The secret to staying married while building a successful business

The secret to staying married while building a successful business

From psychologist and co-founder and CEO of AFR Fast 100 company, Pragmatic Thinking.

BY Alison Hill, 7 min READ

Building a fast-growth business is hard. Really hard.

Staying married, despite what it’s like in the loved-up haze around the wedding day, requires effort. A. Lot. Of. Effort. So combining the two, well that’s either a recipe for lunacy or the greatest self-development course you can ever undertake.

When I started my career as a psychologist I didn’t picture myself being a business owner, let alone being the CEO of a fast-growth business (our business Pragmatic Thinking was named #33 on the Australian Financial Review Fast 100 list in 2017) with up to 15 staff and signs of big growth ahead of us. It wasn’t part of a ‘life-plan’, there was no vision-board that captured even a glimmer of this path, I think the best I had was a hope that one day I wouldn’t have to fill out time-sheets (yep the big stuff right).

So when my husband and I started our business over 10 years ago it was a complete leap of faith. We knew that we were going to need to figure it out along the way. In so many ways we were not only figuring out how to build a business we were also figuring out how we worked together. It’s been the commitment to ‘let’s figure it out’ along the way that’s been a big part of our ability to build a fast-growth business and still stay married (and keep two kids alive along the way).

Through this figuring out (which is a life-time pursuit) there are five key lessons that have served us well as we build a successful business and still stay married:

Lesson #1: Be each others biggest fans

Amongst the busyness of business we often take the people we love the most for granted. We give our energy to our clients, to our team, and come home cranky and snappy. Well at least I can. It’s been a conscious decision for both of us to be public in how much we are fans of each other. The way we talk about each other, how we celebrate each other on social media, to how we focus on what’s great about the other person (even if they’ve annoyed the crap out of us that day). Our friends are sick of seeing it on social media, but our marriage (and to be honest our business) has reaped the benefits of this lesson.

Lesson #2: Invest in personal growth

Business will challenge you personally every day. As a business owner if you’re not growing personally, then the business quickly becomes stagnant. But the personal growth may not happen at the same time or at the same pace for you and your spouse. You don’t always have to do this together. The lesson we’ve learnt is how important it is for both of us to make the time to invest in our own personal growth, and to know that the other person is growing at a pace that is useful for them and that’s okay.

Lesson #3: Prioritise your own health

This lesson sounds counter-intuitive to a conversation about how to grow a successful business and commit to an amazing marriage. When the business is all-consuming and the travel is crazy health not only takes a back-seat, it’s completely left behind. Bottom line is you’re a better partner after a good nights sleep and a health dose of probiotics.

Lesson #4: Learn to say no

When success feels like it’s relying on you it’s natural to put your hand up for everything. Because really no-one does it as well as what you could do anyway. It does mean that you never ‘turn off’ from the business world. It’s the ability to be protective of our time, to say ‘no’, to outsource as much as we can that has made all the difference to both our business and our marriage.

Lesson #5: Love is the bottom line

Really early on in our business growth we talked about our fears of the business coming between our relationship. Together we created this mantra that ‘love is the bottom line’. For us this means that if there’s ever a time that the business pressures impacts significantly on our relationship we would shut the business down. It’s not to say there aren’t moments of strain, but if a seismic crack appeared our marriage takes priority. This has been such a powerful mantra for us that it’s now become one of our company values. For our entire team love really is the bottom line.

Alison Hill is Business Chicks Premium member, psychologist and co-founder and CEO of AFR Fast 100 company, Pragmatic Thinking. She is the best-selling co-author of Dealing with the Tough Stuff and Stand Out: A real world guide to get clear, find purpose and become the boss of busy, and host/producer of podcast series, Stand Out Life.

Connect with her here.


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