There are a numerous ways to make a buck in this world, but we’re talking about more than just making a buck. We’re talking about building a business that provides real value, as well as a rewarding relationship together.
“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.”
Over the past 20 years, through trial and error, we’ve learned a lot about how NOT to build a business.
It was slow and painful at times, but through it all we learned what does work! Thankfully, with the help and input of numerous business-savvy mentors and online resources, we have come up with 6 main phases that can help couples who want to meet these two goals:
- To build a meaningful business together, and…
- To improve their relationship in the process
Maybe we’re kind of weird, but we’ve decided having a functional, healthy relationship with the person you love does increase your enjoyment of life, exponentially. And, working together actually forces you to learn how to communicate better, and can certainly uncover areas where improvement is needed!
Lifestyle design is based on massive action – output. Increased output necessitates decreased input.
~ Timothy Ferris
First, Make Time
It should go without saying that, before we even begin to explain our Love+Work process, we need to talk about TIME, and the spending of it.
As we began to build Love+Work, we were amazed by how much time we spent thinking through our own process, finding the needed answers to questions, and plotting our course.
Building something new, and potentially changing the direction of your life doesn’t just happen. It requires soul searching, truth telling, and facing the music about your own strengths and weaknesses. So be prepared to sacrifice some Netflix binging and social media addictions, or other distractions!
1. Change Your Thinking
Do you believe you could (or should) build a business together as a couple?
“In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or back into safety.”
– Abraham Maslow
The “could” part of that question depends on what sort of roadblocks you’re up against…
Mental Roadblocks: untrue or outdated information blocking forward thinking. Learning new or updated information helps create more realistic beliefs about what is possible.
Example: “There aren’t enough people interested in what I do to make it into a business.” This statement may be true, or it may not. But at last count, there are 3.7 billion people on the internet worldwide, and if you’re interested in a particular something, there’s a good chance a few other people are, too.
Emotional Roadblocks: irrational fears keep many people from pursuing their dreams. Fears are more difficult to manage than bad information – they are often rooted in past loss and pain. If emotional roadblocks are holding you back, you may need to do some digging. Crippling fears may require professional help to learn how to manage or get past that roadblock.
Example: “I’m afraid to try because I’m afraid to fail.” Are there legitimate reasons why you think you will fail? If not, this is fear making decisions for you instead of you making them. Can you figure out why you have that fear? Is it irrational? Can you push through it? The bonus prize if you can is often a greater sensitivity and understanding of others, as well as the strength of knowing you can master those feelings.
Spiritual Roadblocks: unhealthy attitudes that separate us from each other, our community, the world, and God. Perhaps these are the most difficult roadblocks to face or find ways to get past. They are sometimes so ingrained in our personality, having been formed over years or even passed down from one generation to the next, that it’s difficult to see them clearly or be truthful with ourselves about them. This is where having a loving partner is your greatest asset: you can gently hold each other accountable, and even pray for one another as you push through these roadblocks.
Example: “I don’t need to do more research or work harder, since I already know everything.” Hmm. Does your partner agree? Is that really true? If not, find ways to build a humility-check into your routine… of course, you have to admit there is a problem first!
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
~ Thomas A. Edison
The “should you” build a business together part is a different question altogether…
We have heard the question, “how can you work with each other!?” more times than we can count. Far more than we’ve ever heard, “Cool! I’d like to work with my spouse, too!” We believe this is because there are several styles of marriage, and not all of them are suited to working together in a business partnership (download 4 Styles of Marriage to learn more).
For a couple who want a Partnership Marriage, the adventure of building a business together can increase communication, deepen intimacy, and give a greater sense of shared purpose, which is super fulfilling! But, for a couple who really enjoy doing their own things, and enjoy supporting each other in that, building a business together could be terribly frustrating.
Also, not everyone is interested in the particular endeavor that we call “entrepreneurial spirit”, and prefer to have a job and a dependable paycheck. That is totally awesome, and if you’re that person, you’re probably not reading this blog post anyway.
2. Find Your Why
What is your shared passion?
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Just a few years ago, a couple of moms decided they wanted more energy to fuel their days, and started experimenting with their blenders to create super healthy, nutrient-packed, green smoothies. They began to feel better and lose weight, and as they did, others wanted to know how they were doing it. Simplegreensmoothies.com was born and is now a million dollar company.
The second step in our process asks you to dig deep and brainstorm what you think your purpose down here together might be. What is it that gets you both out of bed in the morning? What are you great at?
Building something that’s important to you is a huge part of building a life together. Yes, you could sell junk vitamins online and make big cash dollars, but we don’t anticipate that will draw you together in a closer relationship, or change anyone’s life for the better.
3. Plan Your End Goal or Outcome
Where do you want to be in five years?
The advice columnist, Ann Landers, once replied to someone who was considering going to medical school, but was lamenting the six additional years of education it would take to get there. Her response spoke volumes:
“And what will you be doing six years from now if you don’t go to medical school?”
Define your dream lifestyle. You may want to be home with your children, or be a suitcase entrepreneur or digital nomad. You may need a more flexible professional lifestyle because of health issues. Whatever the life you’re dreaming about, you’ll need to set some goals to achieve it.
We like starting with the question, “Where do you want to be in five years,” because it forces the realization that five years are going to pass by, whether we like it or not, and what your life looks like at the end of those years is more in your control than most people are willing to admit.
4. Build Your Product or Service
What can you create using your unique combined skills?
“When you’re good at something, you’ll tell everyone. When you great at something, they’ll tell you.”
Because everyone (and every couple) is unique. For example, do you want to help people:
- learn a new language
- throw a great party
- learn the basics of how to get a specific certification?
If you hear from others that you are great at something, you have a basis for starting an online business. Just like the green smoothie ladies, you can take what you’re good at, and share it with others.
Another question to ask as you’re brainstorming is, “What group of people do I care about and want to serve?” Can you solve a problem for them? Is it a problem people have nationally? Internationally?
5. Sell Your Product or Service
Do you have a roadmap to find your tribe?
“The best marketing strategy ever: CARE.”
You may have a fantastic product or service you know people are going to want, but without a plan to get it in front of them, it’s going nowhere. Coming up with a marketing strategy is just as much a part of the process as creating the product or service itself.
Fortunately, the internet has changed everything. When you’re offering a meaningful, quality, and authentic product or service, both search and social media will be happy to help you attract your audience.
Search engines, (lets just say Google), have become so intelligent they can quickly display the best content to help us with our problems and desires.
Social media, (like the 800lb gorilla, Facebook), can attract and engage us with solutions we didn’t know existed – as well as help build trust with peer reviews and recommendations.
Both search and social media are rapidly changing how companies connect with their audience. It has given birth to a new way of approaching potential customers called inbound marketing. This is a huge subject to cover, but to summarize:
- Interrupting people with marketing is annoying and is on it’s way out
- Asking permission to share useful or entertaining information is in
- Businesses with meaningful missions are killing it
- And, knowing your customer, and how to connect with them, is critical
If you want to know more visit our Inbound Marketing page at Redbarn.
6. Create Efficient Systems
What is your plan for managing and running your business?
“If you’re too busy to build good systems, then you’ll always be too busy.”
Having the right systems in place is critical, and the tools available for running your business are becoming more easy to use and better designed every day. If you’ve been wondering where all the jobs are going, look online: cloud-based accounting software, downloadable legal documents and advice, fully automated customer management tools are all making it more difficult to make a living as an accountant, lawyer, or manager, but much easier to become an entrepreneur.
We’ve researched and use a number of these online systems, and have some recommendations. We would also love to learn more from our tribe about what’s working, and what isn’t in various situations and industries. We’ll be creating and adding to our resources page as we go.
In addition to the technological considerations, we’ll be interviewing couples who are finding success working together, and will be asking them what works, and what doesn’t, both in the business systems they’ve come up with to keep things running, as well as how they approach the decisions about who is going to wear what hat each day. As a couple working together, “who’s going to pick up the kids from school” is added to the list of daily operational goals. We’re looking forward to hearing how other successful couples get the job done.