Which came first – the chicken or the egg? That’s an ages old philosophical question. The same can be asked about personal relationships and business relationships. The way people arrange who they spend time with parallels how companies structure their manner of doing business.

This is not to suggest that people enter relationships strictly as business transactions. However, there are correlations.

Bachelorhood = Sole Proprietorship

Bachelorhood… the sole-proprietorship of the relationship world. No registration needed. No certification necessary. Sole proprietorship is created simply by being single. We’re born into it. It’s natural. With no obligations, the bachelor – much like the sole proprietor – pretty much invests his time in any way he likes. He can go to bed early, wake up late, eat, not eat, sleep around, sleep alone. The bachelor confers with no one, thus is personally liable for all matters great and small, be it in the black or in the red. The world is his oyster, and he can suck it down any way he likes.

Living Together  = Partnership

Don’t want to be alone but not ready for full commitment? Then living together is the way to go. It’s the relationship version of a business partnership. In both cases, no paperwork needs to be filed in order to make the affiliation recognized. The arrangement begins as soon as the interested parties decide to co-habitat. In business, the partnership consists of two or more people. The same can be said for those living together depending on the state or country as well as the mind-set of the parties involved. Want one bed mate? Not a problem. Want more? Why the hell not.

Corporation = Marriage

So, you’re ready to take the plunge. You’ve decided to make this relationship formal. You’re getting married. Creating a corporation is what they call it in the business world. It’s a little more complicated and less loosy-goosy than a partnership.  There’s paperwork to be filed, possibly lawyers to get involved. You’re in an official commitment now. You might think it is well worth the trouble, and you may be right. On the plus side, you may be eligible for some tax breaks. On the minus side, since this tie is official, you can’t just walk away.

Nonprofit Corporations = Family

There’s nothing more charitable than having a family. You’re giving life, boosting the population (a noble gesture if you come from a country where the population is in decline), and helping the economy grow. The list of volunteer “do-goodisms” goes on. Face it, you’re a nonprofit corporation.  In either case, and despite the tax incentives given because of the good both do for society, they rarely end up in the black. For families in particular, it always seems like more money is going out than coming in – and that’s before college. You can never get ahead. Both can be frustrating ventures, but they can also be quite rewarding, enriching people’s lives.

Cooperatives = Open Marriage

And then there’s the open marriage, called a cooperative in the business world. Owned democratically, it has a grassroots/trippy hippy vibe to it, and is sometimes referred to as a collective, which sounds very similar to a group love-in. This sort of cohabitation can be pretty much whatever those involved decide it to be. It can involve food, books, clothing, toys, etc. There do tend to be specific laws for these sorts of arrangement. Overall, both cooperatives and open marriages have a rather casual, informal air about them. They sound kind of groovy, in a 60s sort of way.

Divorce = Bankruptcy/Insolvency

Sometimes things go belly-up. For a variety of reasons, the relationship doesn’t work out. You’re giving up more than you’re getting, and it’s time to sever the ties legally. That, my friend, is called divorce, bankruptcy in the business world. Maybe at first you claim to be insolvent.  In this case there’s no need to involve the courts or be so official about it. You can implement a self-imposed trial separation. You’re apart just not lawfully apart. In either case, the  union isn’t working out, and it’s time to call it splitsville, at least for the short term.

So, to put a spin on the ancient philosophical question, which came first the business relationship or the personal relationship? It’s a non-issue, really. Both relate to the way a person chooses to interact and form associations with others.  And in both relationships, the goal is to make an investment grow and prosper rather than depreciate or dissolve.

By Dan Franch, February 2014.