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Grow your relationships and business through effective communication

Posted by : Lisa Clark

As you go through the stressors of a startup, promises to some of our most important relationships can become quickly sidelined, eroding that trust. Knowing that we all can easily become victims of stress, we need a clear understanding of our mutual compatibility with our partners from the outset.

Beginning a startup with a partner is not wholly unlike a marriage. In both you learn to merge and manage your lives together, you go through emotional and financial highs and lows together, and you are often the main support pillar for your partner through many hurdles. It’s tough, and maintaining the relationship takes a lot of determination and even more effective communication.

At Seedzi, we believe that communication is more a skill than a talent. As a skill, it takes a lot of practice, a willingness to learn, and it grows over a lifetime. Self reflection and analysis is vital for learning effective communication, as well as challenging yourself to try new techniques. Practicing and growing this skill will only benefit you and your co-founders from improving your relationships to increasing your likelihood of startup success.

The foundation of strong communication in personal or close working relationships is trust, and one of the quickest ways to build trust is through kept promises. But as you go through the stressors of a startup, promises to some of our most important relationships can become quickly sidelined, eroding that trust. Knowing that we all can easily become victims of stress, we need a clear understanding of our mutual compatibility with our partners from the outset. Consider some of the same ideas when identifying a life partner as when finding a co-founder:

  • What are your goals and will the relationship help you get there? If one person wants children and the other wants independence, the relationship may be doomed. The same goes for if one person wants to build and sell the company versus the other wanting to building a long-term brand.
  • What are your values? If one person wants to live in the city for the action and the other in the country for the solitude, it may not work. In starting a company, try to align your core values, the core tenants of what you will build the company on – if one partner values environmental production while the other puts a greater emphasis on cost control, you may want to re-think working together.
  • How do you handle conflict? If during a heated moment, one partner prefers introspection and the other partner wants to talk about it, it may cause both parties unnecessary stress and a rapidly dissolve constructive communication.
  • Is the relationship for the long-term? Not every personal relationship is built on the long-term, and the same can go for founding partners. Not everyone has to stick it out, and being clear about each person’s intent from the beginning can allay future negative feelings.

Knowing each founder’s values, goals of the relationship, and working-style from the start can help you both through moments of stress. At the minimum, you will each know that you are both driven towards goals that you both want in a manner you both approve of. While using a strategic method to create the foundations of the relationship takes effort, maintenance is where the real work happens.

Sustaining relationships takes a mutual commitment to consistently communicate. Relationships that seek to grow in communication style and effort can reach those rare heights of long-term and happy connections. At Seedzi, we recommend practicing the following for communication growth:

Listen. But don’t just listen, actively listen.

By focusing our efforts on hearing our partners, we help validate their feelings and their work, and reinforce their trust and satisfaction in the relationship. To actively listen, put away any distractions, ignore the urge to use quick responses and quips, let the other person talk for as long as they need without interruption, and try always remain present in the moment. Sometimes we are stuck in a position where we do not feel like listening, yet know that the effort to ignore our discontent pays off. In these moments, we encourage candidates to maintain eye contact but to turn internally and think about your breath (or any body part, really). By doing this, you will appear present to the other person even if you are in a highly distractible mood. This is most important if the person has said something offensive to us, and by controlling our emotions through our breath, we maintain control over the situation and decrease the chances of communication breakdown.

Understand the situation.

As humans, we are remarkably fast at judging situations and people, especially of those closest to us where niceties often become sparse. If you become frustrated with your founding partner, try to understand their situation instead of viewing their actions as a personal affront. By understanding their perspective and reframing the frustration as out of the other person’s control, we can continue to build constructive communication with them.

Become familiar with their communication style and know your own.

Our messages are only as good as they are received and understood. In a partnership, you should try to understand if your partner reads long emails, or if they overanalyze every written word. Try to know whether many texts are considered an annoyance or are helpful. Know if they hate excessive use of exclamation marks or if they want all of their emails in bold font. Meet your partner at their level and clearly communicate how you prefer to be communicated with. Also understand that as technology changes and your personal growth journey continues, both party’s communication preferences will change as well.

Find the time to talk.

Life as a startup founder is undoubtedly hectic, and work talk can easily predominate all conversation between founding partners. No matter how hectic it gets, schedule regular meetings with your partner to check in. In these meetings, discuss your company’s goals and values and how the business is moving forward with these. Try to talk about your feelings around the business – what are each of your fears and how do you help each other get through them, are there stressors external of work that are affecting their performance, do you both still feel invigorated with the direction you are going. Bringing as many concerns to the table builds trust through showing humility and vulnerability, while creating stronger communication ties between the partners.

Starting a company is not easy, so working to improve one of the strongest foundation pieces – your partnership – will only work to help you both achieve your business goals. If the founders are truly committed to seeing their business come to life, then they have to be fully committed to making their relationship work. This work won’t just pay off in those relationships, but many more to come.

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