As Mr. Parker likes to say, words matter. I spent my career in Big Advertising creative departments. When talking about work done for a client, I’m trained to always say, “we” and not “I” or “you.” Yes, I may have developed an idea. But without the other team members, there’s no way I would’ve gotten to the finish line. One idea leads to another, which leads to another, until it all snowballs into the win. So, “we” win. But “I” never do.
A while back, Mr. Parker and I were collaborating with Ben, our 13-year-old nephew, on an entrepreneurial effort he developed. He mentioned an idea we’d been working together. He said, “I came up with that.” We explained the use of “we” versus “I.” He understood immediately. Sometime later, his father told me he was referring to something he was doing on the project, and used the pronoun “I.” Seems his son told him, “Dad, we don’t say ‘I.’ We always say, ‘we.’” (Color us proud.)
Recently, a PBS show on couples and romance cited a study. It said that in a relationship, using the word “we” is more romantic than bringing home flowers. Now, I’ve received more than a few bouquets. So I stopped and thought about which I appreciated more. Is it the flowers, or is it the “we?” And while I loved the flowers, the “we” has lasted far longer.
Whether the relationship is personal, professional, or both, “I” and “you” can become weaponized pronouns. They cause all kinds of destruction. Am I claiming responsibility for something good happening? That means my partner is on the sidelines, forced to applaud me. But there’s a high likelihood that he played some part in that good thing. As for “you,” it often comes with the sting of blame and accusation. “We’ll, you said to do it that way. Now look at it.”
Most of our CoupleCos are well acquainted with power of “we.” It’s always evident in our interviews. Yet, it’s also worth a reminder because together, WE are stronger. Welcome to the power of first-person plural.
Hope that helps
How does your partnership handle one of you dealing with non-business challenges?
Life’s big emotional bumps in the road challenge anyone’s business life. You can’t plan for everything that life throws your way. Lately, for us, it’s been my mother’s failing health. A slow decline over the last year and a half is becoming ever more consuming. From flying to my parents every month or so to help out, to the ever-present emotional strain of watching people you love in pain, it’s rough.
Of course, as resilient American superpeople, we’re programed to suck it up, put on a brave face, and move forward. It’s never easy. But when you’re a couple in business together, there are extra challenges—including the fact that 50% of the management team is not performing anywhere near peak ability. How does the other pick up the slack? How do you compartmentalize enough to accomplish the minimum? How do you support your partner and not get sucked into their grief?
Back when we were recording the interview that became episodes #33 & 34, we were sitting down with Murray and Felicity Gardner of the Gardner Group in Park City. Murray informed us that his mother’s health was in decline, and he could be getting a call at any moment to jump on a plane to Australia. At this point, my own mother had started going downhill. Yet, listening to the interview, you can’t tell that anyone was anything but fine. Humans are strong creatures. Entrepreneurs are stronger still.
The key for Team Parker in handling this challenging time has been communication and agreement. Communication about what’s happening, and agreement to who is now handling what. This lets us manage our expectations of each other, which is crucial, especially since it’s often just the two of us. We’ve discussed what we are and aren’t capable of taking on. Honestly confronting limitations, even temporary ones, is beyond important.
A national business training group recently asked us to deliver a series of marketing webinars. The folks in charge asked what, beyond our fee, we wanted to get from this. New clients for branding and marketing? Our answer was that our business presently lacks the bandwidth for new clients, but we’re happy to offer consulting. Why? Well, we didn’t tell them that. Let them think we’re too busy. But we’d agreed ahead of time that we can’t handle new clients right now. And that’s okay with both of us. It has to be.
At the end of the day, we know what’s most important: Us. That said, we never want to let a client down. That’s why we’re taking on only the projects we know we can deliver at a level that we feel good about and which keeps our clients thrilled. (For Slow Burn’s oldest and most demanding client, we just delivered a holiday ad that made them laugh and sign off with no changes. That’s a victory on any day, but especially now.) Even in the most challenging times, we continue to take satisfaction in ringing the bell. It’s a welcome break from the obstacles life has thrown in our way. And it reminds us who we are and why we do it.
BTW, my parents were a CoupleCo. We interviewed them in better days, and you can hear them in episode #38, "Sitcom Jewish Parents In Business."
Hope that helps.
Are Blaine & Honey Parker Relationship Experts?
Hardly. And does the world really need more of those? Instead, we are a couple who have worked together for over 20 years. We've learned a few things along the way. And now, we're traveling the nation interviewing other couples in business together. Join us for the ups, downs, ins, outs, laughs, tears (even though Honey believes Blaine has no tear ducts), and the inevitable, practical insights into being a better couple--in life, business and everything.