3 Surprisingly Useful Business Lessons From The Real Housewives
I’ll admit it: I watch every version of Real Housewives: New York City (Bethenny’s gone, but I still watch), Beverly Hills, Miami, Orange County, New Jersey, Atlanta, and even the one season of Washington, DC.
Of course, there’s the entertainment value of watching wealthy women stumble about in five-inch heels and come up with slogans that I can add to my daily arsenal (“Who gon’ check me, boo?” or “Don’t come for me unless I send for you!”). But, there’s also a peace in knowing that, regardless of their social status and bank accounts, these women are not perfect. Particularly, when it comes to business.
I was especially inspired by the business lessons I learned on one of the latest episodes of The Real Housewives of Orange County: Tamra and Vicki, once besties and now borderline frenemies, decided to start a company together, Wines by Wives, but are having some obvious issues.
Though the episode ended with the B-word, it actually provided important observations and made me think about my own shortcomings as a business partner. So, here are three important lessons I took away from The Real Housewives.
1. Know Thy Role but Baileth Not
At Wines by Wives, Tamra brings a creative flair to the partnership, while Vicki brings her business acumen. Not to give away all of the juicy details of the episode, but the duo was at a wine tasting that Tamra had scheduled when Vicki abruptly announced that she was leaving to meet a friend for dinner. Naturally, Tamra was upset about her partner bailing on a critical step of their business process—even if it wasn’t technically “her role.”
Sounds disastrous, right? But how many of us enter into business partnerships with family, friends, and significant others (raises hand) completely ignoring the principle of teamwork?
When John and I started the food truck two years ago, there were moments when I didn’t want to make the time to help him with certain tasks because I felt that I should stay in my lane, and he in his. Moments like: I’ll watch you clean the deep fryers while I tweet to customers about our awesome waffles.
While, yes, I was the Chief Tweeting Officer, it was unfair for me not to give him a helping hand on key aspects of our business. While you probably went into business with someone because you have complementary skill sets—and you each tackle certain tasks for a reason—remember that, at the end of the day, it’s a partnership. And one of the worst feelings that can come with a business partnership is feeling like you’re alone for critical steps. Sometimes, your business partner needs your support and input—or just simply your presence.
2. Don’t Use the B-Word
After this scenario, Tamra follows Vicki outside to try to understand why her business partner is leaving when she needs her input on the wines. They exchange a few words and then Tamra, fed up with Vicki’s explanations, drops the B-word. Sure, the B-word is thrown around a lot on Real Housewives, but in this context—it’s bad news.
But, I can’t say I haven’t done it myself. When I entered graduate school, John expected that I would continue to work the evening shift, which started 30 minutes after class. “That’s plenty of time to get the truck to the route,” he explained. “I mean, I can’t work every shift.” Then I asked—in a very calm tone, of course—“Are you f-ing kidding me?” There were more expletives exchanged before we figured out a shift schedule that didn’t leave him overworked and gave me plenty of time to study and fry chicken.
Disagreements and differences in expectations are bound to come up in your partnership—that’s just part of running a business with someone else. But it’s important to have a way to communicate—calmly and openly—about those conflicts, rather than getting to the point where you blurt out synonyms for the B-word out of frustration, anger, or disappointment.
And if you can’t right away? Count to 10, take a few deep breaths, and send a text or email letting your partner know that you’re upset and would like to discuss an issue. Don’t let emotions—or the B-word—get the best of you.
3. Don’t Pull Other People Into Your (Business) Mess
It wouldn’t be Real Housewives if they didn’t talk about each other to people outside of the situation, right? Vicki, shocked that Tamra dropped the B-word, turns to the other women and complains about Tamra’s lack of professionalism and how much she’s invested into the company. Tamra storms back into the wine tasting, continuing to drop B-bombs to Eddie and Gretchen.
Tamra and Vicki didn't have to invite their cast members into their business drama. Yes, it’s normal for anyone to express themselves to their friends and allies, but when you’re running a business with someone, external input can make matters worse. It’s imperative that the issues you’re having with your partner are handled internally—with you two alone. There’s simply nothing good that comes out of the constant barrage of opinions and speculations that come from getting someone else involved.
Plus, it gets in the way of your own conversations. I recall times where I vented to my mom or friends or strangers about the truck and John’s shortcomings. Most of the time, my vent sessions were rooted in wanting someone to listen to and agree with my version. But, the satisfaction I got from those moments was fleeting—and in the end, it only caused turmoil. After all, when it came time for John and I to have a discussion, there wasn’t an amen corner singing my praises.
When you’re on the brink of saying something negative about your business partner to someone else, stop and remind yourself that it’s your business, not theirs. Just say, “I’m frustrated right now, but we’ll work it out soon.” Then, sip your glass of wine.
Yes, there are pretty obvious lessons we can learn from the Housewives: Not flipping over tables out of anger, pulling on another woman’s wig, or dropping the B-word, for example. But turns out, they can even give us some sound business advice. And, as Tamra and Vicki confirmed—business partnerships are difficult to manage, but not impossible to flourish.
Kianta is a social media strategist, food truck owner and aspiring social entrepreneur. In her spare time, she likes watching yoga videos and writing in a Moleskine journal. Hailing from Atlanta, Kianta is always down for Waffle House, listening to Outkast, and thrifting. You can find her on Twitter @CorettaScottKey.More from this Author