If you and your partner run a business together — or would like to — you are not alone. Family business is booming as couples look for ways to spend their increasingly busy lives together. And home businesses in particular have mushroomed, in part due to cheaper computers and the use of technological tools such as faxing and the Internet.
But working together is not for every couple. Even the most compatible pair can sometimes be unnerved by spending an extra 40 hours a week together. And 60 hours a week is not unusual for entrepreneurs.
The ability to give and take fair, constructive criticism is one of the keys to successfully improving a business. Here are some guidelines for making criticism a positive tool for understanding and growth:
Inspired by concepts from “Working Together: Entrepreneurial Couples” by Frank and Sharan Barnett (1988), $9.95, Ten Speed Press, P.O. Box 7123, Berkeley, CA 94707, 510-559-1600; fax: 510-559-1629; 800-841-2665. May be out of print.
- Be specific. Focus on the issue.
- Be tactful. Use a soft approach. No put-downs or sarcasm.
- Don’t threaten. The threat then becomes the focus, rather than the issue. Cruelty rarely promotes positive change.
- Differentiate between the criticism from the individual. The issue receives better attention when there is no blame cast.
- Have a light approach. Helps to prevent backing your partner against the wall.
- Keep criticism short. Say your piece and allow your partner to respond.
- Deliver criticism as soon as possible. That’s when it has its greatest effect. Don’t store and use it as a weapon when angry.
- Never criticize your partner in public. Criticism has different meanings, depending on the setting. A safe, private space is best.
- Keep your criticism in perspective.See the big picture, and your partner as a whole person.
- Criticism is an opportunity. Use it to build trust and honest communication.