someone who can help you work through it. Even the best business and life coaches need coaches! So, hire your own coach, get rid of those blocks that are holding you back, and allow yourself to let go. It can only make everything better for you and your business!

Hey, now it is your turn! What the biggest lesson you have learned so far in your marriage or life? Do share in the comments.

Five Ways to Build Trust in a Virtual Relationship

Trust is important in any relationship and even more important in a virtual business relationship. Earning trust takes time, but here are five steps you can take to foster trust with all your online relationships:

Build Trust in Virtual Relationship

1. Manage Expectations. This is essential. Before entering into a business relationship with anyone, talk about each other’s expectations. How will you both handle deadlines, punctuality and other situations?

Also, make sure to continue to manage expectations as the relationship develops. @AnastaciaBrice has a great article on her blog in regards to expectations.

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Frequent communication is critical, especially at the beginning of a working relationship. In addition, ongoing communication will go a long way in preventing misunderstandings, confusion, and general discontent in a business partnership.

Also, keep in mind that email is not always the best medium for communication. If you have a problem or question, pick up the phone. In doing this, you will be able pick up on verbal (and some non-verbal) cues by phone that are impossible to decipher in an email.

3. Under promise, over deliver. If you promise a client to have something done by 3pm Friday, get it done by Friday morning or Thursday afternoon. Go that extra mile or add that extra special touch.

On the flip side, if you cannot or will not do a particular project for a client say so and don’t just leave her hanging. If you can, offer recommendations or resources for the client so that he or she can find someone who can complete her project.

4. Keep your word. It should go without saying, however, be honest. Honor your promises. Do not lie. And by all means, do not say you are proficient or an expert at something if, in fact, you aren’t.

I knew someone who lied about his skill level and it turned into a disaster. This person promised a client that he was an expert in using a software program, when in reality, he didn’t have a clue. He screwed up the project he was working on for the client, he angered (and lost) the client, and effectively discredited his business, especially in the eyes of the client.

The best thing to do if you aren’t an expert at a specific skill, but willing to give it a try, is to be upfront and let the client know. Let her choose whether or not if she wants you to give the project a try.

5. Take responsibility. Take responsibility for the work you do. If you make a mistake, own up to it. After all, mistakes happen and no one’s perfect. Do not play the blame game. Admit your error and do whatever you can to fix the problem.

I made a doozy of a mistake when I worked in an insurance agency years ago. I had taken a payment from a client and stuck it in his folder so I can answer the phone. I got busy, put the file away, and forgot to mail the payment. Even worse, I didn’t remember anything about the payment until a few weeks later when I got a call from the client wanting to know why his policy canceled!

It took several phone calls to the insurance company and showing proof of payment (along with copies of the receipts from the day before and after), before I was able to get the policy reinstated. Obviously, the client was very unhappy with what happened; but, because I took responsibility for my action and did what needed to be done to fix it, a bad situation didn’t get worse!

I know for a fact that if I had lied or tried to blame one of the other account representatives, it would have made the situation much worse. Not only that, it would have discredited my professionalism and certainly would have soured the working relationship with this client going forward. He might even have taken his policies elsewhere. Thankfully, he didn’t, and it all worked out.

One more thing:

6. Be real. Be your authentic self. Who you are is as important – no, more important – than what you do. Being “fake” or trying to be someone you aren’t does not serve you nor your clients well. Besides, being fake can be sniffed out a mile away. If you have ever dealt with certain sales people you know what I mean!

Now it’s your turn. What are your best tips for building trust in a virtual (or real world) relationship? DO share in the comments.

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