There is no formula for building successful companies. Having said that, there are things you can do to increase your chances of success. Interestingly, a good marriage can teach you a lot about entrepreneurship for better or worse.
Here are some lessons to learn from marriage for building a successful company:
Open yourself up to criticism.
No one likes to be criticized, but to be a successful entrepreneur, you need to be able to accept critical feedback when it comes. In fact, receiving constructive criticism could be a real catalyst for the success of your company and, obviously, your marriage. When an experienced entrepreneur offers you guidance and tells you that you are trying to address a market the wrong way, or that your product does not have enough demand in its current iteration, the last thing you want to do is ignore that advice.
In fact, as an entrepreneur, the worst thing is to be surrounded by yes-men who will validate everything you say and never confront you to tell you that you are doing things wrong. Not only should you not be afraid of criticism, you should also seek it out, as long as it's constructive.
Be honest with yourself and those around you.
This is crucial. Transparency is the foundation of a good relationship and a good team dynamic. Some of the most successful companies out there have embraced extreme transparency and there is a reason that public companies have to expose all their numbers and economics.
A marriage with secrets is a marriage that cannot last unless those secrets are revealed and confronted. The same goes for a company and how the management involves the team in its challenges without sweeping anything under the rug.
Actions speak louder than words.
When is comes to building sustainable companies, all the hyperbole in the world, and all the vanity metrics you can pull out of your bag, won't make a real difference in moving the needle. The best companies spend less time talking and more time doing.
In a marriage, your actions need to match or exceed your words, and that is the case for building successful companies as well.
Positive reinforcement is crucial.
While criticism is important, positive reinforcement is paramount to the success of a marriage and a company. It is easy to always complain and acknowledge the negative aspects of a marriage or a team, but when things are good, it is incredibly important to recognize that too. Otherwise, your spouse or team feels like they are always under attack and that you are always negative.
Finding the balance between constructive criticism and positive reinforcement is what makes a great leader.
Learn how to get up when you fall.
I can safely say that there has never been a marriage without challenges in the history of mankind and that is true for companies as well. There will always be hardships, sometimes extreme ones, but the way to overcome them is to embrace the failure, learn the lesson, dust yourself off, and get up a stronger leader and better spouse.
The right way to look at failure is as a gift you were given to learn lessons and improve. If you stay down, that is when marriages and companies fail.
The work never stops but the reward is great.
I know this is somewhat cliche, but the work never stops in a good marriage and the same is true for building a company. I once heard the analogy to a bicycle. In life, when things are rough, you know you are going uphill. When things are too easy, make sure it's not because you are going downhill. Most importantly. never stand still because you will fall. The work never ends. There are no shortcuts and the work needs to be done thoroughly and professionally in order to increase your chances of long term success.