Hello everybody, welcome to episode 117 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. We’ve got another long question for you today – but an important one about setting boundaries in business. To no one’s surprise, there’s great correlation with personal boundaries as well, so we’ll touch on that too. Buckle your seatbelts, everyone, here’s the question for today…
QUESTION: “I recently started a side business with my business partner. He is 60 and like a father figure to me. However I am not sure how he sees me. I fear its not like a daughter, and he has made little comments here and there that were definitely testing the waters.
He also gets jealous when I have other plans with people, and he gets offended when I put my foot down or have ideas that do not mesh with his. How can I set clear boundaries while maintaining friendship and partnership?
We also have a retreat coming up this weekend and I feel many things here. Annoyed that I have put in a lot of back end work BUT that is the part I enjoy. I DO NOT look forward to or want to do the retreat with the others and feel trapped in a house with everyone for the entire weekend. I have spent my life in some unhealthy relationships and I have worked so hard to set myself free and set clear boundaries when I date. So for me, the feeling of having to do something I am not comfortable with, nor want, is unappealing.
I am a bit fearful that these retreats are NOT going to be for me. How do I voice that clearly after this first retreat if that is how I continue to feel?”
It's All About Boundaries
All right. Good question, thank you for sending this. I think there’s a lot of commonality here even though you’ve sorta divided up the question into two parts.
Seems clear to me it’s all about boundaries really, and the second part of your question about the retreat is really just the most recent installment of your difficulty in setting boundaries with this business partner of yours.
Here’s where I’m at.
Why Bring Up Dating?
Why bring up the dating boundaries when talking about this retreat? You said: “I DO NOT look forward to or want to do the retreat with the others and feel trapped in a house with everyone for the entire weekend. I have spent my life in some unhealthy relationships and I have worked so hard to set myself free and set clear boundaries when I date/”
Then you brought them together with: “So for me, the feeling of having to do something I am not comfortable with, nor want, is unappealing.”
And it’s nice that you brought them together like that and recognized the link, but what I’m getting at is that this retreat has nothing to do with your relationships.
The Friction With Your Business Partner
So linking the two of them despite them being entirely separate gives me the impression that this friction you’re feeling towards the retreats is really just born of the friction you feel with your partner because you’re yet to set boundaries with him and set yourself free and clear with him like you did after making boundaries in your relationships.
I hope you’re all still with me – we’re digging a little deep here.
A Lack of Structure and Certainty
I think your lack of structure with your business partner is starting to present itself as a lack of certainty with the entire business. And it’s already harming you, because this thing about the retreat, in my opinion, is on you.
You knew what this retreat would entail, what your role in it would entail, and you let it happen anyway by not informing your partner of the parts of it that you didn’t like.
First the retreats won’t be for you, and then it’ll be the next thing. None of this business is going to operate smoothly or feel comfortable until you set rules with this guy. And if he’s making comments that are questionable, these rules need to be set yesterday.
So your question about what to say after the first retreat is just a microcosm of the bigger question, which is, “How do I illustrate to my business partner what I’m comfortable with and what I’m not comfortable with?”
Define What Your Boundaries Are
The first thing you do to illustrate these boundaries to your partner is to first illustrate them to yourself.
Take some time to really reflect on what will and will not fly, personally and professionally. Write them all down – that’s your first draft.
Once you have it written up, step outside yourself and try to run through it as objectively as possible. What that means is to take responsibility for any part of it that is unreasonable, while also being mindful of how you might have been unreasonable in the past.
Your tendency to be on high alert for avoiding uncomfortable situations could get you into trouble on this, which is why it’s of utmost importance. If you’re regularly seeking and finding empowerment in the ability to distance yourself from discomfort, it’s easy to forget the discomforts of others. So you can’t avoid all of it, nor should you want to.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Anyway, because this process of looking objectively at a list of your own boundaries can be challenging, I’ve put together a few questions you can ask yourself as you look at your list to get the ball rolling.
Ask yourself things like:
- If my professional boundaries were to be upheld, would we be running this business 50-50 and do our individual roles play to our strengths?
- Do we envision this business and this relationship growing in the same direction?
- Are these boundaries common in business partners who run successful companies?
And based on the personal boundaries you come up with, you may ask:
- Am I treating him the way I want to be treated?
- Do these boundaries allow for an appropriate mix of business and friendship?
- An especially important one might also be: Am I projecting old feelings onto him, and if so, have these projections caused me to take any of his past behavior out of context?
Note for you and all the listeners: whether you’re very lenient or not lenient at all when it comes to questionable comments, a question like this must walk the fine line between taking responsibility and successfully identifying crude behavior.
If this man’s comments were out of line, they’re not to be excused, but it’s important for all of us to at least question the intent of this man and others who might say things that rub us the wrong way.
Maintaining A Strong and Appropriate Business Relationship
For you, the main goal is about keeping this business going strong and engaging in a happy, appropriate relationship with your partner while doing so. With that in mind, I think any borderline behavior that either of you have engaged in in the past needs to swept under the rug right now IF and only IF this type of communication about boundaries has not happened yet.
We all interpret things differently and though you’d think some things would be obvious, the most reliable, last line of defense is not to expect someone to stop a certain behavior until you’ve informed them that you’d like them to stop.
If you express to this man a set of justifiable boundaries about what is and is not appropriate to you, and he does not follow them, that’s when he is to be held most accountable and when I’d suggest breaking off the partnership.
An Opportunity to Set Boundaries
Right now, you have an opportunity to present a good set of boundaries that mean a lot to you, and you have an opportunity to take responsibility for anything you might’ve done that was unfair to him or the business. Assuming you haven’t done this before, this is when the partnership truly starts in its most honest fashion.
Calmly and confidently tell him your rules, and bring to the conversation with you the intention of, “These are my cards, I’m laying them out. From this moment on, if these rules cannot be obeyed, the partnership can go no further.”
That’s all there is to it.
And if you can’t have a talk with him like this either because of your own discomfort or because of his lack of willingness to listen, then throw in the towel, learn from it, and start another business without him, but with this experience under your belt and the lessons that have come with it.
Covered a lot of ground today, folks. Or at least, I think we did. I’ve been known to overestimate myself once or twice.
Asker, I really hope this question provided you with the insight you need to set better boundaries and create a better business. Whether or not your relationship with your business partner is able to thrive, you can at least take some learning experiences with you as I mentioned towards the end. Thank you so much for sending this one in.
All others, go ahead and email any questions of your own that you’d like our help with to advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
Thanks for being here, my friends. I appreciate you as always, and I look forward to talking to you all next time. Don’t forget to tune in. Take care, everybody