Relationships: your biggest investment opportunity

Don’t run your personal life like you run your business.

Makes sense, right?

If business is just about maximising profits then using this approach in our doesn’t sound like a wise move. Well, not if you want to keep your friends.

“Running a company is a mercantile pursuit and involves constant hard choices, based mainly on commercial considerations. It demands a wholly different set of emotions and skills to those needed in personal relationships.”
Luke Johnson

The complex business of relationships

In a recent Sunday Times article Luke Johnson writes how some of the most successful business owners had disastrous personal lives. They had taken the same ruthless principles that had made them financially wealthy and applied them to how they managed their relationships.

They tried to maximise their return on ‘emotional investment’ by minimising the effort they put into these relationships hoping to get the same return.

The sad truth is that personal relationships, particularly those with your wife and kids, don’t work like that.

You can’t order them around as if your way is the only way. There’s no benefit in calculating the opportunity cost of a family holiday or day out to the beach. It is equally wrong to expect that for every minute of quality time you spend with your kids you should receive some sort of equal return.

The reality is this: Meaningful personal relationships should be treated as one way investments.

We shouldn’t expect any return for the time and energy we put into them. Ironically though, the more time and effort we invest the more likely we’ll benefit in more immeasurable ways.

This may not happen the next day, the next month or even the next year. But when it does happen it will give us a feeling that money could never buy.

“It’s important we try to get a better balance between income, and human relationships and mental and physical health. People must understand that they would do well to preserve their human relationships; they should give them a higher priority than how much they earn.”
Richard Layard

Investing in emotion

Having a friend comfort you during a time of grief or having your son tell you you’re their hero. Having your partner take care of everything else while you’re having a hard time at work or having a neighbour offer to take your kids for sleep over so you can have a night out. All of these returns are priceless but can only happen if we give without expecting a return.

So while taking a ROI-based approach to personal relationships doesn’t work, what happens if we take a compassionate approach to business?

What if rather than trying to maximise our gains in business we focus on build trust and connections with people instead?

What if we strove to serve our customers as if they were friends and helped our employees as if they were family? What could the return on investment be like then?

“Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost…”
The Great Dictator’s Speech, Charlie Chaplin

Tolerance of ambiguity

They say we are living in a VUCA age. A world that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. We’ve built our houses on shifting sands and so it’s harder and harder to predict the future.

However there is one thing that we can predict. If we treat people well; if we shift our thinking from that of ruthlessness, competition and suspicion and more towards compassion, collaboration and trust, the better we will be equipped to deal with an unknown future.

Working together and feeling part of a wider community will help build resilience in us all.

Some may call this approach naïve. How can we run businesses if we don’t focus on cashflow? I agree, it does sound naïve. Money is important, but it’s not a reason to start a company, or stick at it.

In this day and age to build something sustainable I believe it’s time we focused on ‘compassion flow’.

In September 2016, we’re gathering together a group of visionaries in business for our annual AGM. Some come with doubts, "won't it just be a bunch of business hippies on a farm?" but afterwards say "It was, but it was ok. I felt at home. I’d found my tribe."

If you believe in compassion flow and investing in people and relationships as we do, be a part of this: