When Crystal and I decided to start Project House, we knew we had a lot of the critical core pieces in place: a shared vision for our company, a common set of values, the desire for a flexible workplace that maximized our skills and experiences, a passion for getting sh*t done, and a strong desire to create valuable connections and opportunities within our community. What we didn’t know was if our “hey I really love talking with you and sharing a bottle of wine” friendship would translate into a strong Business Partnership.
On the surface, it’s easy to see our differences. I like people and presentations, face-to-face meetings, thinking out loud, and working with people to learn or solve a problem. Crystal likes to analyse and synthesize a huge amount of detail quickly and well, she enjoys diving into the budget and numbers, and she is always in action and accomplishing. We share a curiosity and excitement to learn new things, we like big ideas and making things happen, and we love helping people achieve their goals and gain new opportunities.
Crystal and I have had an opportunity to take part in a number of leadership assessments, and in nearly each area of testing, we score as opposites. She is analytical, dominant, action-oriented, adept at pulling apart facts, details, and data. She is confident and assertive, she learns by doing, and she has a high stress tolerance. I am optimistic, intuitive about ideas and people, social, conceptual, and emotionally self-aware. I enjoy the unusual, and I learn by experience and through others. I don’t score as high in stress tolerance or independence as Crystal, whereas she doesn’t score as high as I do in empathy or flexibility.
While individually we are very different leaders, Crystal and I often joke that in combination we are a Whole Brain. Because our values and our desires for Project House and our team are so aligned, we are able to tackle projects together, often better than we would separately. Even if we don’t always agree, we have a healthy respect for each other’s strengths and approaches, and our styles generally complement one another very well. In business, we are stronger together than we are apart.
Chris Klundt said, in his article for Entrepreneur about choosing your startup partner, “in the startup world, opposites truly do attract — by choosing someone completely different from yourself, you can form a force of nature within your company that is strong enough to withstand challenges from any angle.”
Like with any great partnership, we work to make it work. Here are some of the ways we do this:
- Respect and trust. Crystal and I respect each other’s space, skills, talents, styles, strengths, weaknesses, areas of non-interest, and methods. We learn from each other, we brainstorm together, we discuss and pull things apart and we even disagree, but we always do this respectfully and with an eye on the bigger picture. We trust that the other always has the best interest of the business, our clients, and our team’s interests at heart.
- Independence. We have our own “wheelhouses” within the various areas of the business and in the services we offer, and we share the internal tasks that move Project House forward. I reach out to new people and attend more networking events, and my focus is on communication, workflow, and onboarding (client and team). Crystal drives our systems, budgets, tools, technology, and vendors. I concentrate on our HR services, and Crystal leads pretty much everything else. We own our own projects, and we have the amount of autonomy we need.
- Kindness. We provide each other with true partnership, encouragement, and support. We recognize that as busy parents, business owners, and wives, there is always an ebb and flow of energy and mood, and we understand what motivates each other. We check in with each other if something feels “off.” We know when to be nicer, talk more, or shut up. We know when a cupcake or a shout-out is required. Or a hug, once in awhile, if Crystal is willing… 🙂 We know when the other is overwhelmed, and there is no judgment. We have each other’s back.
- Laughter. We laugh a lot – at ourselves, mostly, but also at life. When our backs are up against a wall (deadline, tough project, having to admit a mistake, feeling overwhelmed), nothing helps more than laughing at something together. We also believe that a sense of humour is an important part of our culture and our brand.
- Time together. We set aside time to talk about our company goals, dreams, and plans. We meet to talk about big stuff and small stuff. We flex into each other’s areas to gain understanding and generate ideas. We talk about how we want our business to grow, what we want our clients’ experience to be, how we want our team to feel, and how to get there.
- Humility and help. We have an incredible network of great friends and allies, and we reach out to them to ask for support and answers outside of our areas of expertise and experience. We are open about things we don’t know, and we chase after new ideas and best practices. We know we’re a young company and we know that we have a lot to learn. We’re also very happy to share our successes and mistakes so that others can leapfrog on what we’ve done so far.
From one of our assessment reports, which combined our individual results to comment on our compatibility as business partners: “It can be seen from the foregoing that their needs and approach to the workplace are very different. It is equally obvious that if they can combine their talents they will make a very effective team” … “the compatible strengths of this pairing are assertiveness, energy, and a willingness to take risks and act independently.”
Want to understand how to make the most of all of the personalities on your team? Crystal and I will be posting more about assessments and training in the coming weeks; in the meantime, please reach out to us if you want to know more!