Miriam Hawley and Jeffrey McIntyre had only been together for four years, when they started doing couples therapy. They built a psychotherapy business and leadership consulting firm, side by side, and in the following decades helped thousands of couples work through troubled times, interviewing dozens more for their 2012 book, You and Your Partner, Inc. Entrepreneurial Couples Succeeding in Business, Life & Love.
Many male-female relationships in the past, they say, were unequal, making any kind of business partnership potentially disastrous. It was a "dominance-and-submission model," McIntyre explains. "We saw our fathers withdraw into very sheltered, covered-up places."
Before launching their psychotherapy practice, Hawley co-wrote "Our Bodies, Ourselves," published in the 1970s, a revolutionary book on women's health that became an international bestseller. And she sees parallels between the two projects. "'Our Bodies, Ourselves' was about the business of health," she explains. "This is about the health of business."
1. Examine why you want to work together. Entering business with a lover isn't something the two would advise for every smitten pair, while for other couples it makes perfect sense. "Some people end up [working] together, because one has a need for the skills of the other one, and invites them to join the business. Some just love being around each other," explains Hawley. "I pinch myself in the morning. I get to spend all day with the person I love."
2. Pay attention to the relationship. It's important for all couples, they say, particularly couples working through balance sheets together, to be very conscious and intentional in how they act toward each other. "A couple in Colorado talked about waking up in the morning and standing up for each other's greatness," Hawley says. "Not just having a great day, but being the best they could be. 'I take care of her life being great. And she takes care of my life being great.' "
All the important tenets of a healthy relationship are hyper-magnified when your paycheck is on the line. Trust is essential, because you have to have faith in "where the money is going to come from," as McIntrye puts it, and that agreements will be kept.
And while in many marriages, conflicts can stew quietly for days (or weeks, or months, or years), Hawley and McIntyre say that's unworkable when a business is involved. "If there's one source of income for your livelihood, you're more urgent about solving problems," says Hawley.
"You've got to cut to the chase," McIntyre adds. "If your livelihood is dependent on it, you resolve conflict quickly. Because you're losing money!"
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