How to Work With the One You Love

love in businessEvery week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with the creators of @grownzone. Alfred A. Edmond Jr. @Alfrededmondjr and Zara D. Green @Zaragreen are the authors of Loving in the Grown Zone: A No-Nonsense Guide to Making Healthy Decisions in the Quest for Loving, Romantic Relationships of Honor, Esteem and Respect (Balboa Press), are co-principals of A2Z Personal Growth Enterprises, producer of The Grown Zone discussion series, which focuses on key themes popularized via their respective social media platforms, as where the couple jointly leads sessions on personal growth, self-love and healthy relationships. For more info, visit grownzone

SmallBizLady:  As the co-principals of your media business and partners in life and love. How did it get started?

Grown Zone: We were both pursuing professional lives focused on helping people make better decisions. Zara was established as a speaker and trainer who’d developed a system to help people to better understand themselves and relate to others. Alfred was a small business, leadership and personal finance expert at Black Enterprise, focused on helping people become empowered financially. We first became acquainted on Twitter in 2008, and a year later met at a Tweet-up hosted by Zara for Alfred in her native New Orleans in September 2009. We began a long-distance relationship a couple of months later, until 2010, when Zara relocated to New York. Two years later, A2Z Personal Growth was founded with the launch of the Grown Zone.

SmallBizLady: What is the Grown Zone?

Grown Zone: The Grown Zone, a multimedia initiative targeting Gen Xers and adult Millennials, focused on teaching the difference between adult choices and healthy, “Grown” decisions. The Grown Zone is committed to helping people gain “success without the mess” in love, family, health, and money, by committing to self-love, better decisions and healthier relationships. We’ve also written our first book together, Loving in the Grown Zone: A No-Nonsense Guide to Making Better Decisions in the Quest for Loving Romantic Relationships of Honor, Esteem and Respect, with Balboa Press.

SmallBizLady:  What are the keys to success as partners in love and in business?

Grown Zone:  We rely heavily on the principles of the GrownZone, which defines all healthy relationships as those, which bring H.E.R., honor, esteem & respect. If the underlying relationship between the partners is unhealthy, it is a poor foundation to build upon, whether you’re talking about a business or a marriage.

SmallBizLady:  How does your partnership work? How are decisions made in the business?

Grown Zone: First, ours is a partnership of equals, between two people with shared values and a commitment to each other. Second, we honor each other’s strengths and trust each other even when we don’t agree. We complement each other. We each have our own credibility, credentials and different, but complementary, influential networks. Zara runs hot, with a sense of urgency needed in business; Alfred runs cool and brings patient, strategic decision-making. Alfred has spent his career as a student and expert observer of entrepreneurial best practices, Zara has the most operational experience as an actual entrepreneur. It just works for us. Running our business together is very much like dancing, with either of us being comfortable with the other taking the lead, while enjoying each other in the process.

SmallBizLady: How do you resolve conflict, whether in your business or your relationship?

Grown Zone: First, we remember that the relationship can survive without the business, but our business partnership can’t survive without a healthy relationship. When things get difficult, we don’t turn on each other, but to each other. Conflict and adversity draw us together, not split us apart. We don’t punish each other when one or both of us make a decision that is a mistake. When all is said and done, we love each other. If we fail to honor that, our business loses its value and meaning. Our commitment to each other anchors us when dealing with conflict and adversity.

SmallBizLady:  Still, there are lots of horror stories about businesses that fail because of conflict between co-owners who are romantically involved. How do you avoid that?

Grown Zone: The difference between partnerships that work and those that don’t is the health of the underlying relationship. What brought the two partners together? If it was sexual chemistry, social status or money, what we call attractors, the relationship and business partnership is at risk whenever those things change or are threatened. All it takes to destroy a business tied to an unhealthy relationship is hiring a sexy, young manager, or a couple of bad financial quarters. If a relationship is built on what we call sustainers–respect, fidelity, compassion, and acceptance–it will be resilient, and so will any business partnership associated with it.

SmallBizLady:  How can a couple assess whether they have what it takes to sustain partnerships in both romance and business?

Grown Zone: Anyone who is considering working with their partner or spouse should ask the key question: Do you know who this person is? Not just what they are. WHO they are.

Examples of what a person is could include: Ivy League MBA, former fashion model, charming and persuasive, member of a prominent family, impeccably groomed, etc.
None of this tells you WHO this person is, though they might be attractive characteristics in a potential business partner.

Ask yourself is the person trustworthy? How do they handle money? How do they deal with pressure and adversity? Are they sexist or racist? Verbally abusive? Controlling? These are clues to WHO a person is.

The WHATs are either readily apparent or easily faked. But WHO a person is can only be discovered with time and observation.

You shouldn’t consider any kind of partnership, business or romantic, with a person who resists or resents your efforts to get to know who they really are. At Grown Zone, we outline 13 things you should know about a person before you allow access to your body, money, heart or home. They include relationship status, income sources, and financial/credit history. It’s also a great checklist for potential business partners.

If you don’t know–or if your love interest won’t share–this information, your business partnership or your relationship could result in emotional and financial disaster.

SmallBizLady:  This doesn’t sound very romantic. Isn’t this a lot to ask of a potential love interest or business partner?

Grown Zone: What you have to accept is that a business partnership is just as much an act of intimacy as a romantic relationship. Also, a business partnership is a contractual commitment just as a marriage is. The time to negotiate terms and expectations is before you commit. You would do due diligence on each other before establishing a partnership if you weren’t romantically involved; that shouldn’t change because you’re in love. Both business partnerships and romantic relationships require due diligence on the part of both parties, before you co-mingle finances and become legally bonded to each other. The break-up of a business partnership can be just as financially and emotionally costly as a divorce. Imagine going through both at the same time?

SmallBizLady: Why would a couple in love even risk going into business together?

Grown Zone: If the underlying relationship is a healthy one of honor, esteem and respect, there are all kinds of advantages to partnering in business with your spouse or significant other.

First, working together toward common goals is an incredibly, romantic bonding experience. The pride of building a successful business together is very much like that of raising a child–one that can bring income, not just expenses!

When you’re in business together, you avoid the drama of the resentful spouse who sees your business as competing for resources and attention.

When you’re in business with the one you love, your joys are doubled and your sorrows are halved. You have great celebrations in victory and a source of hope and encouragement in the face of setbacks. You avoid the loneliness and isolation that most entrepreneurs have to deal with at one time or another. Plus, you get to kiss!

SmallBizLady:  Who are the positive examples that inspire you as loving couples in business?

Grown Zone: We have a great relationship with Ronnie and Lamar Tyler of Tyler New Media, who have done amazing things with their Black and Married With Kids brand platform. Then there’s Mell Monroe and his wife Angie, who co-own the Welcome Inn Manor, an amazing bed and breakfast inn in Chicago. Of course, Alfred has a legendary example of enduring love and partnership between Black Enterprise Founder Earl Graves Sr. and his wife Barbara, who passed away a few years ago.

SmallBizLady:  What has been the most important factor in your ability to share both love and a business together?

Grown Zone: What really keeps us focused is knowing that we are not only co-owners of our business, but we are a living example of what we are marketing. We are healthy, loving relationship champions. We are also transparent about our relationship choices before we were grown, and the four divorces we experienced as a result. We are living proof that your past doesn’t determine your future, and that better is always possible, which is a source of hope to many. Lots of people will tell you how to find a relationship; we are showing people how to build and sustain a healthy one.

SmallBizLady:  What is a motto you think all partner couples should consider adopting?

Grown Zone: Our love comes first, no matter what happens in business.

“Love In The Business” courtesy of patrisyu / www.freedigitalphotos.net

If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter. Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz

For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.

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