The ‘Business As Life’ Metaphor

Marriage counseling techniques applied to working with business partners. Choosing investors like choosing a spouse. Building a business is like raising a child (as in The ParentPreneur Edge). Or like coaching a soccer team.

Interesting metaphor, and it seems to work; but is there a surprise there? Did we think building a business wouldn’t be a lot like life?

This is from the Nov. 29 New York Times story Like Marriage, Business Takes Work, written by Marci Alboher:

Whether they call themselves coaches, consultants, trainers or therapists, those who work with business partners describe their work in much the same way marriage counselors do. They say that working on a partner relationship goes a long way toward creating a successful business marriage. And while many advisers have been quietly counseling business partners for years, the partners are talking more openly now about the work they do to stay together.

“Partnerships have such high failure rates,” said Kathi Elster, who with Katherine Crowley runs the consulting firm K Squared Enterprises and is co-author of the book, “Working With You Is Killing Me.” “We like to work with them before they go into partnership to make sure they should be doing it. Many people partner because they don’t want to do it alone, and that’s just not a good enough reason.”

And the following is from my June post here, about choosing investors:

It should be obvious, but we focus on getting financed, as if money were the only object. Investors are partners. As with marriage, in which the wrong partners can ruin your life, so too with investors. The wrong partner can ruin your business. That can also ruin your life.

I’m guessing that it’s a surprise because we wrap business up in the mystique of business analysis: strategy, focus, differentiation, intellectual property, the value proposition, and on and on. And all of that can be useful in its place, some of it is essential at the core, but it makes it too easy to forget the fundamentals.

Repeat: the business analysis makes it too easy to forget the fundamentals, like giving value to your customers, being fair with your team, communicating well, all of that which we’d call the stuff of life.


  • Julie Lenzer Kirk says:

    Tim – you are SO right! Business is so much about relationships regardless of how you characterize it. SO many people are afraid to integrate the two and put up strong barriers between them. But since work takes up such a large percentage of our life, doesn't it make sense to leverage as much of the skills from one into the other? Why recreate the wheel every time?

    Thanks for sharing your practical insights (and for the book mention :-))

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *