Is marriage like running a business?

Leonard (Linky) Jensen I (1887-1979) at the wedding of Daisy Jensen (1892-1986) and Francis (Frank) Joseph Woods (1891-1972) in 1918 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois.

“A successful marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt every day”
Andre Maurois – French author

Today is a very important day for me. It is my 30th wedding anniversary – a time for great celebration and reflection. I am truly blessed having shared the past 30 years with my wonderful wife in a great marriage with all its joys and challenges.

Can lessons can be learned from a great marriage that can be applied to managing a successful business?

Yes, there are many………

Here are just three lessons from a successful marriage that can be applied to business.

Lesson 1: Communication

Continuous two way frank and honest communication is the hallmark of a successful marriage. Problems can be aired, solved constructively and the future discussed. It is the same in business – communication with staff, between departments and with customers provide the mechanics of a successful business. Goals and successes can be shared and problems solved. Communication is about caring and sharing. Customers and staff do not want to be left ‘in the dark’. Two-way continuous communication helps ensure staff and customers feel valued and are committed to you and the organisation. Too often we become complacent and fail to communicate regularly. I can remember some years ago a situation where I increased the rates to a customer without communicating the reasons. They immediately sought competitive proposals and then advised us they wanted to leave. Luckily our Operations Manager was able to remedy the situation by discussing the reasons for the increase only to find that the order and customer profile had changed significantly and the rate schedule was now no longer suitable. Frank two way communication had not occurred, we did not know the profile had changed and we had not advised the reasons for the increase. It was a lesson learned.

Lesson 2: Commitment

Any relationship or partnership is not all smooth sailing, whether it is managing a business or a marriage. For example, challenges are thrown up on the marriage journey that must be faced. Many are outside our control. Reflecting on the past 30 years of our marriage we had to face the challenges along the way. Whether the challenges were family issues or geographic isolation from family and friends, we were committed to making it a success. The same can be said for businesses. If you are committed in managing a business effectively or growing a business you need to meet the challenges as they emerge. Often in business we face crises that could destroy the business. I can remember a situation when a customer owed us over $350,000 and claimed they could not pay. If they failed to pay, our business would probably have been destroyed. Luckily through commitment in enforcing a payment plan we were able to get the money owed and save the business.

Lesson 3: Celebration

Too often we do not celebrate what is important, whether in business or in a marriage. Celebrating our marriage success such as anniversaries or milestones.

Business is no different. Looking back in our business we rarely celebrated successes such as winning a new contract. Later we found out that staff wanted to know our success and suggested we should celebrate with a BBQ or luncheon. However we did recognise staff service and made a big deal about its importance. Our business had staff that had been with us from the beginning and were still there 15 years later. We celebrated this by presenting awards and a gift at our annual management conference.

As the quote from Andre Maurois suggests success in marriage is about continuously rebuilding. The same goes for managing a successful business.

Communication, Commitment and Celebration is a good start. Complacency leads to stagnation and more often than not, failure.

What are your plans to continuing improve your organisation and business?

Measuring

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“What gets measured gets done” – Peter Drucker

This is a great quote for business or life, if you want to achieve your objectives or improve performance. As the saying goes “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”.

In business this means all areas from people, processes to performance. However in business it is important to identify the main ‘things’ that will ensure your business’ success. These are often called Key Performance Indicators – KPIs for those that wish to use 3 letter acronyms. I shy away from using so called management jargon as it is often pretentious, arrogant and only serves to complicate simple processes, ideas and concepts.

The identification of KPIs that drive the success of your business should not exceed 3 to 5 measures or benchmarks otherwise it becomes too complicated and difficult to maintain. KPIs need to be SMART :

  1. SPECIFIC – must be clear and concise so that everybody understands it
  2. MEASURABLE – must be based on performance or behaviour that can be measured objectively
  3. ACHEIVABLE – must be attainable and what is required
  4. REALISTIC – must be a goal that can be realistically achieved and should represent significant progress from the status quo
  5. TIMELY – a goal must have time line to be achieved (e.g. by a certain date)

If we use a transport business for example, a KPI could be the number of kilometres travelled per truck per week to ensure an acceptable return on investment. It could look something like this :

By 30th June, the average kilometres travelled per week must be 8,000 kilometres per week. Currently the average is 5,000 kilometres per week.

  1. SPECIFIC – 8,000 kilometres per week
  2. MEASURABLE – kilometres per week is measurable objectively on a weekly basis
  3. ACHEIVABLE – 8,000 kilometres per week is achievable if the truck works 2 shifts per day and/or 6 days per week
  4. REALISTIC – it is realistic and is greater than the status quo of 5,000 kilometres per week
  5. TIMELY – must be achieved by 30th June

By implementing this KPI, performance can be measured on a weekly basis and compared week by week. The weekly KPI can be used to implement a plan of action to achieve the required objectives.

In conclusion, using SMART indicators your business objectives can be achieved providing you act on the KPIs to ensure you meet the required objectives. With no objective measurement system in place and no management then the status quo will remain and more than likely performance will deteriorate. So determine the key drivers of your business, start measuring them so you can improve your business’ performance.