Trisha Harp of The Harp Family Institute Shares Her Knowledge About Entrepreneurship

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Do you want to start your own business? Are you looking for advice from someone successful in the field of entrepreneurship? Some people say that family and business don't mix. But what if you are in business with your spouse? Isn't that still family? How do you make sure that everything works okay?

Trisha Harp is an expert on entrepreneurship and a certified professional business coach. 

In this episode, she will share everything she knows about entrepreneurship with you. She will discuss topics such as serial entrepreneurs, the difference between born and made entrepreneurs, and why entrepreneurs need to talk about their businesses with their spouses. She will also share her lessons learned in business and advise entrepreneurs who are struggling to maintain balance while building a team.

Read the Full Transcript

Atiba de Souza: Hey, everybody! Welcome to the Build Your Team show. I am your host, Atiba. And today, we are going to dive into a topic that's huge and that is your spouse and you in business with my special guest Trisha Harp from the Harp Family Institute. And as always, we are brought to you by Client Attraction Pros. If you are a business owner and you are ready to level up your business, then video is the answer for you.

And we can help you make that fast, easy, and fun.

Atiba de Souza: Hey, everybody! Welcome to the Build Your Team show. As always, I am your host, Atiba and I have with me today, Trisha Harp of the Harp Family Institute. And we're going to be diving in, as always, talking about how to build your team. And Trisha's uniquely qualified because she is a certified professional coach.

She coaches us business owners, and so she's seen, heard and been through it all. Trisha, welcome!

Trisha Harp: Thank you. I really have actually seen, done, been through it all or at least I feel like I have for sure my entire life because my dad was an entrepreneur, my uncles and cousins, I mean, entrepreneurship has just been a part of my world forever and I married a serial entrepreneur. And so, yeah. 

Atiba de Souza: That's awesome. Now, I'm gonna ask you to define a term. I know what this term means because I'm one too, but you brought it up. So I'm gonna ask you to define it because I know a lot of people don't know what this term means. What's a serial entrepreneur?

Trisha Harp: I hired a speech coach when I did my first presentation in front of several hundred entrepreneurs and I used the term serial entrepreneur. And she thought that was the funniest term in the world 'cause she was thinking like serial killer, right? It's the same basic principle, but a serial entrepreneur is an entrepreneur who starts multiple businesses. Right? They're serially starting businesses. 

Atiba de Souza: Well, I guess if the businesses fail, then the parallel is a little more similar.

Trisha Harp: Exactly. Just by business. 

Atiba de Souza: Yeah, it does happen. So you've been around business for a very long time. You grew up in business. You married a serial entrepreneur. And so this is gonna be a really interesting question for you then, because of your background and so maybe even consider — actually here's a better question.

What did your dad and uncle teach you about hiring people? That's a better question.

Trisha Harp: Oh, let's see. My uncle, I didn't work that closely with him. For him, I'd say the lesson I learned is you can be down in the dumps. I'm gonna tell you a really quick story. Not necessarily hiring people, but my husband and I inherited my grandparents' furniture when they passed away and inside I found an envelope with a letter and a check with the signature that my uncle had given to my grandparents, thanking them for helping them in their deepest, darkest times. Now that uncle went on to start a billion dollar company that everybody knows. I'm not gonna share what it is. But, it was so profound for my husband and I defined that. And so the lesson that I learned there is your family, your friends, they're all there to help you at different times.

And it's a beautiful thing. And it's also indicative of we can be down in the dumps and also high as a kite in terms of where our businesses can start, businesses fail, bankruptcy happens, and then billion dollar, boom. Right? It can happen. So that's what I learned from my uncle.

Not necessarily about hiring people, but just about the nature of business ownership. From my dad with regard to hiring people, I'd say his thing was investing emotionally in people. He would take some people on who he thought had a spark, but didn't have the initial knowhow. That was kind of his thing.

And he would teach them the business and get them. He had so much passion himself. That he would bring people in and treat them extremely well just emotionally and love on them. And there was a lot of loyalty there. A lot of loyalty, not by everybody. Some people screwed him over and that always sucks.

It happens. But for those people that he brought in and he taught and he really invested his passion. They learned the business and they want really desperately to achieve for him.

Atiba de Souza: That's awesome. Wow. Those are two really great things. One, kudos to your uncle. And that by itself is not just business, but life lesson, right? Where you were yesterday is not indicative of where you'll be tomorrow. And today you get to make that choice.

Trisha Harp: Yes. Every minute of every day is an opportunity for a new choice. 

Atiba de Souza: And that is amazing. And your dad — one of the things that we talk about here a lot on this channel is that you hire people. I always say, hire people for fit. And what I mean by that is, do they want it? Do they get it? And do they have the aptitude? Those are the three criteria.

And the first two are definitely the most important. Do they want it? Do they get it? Do they understand where it is the vision is going? And do they actually want to be a part of that? Right? That's more important than the aptitude, oftentimes because they can have all the aptitude, but if they don't care — 

Trisha Harp: That's right. That's right. For my dad that was the big thing. Do they have the credentials? The basic credentials to succeed. And then, do they have the passion to actually fulfill what it takes to do the job and to do it well? Right? And do they want to learn? Exactly. 

Atiba de Souza: Yeah. That's awesome. Those are great lessons to learn from your uncle and your dad. I guess, I'd be remiss if I didn't ask this question. Especially as a professional coach of business owners, looking at business owners who have that family legacy versus first generation entrepreneurs. When it comes to dealing with people, their teams, especially. Have you noticed any difference between the two groups?

Trisha Harp: That's a great question. Honestly, no. Not really. One of the questions that I had put out in the survey, I have a dynamic ongoing survey for entrepreneurs and their spouses on my website. And one of the questions that I put out there was, do you have a legacy business or is this business yours initially?

And what is the impact then on the spousal connection, right? Are you a natural born entrepreneur or are you sort of a made entrepreneur? 

Anyway, fascinating information. I don't know that there is that significant of a difference, but there is, I think a difference in are you an innate entrepreneur?

Does that make sense? Because my husband, he grew up in a household with two school teachers. But he had been starting businesses from the time he was young because he wanted money to pay for his paintball business or pay for paintball, right? Like he wanted to do certain activities.

And so he started a lawn mowing business, and then he did moved onto the paintball business. And he worked though for a local entrepreneur. And so he kind of got the bug and he saw how entrepreneurship operated. So I think, as with most things, if you have a template or a somebody that you can look up to, there's a foundation there that's really helpful.

And having a network, my husband is part of EO, Entrepreneurs Organization. And having a network of other entrepreneurs that you can tap into is critical. When I worked with adults with developmental disabilities and I ran programs and some of my coworkers would say, "Oh, you married an entrepreneur. Don't forget the little people." And I was like, you have no idea what entrepreneurship is about. If that's the first thing you say to me. Right? And it occurred to me that most of our peers are entrepreneurs because there's a "We get you" factor. 

Atiba de Souza: Yeah. 

Trisha Harp: Is there a difference in innate entrepreneur versus somebody who's kind of happened into it?

Probably. Yes.

Atiba de Souza: Yeah. First thank you for that answer 'cause it's a question that — and I don't even say a question. It's an excuse that I hear a lot of, "Oh, well I didn't come from a family of entrepreneurs, so that's why I struggle." And that's not at all the case. As you said, it's about a blueprint, right?

It's about having people around you. It's about having a mentor or a coach, someone who can guide you. And that's something that all of us can get.

Trisha Harp: Entrepreneurship is hard, no matter what. It just is, and it doesn't even matter if you're making it. I did this interview, I'll be candid here. When my husband and I first met, I was sitting down in his office and I was like, "Wow, I am just so content." He was like, "I don't know what it means to be contented."

And I said, "What do you mean?" He's like, "I'm always feeling like there's more something that I should be doing. That's different, that's better." And I said, "Wow. I just — I can't necessarily personally relate to that, in that part." But then years later, when I was starting to do my research, I interviewed my husband's mentor who has hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank.

And I said to him, "How does it feel to have made it?" And he said, "I don't know. I don't know. I don't consider myself having made it, right?" And as I've done interviews and surveys and questioned hundreds of entrepreneurs at this point in time, I've really realized that a true entrepreneur never does feel that sense of genuine contentedness of like there might be moments, right? But in your soul and in your gut, there's always something faster, better, more impressive, whatever it is that you're striving for. There's always something out there which has this positives and negatives, right?

We all felt like that, but we don't all feel like that. And that's what makes the world go around. And when my husband gets frustrated with our team at different times over the years, I've always said, if everybody on our team was an entrepreneur, we would all hate each other. And the team is not going to be as entrepreneurial in the way that they operate.

They need to take direction from the top. 

Atiba de Souza: Yes, absolutely. And let's talk about that balance because it is a real struggle. I hear entrepreneurs saying, "My team just don't care as much as I do. Or if they love this business, the way I did, things will be different." And especially early, in building a team, I hear that a ton. Right?

What would be your advice as someone who's feeling that right now?

Trisha Harp: That's a great question. I think acknowledge the fact that they don't care as much as do. Even if you give them equity, they still don't care as much. This is your baby. You have birthed this business. They're the babysitter, essentially. Right?

Babysitter take care of kids and do the best they can. But I don't expect them to love and cultivate and nurture my children as much as I do.

So acknowledging that and accepting that, but still trying to come up with creative and innovative tools to excite your team and get them as onboard is essential. And it's not always about money. Money is a wonderful thing, but startups don't always have money. So what are the things that you can do?

We would go out and bring the team to — gosh, what are the game places like a Dave & Busters. Or we'd bring in cornhole and do a cornhole night. We basically, we tried to make it fun. Sometimes we implemented like a joke sort of situation where, gosh, I don't know, different people would play inside jokes or puns or whatever on other team members. Anyway, we tried to bring fun into it. And I know that so many teams are virtual. And so we're starting to implement virtual cocktail night. And even though that's not nearly the same, we're coming up with some creative ways to do it.

We just had a virtual meeting with spouses and sent everybody cocktail glasses that they could put in the freezer. There's things to do to draw people in, but nobody and acknowledge this and accept it. Nobody is going to love your baby as much as you do.

And that's okay. Because if they loved it as much as you did, you would butt heads. You are the boss and you don't want be under somebody else who says, "This is the way it needs to be done". When you say no, "This is the way I want it done." So if this is the way you want it done, and you wanna say, "It has to be done the way I want it done". Then it's okay that they don't love it as much as you do. 

Atiba de Souza: That's so true. I hope that you who are listening to this, are really hearing Trisha. Okay. I know you've heard me say it, but here's somebody who's worked with hundreds of businesses. And I hope that you can hear that. You're gonna love this more, this baby more than your staff and it's okay.

It's okay.

Trisha Harp: I wanna bring in one other point since this is really where the focus of my research is. You're also gonna love it more than your spouse which is also okay. What needs to happen though — and this is where a disconnect happens with a spouse, is when the entrepreneur stops talking about the business because they think their spouse doesn't wanna hear about it, that is where spouses end up kind of separating. Right? And having a really big disconnect with the business. When my research bears out spouses really do wanna know about the business. They wanna know a lot more details than you're sharing. They feel very, ostracized, no, that's not the word.

They're sort of out of it. Right? And they want to be more into it. And it's difficult to — you don't wanna hear about the business all the time. Right? Like, I don't want to talk about business at dinner time with the kids. Let that be about our family, but it's really critical.

Some couples do like a wine-thirty, Right?

And so, for 30 minutes at the end of the day, it's just, let's talk about what each person wants to talk about. And it's a great time to talk about the business, but the study show 100% of spouses do wanna know more about the business. So share, share, share, share, share. Your spouse isn't going to love it as you do and that's okay. But they do genuinely — it impacts them. It impacts their whole life. So they wanna know. So talk about it.

Atiba de Souza: There couldn't have been a better segue than that into asking and saying. Okay. So, tell us about what you do and — 'cause you've mentioned the researcher a few times and this whole concept of spouses and business is, as you well know, massive. Right? So tell us about you and tell us about what you do.

Trisha Harp: I set out to do a research project. I did my Master's Thesis on Spousal Satisfaction in Entrepreneurial Couples. And what I learned is there was almost no actual data out there for from both the entrepreneur and the spouse. And so I set out and I created my own research tool and interviewed and surveyed hundreds of couples. And then was able to kind of look at satisfaction based on a number of different factors, like life satisfaction.

And from there, I've also done tons of coaching of individuals, of entrepreneurs and of spouses and of the couples together and learned just so much about what makes an entrepreneurial couple actually work and not necessarily copreneurs and which couples are happier when they're both owning their own separate businesses, if they work together, if one has a full-time job, if one stays home, one works parttime. So there's all sorts of differences in couples. But there are some genuine practices that make an enormous difference. 

Atiba de Souza: Wow. So, when should a couple work with you? When they're starting, when they've been in business for 10 years, like what's ideal for you?

Trisha Harp: It's whenever. Whenever. If you are at the brink of divorce, I don't do that. But I say I like to make a good couple great. I've worked with a few couples that are towards divorce and I'm like, you really need to see a therapist if you're — you know. 

Atiba de Souza: Right? Right.

Trisha Harp: But there's a difference between a therapist who is working with a couple that's on the brink of divorce versus what I do, is I've been called a relationship translator. So because I have this unique insight into the world of the entrepreneur, as well as the world of the spouse. And I have this whole research part behind me. I have this uncanny, I guess, ability to sort of hear both sides and come up with tools that work with each partner to overcome some of the bad habits that couple have established, whether it's the side, the eye roll, whatever it is, that's the reaction.

There are ways to overcome some of those things and as long as both parties are open to the suggestions and trying different things out and like I said, there are definitely some different things that I do with couples that are — they make a big difference and the data bears out that doing some of these things will help the couple in the long run.

Atiba de Souza: That's amazing. The reality is your spouse is part of your team. Period.

Trisha Harp: Absolutely. A hundred percent. And what's interesting is, one of the couples that I worked with, he wrote a review for me and he said, "You know, the truth is I took at least 80% to 85% of the tools that I learned and how to communicate better with my spouse to my team". They're the same tools, right?

It's just a matter of learning them and understanding how the different people in your world communicate and understanding how you communicate. And how people interpret the way you say things. 

Atiba de Souza: Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, Trisha, I think we could probably spend another half an hour just on that point alone of communicating and you don't know how you're coming across. So in the interest of time, what I'd like to do is have you back so we can actually dive into that. On our future time, because I think that is — so often in business, we only think of communication as external with our marketing, and it's just as important as our internal communication. 

Trisha Harp: Absolutely.

Atiba de Souza: And mastering that.

Trisha Harp: People in your realm or in your world, don't call you out on your —. I dunno if I can say that word on this. 

Atiba de Souza: Yeah, you're good.

Trisha Harp: But that's the truth, right? And most people have no idea the way that other people are responding to them based on the way that they are putting it out there.

And so, yeah, it is important to have somebody who says "Uhuh, I don't like the way you're talking to me. This is the way it makes me feel." And if you want your team to respond to you and to be loyal to you, then it matters. 

Atiba de Souza: Absolutely matter. Absolutely matter. So Trisha, do me a favor. Tell everybody how they can reach out to you. And if you have a spouse or plan to have one, you need to reach out Trisha.

Trisha Harp: Thank you. I have two websites. My coaching website is trishaharp.com. My research website is harpfamilyinstitute.com and you can reach me at trisha.harp@harpfamilyinstitute.com. 

Atiba de Souza: Awesome. Trisha, thank you so much for being here. It's been a pleasure and we're going to have you back and we're going to continue this conversation about communication. 

Trisha Harp: That sounds great. Clearly, I have passion for this and I love to talk about it. 

Atiba de Souza: Just, just a little bit.

Trisha Harp: Yeah. A little. 

Atiba de Souza: All right. Bye, everybody. 

Trisha Harp: Bye.

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