Updated: Aug 29
When I first stayed my agency with my partners, the agreement was to split the company 3 ways. We’d each get 33%, which in all of our minds meant that we’d each put in equal parts work.
Seems fair, right?
The problem is that we each have a different definition of work and value, therefore there is no equal scale to evaluate sweat equity work put in.
This expectation isn’t real, and it led to many disappointments and struggles in my business partnership.
When we experience disappointment in business and it’s no one’s fault (such as a hurricane or loss of contract due to a client closing their business), we generally get upset and figure out how to move on.
It’s the disappointments that point back to our unrealistic expectations for each other that tend to be stickier.
These hard-to-shake disappointments can sometimes be described as disordered attachments—misplaced desires that compete with God for our heart. By following the thread that runs through our disappointments and our persistent anger, we can uncover their origin.
My business partners and I have had our share of sticky disappointments; that’s part of what broke us up in 2013. When we got together to create our agency, naïve optimism overshadowed the reality that one of them was ambivalent if we grew or not, the other had a very short fuse, and neither liked doing the sales. That same optimism obscured the reality that I struggle to need them, I am too quick to judge, and prefer doing the selling!
These partnership speed bumps were definitely not marked with fluorescent orange paint or signage of any sort. After we twisted and turned and experienced whiplash on the roller-coaster of entrepreneurship more times than I care to admit, it began to dawn on me that perhaps I needed to find a more productive, less destructive path through my disappointments.
I asked probing questions such as,
What if rather than blaming each other for our disappointments, I confessed my failures and owned my areas of weakness?
What if I looked at the disappointments to discern if they revealed any egocentric expectations, disordered attachments, or misplaced hopes?
Once I stopped avoiding these seemingly problematic feelings and started investigating them, something shifted.
We’ve all been to weddings and heard 1 Corinthians 13 over and over. Did you know that this verse was not written for husband’s and wives. It’s for all of us.
You love your business partner, right? I do. Not the same love as my wife, but brotherly love.
Now read this verse with them in mind:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT
Again, this verse was written for all of us. We just have been acclimated to attach it to married couples.
Rather than continuing to blame my partners for my disappointment, I started asking God to help me do three things:
repent of any unfair expectations
appreciate my partner’s strengths, and
develop reality-based expectations.
Of these three objectives, developing reality-based expectations has been the most difficult. My unrealistic expectation of everyone working equal amounts died a slow death because I clung on to it. Clinging is a form of denial that masquerades as hope. We persist in clinging because it gives us something to hold on to and allows us to sidestep the hard work of changing what we have control over: ourselves.
You are learning to let go of your unrealistic expectations by choosing an internal posture of holy resignation. Practically speaking, holy resignation means accepting and loving your business partners without demanding that he or she change, resisting the vortex of despair and blame, and standing in faith that God will complete a good work in the business—regardless of current circumstances.
Imagine if everyone in the partnership had this holy resignation? Businesses that we do business with would produce a great experience because there would be this culture of love and respect that would start at the top, permeate through the employees, and make it down to me and you – the consumer.
Finding Purpose In Your Business Partnership
You and your business partner are unique individuals and God is creative in the way He wants to use both of your gifts together.
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