Essential Qualities of an Entrepreneur: Relationships

I hope everyone is having a good holiday season and looking forward to the New Year. Seems like this time of year, you can't avoid the holiday time nostalgia and cheer. Warm images of families enjoying time together, kids with huge smiles playing with new toys, chestnuts roasting on open fires, and wonderful decorations and food are everywhere.

Not that any of that is a bad thing, but if you're like most people, you know that the reality of the holidays rarely lives up to the nostalgia and cheer of the holidays as depicted in movies, television, and popular culture.

These are stressful times for most. The shopping, the crowds, the travel—the cost...all of these things add up to a holiday that is usually much less ideal than the perfect pictures conjured in our heads.

Each year, it seems there's also no end of those who want to remind of us of the reason for the season—family, friends, and giving. It's always a good reminder and counterpoint to the mad scramble for the latest gadget or toy that will eventually end up on a basement storage or a garage sale.

But even this doesn't always live up to the ideal. After all, for most people there are those "friends" and family we'd rather not see during the holidays, and there's probably the opposite too—friends and family we'd love to see but are unable to see for any number of reasons.

Anyone who's had to sit and suffer through a conversation with a crazy uncle during a holiday dinner knows that relationships are important—they can give life and they can drain it. Even worse, those who have horrible family relationships and have suffered through fights and arguments at the holidays know how bad relationships can ruin even the best of times and turn the holidays from a time of nostalgia to a dreaded nightmare.

In business, it's the same.

In life, we don't get to choose our family. For better or for worse, we're stuck with them, and we try to make the best of it. But in business, you have the fortunate option to choose with whom you will be in relationship—and choosing good partners in business is one of the most important decisions an entrepreneur will ever make.

More than anything, a partner in business is like a spouse in a marriage. You want to choose someone you enjoy, who makes you better, and who comes into the relationship willing to give more than he or she takes (you should have the same mindset, too).

If you've been a part of a good marriage, you know what a healthy marriage can do for a household. It flourishes. The kids are happy and well-adjusted, the house is in order, great memories are made, and life seems complete.

Conversely, if you've been part of a bad marriage, you know what a sick marriage can do to a household. It falls apart. The kids suffer and act out in negative ways, the house falls apart as partners in life argue over who is responsible for what, horrible memories that you'd just as soon forget are made, and life seems incomplete.

In a business, a good relationship helps a company flourish much like a good marriage helps a household flourish. And a bad relationship causes a company to suffer, much like a bad marriage causes a household to suffer. In a bad marriage, the kids suffer. In a bad business relationship, the employees suffer. In both, it becomes impossible to build success going forward until the relationship is fixed or severed. Even worse, if you were successful in business and a relationship turns bad, just like in a marriage, the alimony can be costly.

If you're planning on being an entrepreneur, you must learn the essential quality of picking good relationships for your business. Much like good marriages, this means being a good partner and finding a good partner. This means spending much time in self-reflection and much time in getting to know the people whom you will call your friends in business. As with marriage, there is no need to rush.

At the end of the day, you can't have a good business if you have bad partners. Conversely, you can't build a great business without good partners. As my rich dad always said, "Business and investing are team sports." Going further, I'd say one of your most important investments is your relationships, both in life and in business. Take the time to get them right.

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