There are many things that affect the lifespan of relationships and businesses. We all have had many different friendships and a number of us have been in business for a good number of years or been able to observe businesses. In any relationship, be it a marriage or friendship, or any business where there are partners, the health of those relationships typically ebbs and flows based on one thing. There is one thing that leads to the typical growth and continued development of a marriage or friendship or partnership in business. We all have disagreements, conflicts, and even arguments. But it isn’t the disagreement or argument that is the problem. Those things are simply “symptoms” of very common underlying disease. And that disease is “selfishness”. For me, and I think for most all of us, selfishness is an inherent characteristic we all have, and some choose to work on more than others.
Yesterday we had a meeting with an individual from a business discussing some details of some expansion work we are getting ready to embark on. As the conversation continued, I did as I usually do when I don’t really know someone, I “dig deeper” looking to find out just who they are, where they are from, and a little bit of their “story”. And as we talked, I found out this individual wasn’t just a sales rep for this company, but he is one of 5 owners of a family-owned business, that is in its 4th generation, of which he is in the 4rth generation, along with one sibling and 3 other cousins.
Now, if you know anything about business, there are several aspects of this conversation on this family business that just blow me away! First, this business is in its 4rth generation, of which there are less than 1% of current businesses today that are in their 4rth generation of family ownership. The second aspect is, this gentleman is one partner, with 4 other partners, one being a sibling, and 3 others being cousins. Knowing what you all know, this is just truly amazing! And for me, I began mining him for more information about “how have you all done this?!” Our conversation wasn’t long enough, as I asked him if we could visit with him and all his partners to ask them questions and learn more. But there were two things he said as to reasons why and how they made it this far.
#1, their parents and their parent’s parents have been very intentional about keeping it a family business and utilizing tools and resources to help maintain and grow the business for the whole family.
#2, he said, “We often get to thinking about ourselves, and what I need or what I want, or how I want something to go, but we have to sit back and think about what is best for the business.”
I dug a little deeper with him, to see about his “reading knowledge” as well, and I could tell him and likely his other family business partners are well-read on business as he had read one of the best books on the longevity of businesses called “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. These two key aspects of the intentionality of “working on the business” not just working in the business, and doing what is best for the business and not the individuals are two key aspects that if not done, create failure of marriage or friendship relationships, or partnerships.
For marriage or friendships or partnerships, we must be intentional about taking the time to “work on the relationship and business”, not just live in the day to day moment of the relationship or business. And we must have an attitude of “it’s not about me and what I want or you and what you want, but it’s about what is best for the marriage, friendship, or business.” The moment you deflect to what “you need”, that means the other side is “giving”, and one can only give so long before they need you to “give”. If you don’t “give”, the other suffers. And if one suffers long enough, they “die” or move on. A selfless humble attitude, such as what this gentleman possessed from the time he entered our building, as it just oozed from his body and mannerisms if the lifeblood of any relationship or partnership in business. Make it part of the fabric of your DNA!
True greatness comes in direct proportion to a passionate pursuit of a purpose far greater than ourselves, our personal needs, or any amount of money.