The ballroom doors opened, and Lisa and I did what we were told. We paused for a moment so the wedding photographer could capture the moment. We were about to take our last walk together as father and unmarried daughter. In a few minutes, she would no longer be my precious little Lisa. She would be Allen’s wife. She would not be mine. She would be his.
As we walked down the aisle, I could not be happier. Lisa chose an educated man and entrepreneur who came from a loving and stable family. She was surrounded by life-long friendships who I knew in my heart would take good care of my little girl.
Pastor James asked me, “Who gives this woman to this man?” I answered, “Kathy and I give this woman to this man.” And just like that, she was on her way to becoming a married woman. Kathy and I let her go, and she joined hands with Allen to begin expressing their vows to each other.
The Love Letter
Then a surprise. I didn’t know it, but Pastor James had asked them to write each other a love letter. He read Allen’s letter first. The letter so beautifully captured how much he loved my daughter. How from the moment they met he did not want to be without her. He said, “Even after paying the check on our first date, I ordered us another glass of wine because I didn’t want our time together to end.” And that was how the letter started. By the time the reading concluded, I was weeping; we were all weeping. Pastor James rightly summarized the letter as “a grand slam.”
Lisa’s letter to Allen followed. Lisa talked about Allen’s kindness and protection. She spoke about how much she respects him. When she is with Allen, she said she felt “safe.” All of us who witnessed this marriage ceremony understood the love they have for each other. It forced us, right then, to reflect on the relationship we have or don’t have and want. Those letters set the tone for the wedding celebration.
Then came the promise, the vows, the contract. “I, Allen, take you, Lisa, for my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.”
Love, Honor, Commitment
This was the second reminder. It isn’t all about love. It starts with love but continues by them honoring their new roles in this relationship as husband and wife. To be there for each other, no matter what the circumstances. This is what they were signing up for. Love seeds the relationship, but the commitment seals it forever.
It takes this very same love, respect and commitment to build a great business. There has to be that initial attraction to cofounders, which then develops and transforms into love and respect. These are the partnerships which have the greatest chance to succeed. But it is the commitment of the execs and investors in their new roles as partners which gives them the best chance of building a valuable company.
Just like a marriage which blossoms into a family, building a company is hard. It will take you through better and worse, richer and poorer, sickness and health. But keep it together through all these ups and downs and, in the end, you will succeed. You may not create the business which is featured in Forbes. It may not be the business which builds Learjet-wealth. But I can assure you, if you stay committed to each other, you will build a life together and a business which succeeds.
This commitment starts with the entrepreneur. Then to the co-founders and investors. And ultimately to the employees.
At the rehearsal dinner, one of Lisa’s friends told a story of being over at our house when she was a young teen. She said, “I still remember you and Kathy kissing in the kitchen and dancing together. That example of a married couple with four kids really impacted me. I wanted my marriage to be like that.” This young lady is now married, and they just started a family. Now comes the commitment which ends with until death do we part.