It’s not just business, it’s personal.

Kalen Arreola, veteran and business owner shares her thoughts on how to find a great partner.

It’s not just business, it’s personal.


Gasp! She just said what I always knew, but I didn’t want to say it, and sound like a pansy.

Yes. Yes, I did.

You know why? Because in my 33 years on this planet, I have figured out that everything is personal. How can you build a business without people? Who will your clients be? Who will work for you? Who will you partner with?

Um, yeah… people. That makes things personal. Don’t believe me, listen to what Richard Branson has to say, because he is the proof of concept when it comes to investing in people. People use the line “it’s just business” to mask what is at the core of an issue they are truly facing.

Rule of thumb: Would you marry the person you would do business with? Opposite sex, or same sex, this is imaginary but here are questions to ask yourself … would you MARRY them? Are they honest, act with integrity, do they know what they want? Do they know what you want? Do they care about what you want? Do you like them? Do you love them? How much? For life or for now?

Then ask yourself — WOULD ANYONE WANT TO MARRY ME?! That is the toughest one. When you bring yourself into a relationship, be it business or personal, you are bringing your personal issues into it. Are you a good communicator, or do you prefer to avoid conflict? Knowing “thyself” is really important. [Side Note: I had not a clue about who I was … I just roamed the earth doing stuff, and that doesn’t work.]

This topic has come up a lot lately, mainly because of what is happening in my own company, and how I’ve been healed of a lot of emotional brokenness. Literally, in 2013, I was freshly divorced, car destroyed from a hit and run, and I was broken across the board: Emotionally, Physically and Spiritually. My past PTSD diagnosis defined me and I felt like a victim… and that was dangerous thinking! I would never have been able to successfully partner with anyone – client or organization – at that point.

Veterans and active duty: you will take any emotional baggage from service and carry it into your new endeavors so take time to focus on you, your family and your lifestyle goals during your business planning process. I know sometimes there is so much happening but laying a solid foundations pays dividends.

If you are a veteran who is suffering from PTS/PTSD, depression or MST or another emotional situation and you are looking to start a business, look for ways to overcome these things because you need to take care of you! You are so valuable and you will be an amazing leader in whatever you do, once you take care of yourself. It takes time, but that is okay. Work a side job, apply for your benefits and take time to truly ask yourself, “What is the ideal life I want to live?”

Take inventory of your friends and people around you to find out who has your best interest at heart when you need it most? These are the people to talk to. Do you know anyone who has a successful career or business? Let them be your mentors. If you don’t know anyone, it’s time to network … social media or local events and learn who your people are, not like in the military where you get people and you can’t pick them. Now you can. You must find a support system or your business and your life will falter. It happens all the time, so let these relationships gel while you develop your business plan, etc.

Starting a business comes with lots of fanciful, idealistic images of you “pimping out your ride” with all your “bling,” or whatever, (my dream involves swimming pools and Cabo San Lucas) but it’s hard work! You will have no life in the beginning, and you will fail a lot before you get it right, so be prepared to fail. In that time of growth, your people will be crucially important.

Here’s a short list of common mistakes people make in business relationships, that I have experienced and overcome.

Mistake 1. You’ve partnered with an acquaintance/friend/family but it didn’t work out well and now the friendship is ruined, or at least, extremely awkward. Listen, just because you and your buddy deployed together and you love the same beers, doesn’t a business partner make. It’s really a tough racket and you must have a wingman/woman who is going to step up when it gets rough. When I say rough, I mean like all your bank accounts are overdrawn and someone from church has to give you grocery money, or you ask your clients to pay ahead so you can pay the rent… that is a true story. When the going gets tough, some people bail out and finger point. Run from those people.

Mistake 2. You’ve taken on clients that you really didn’t want to take on, or that you knew you should not have taken on in hindsight. Going into a relationship with a client who you don’t trust or who you would not really be friends with is the worst. In one instance, the account stressed me out so much I ended up sick, which caused me to get behind on work, which causes other clients to find other providers and causes you to get a bad reputation.

Mistake 3. You didn’t speak up when you did not like what was happening in a partnership and then you just avoided the situation. Not great, especially when lawyers and contracts are involved. People sign contracts all day long that they will never actually fulfill their commitment on, for a myriad of reasons. During the negotiation process, ask a million questions about the partnership or client relationship. Allow the other person to express concerns freely with no criticism or any backlash so you can have an open dialogue and be satisfied with the outcome. At the first sign of, “uh oh” pick up the phone and talk it out.

What should you look for in a great partner? Glad you asked!

Attribute 1. They do not gossip. They discuss problems and issues that pertain to a specific situation, then they are movers and shakers who help everyone move on.

Attribute 2. They are focused, and goal-oriented. You are able to discuss truly large goals and they will encourage you, not laugh at you. Is your goal to make $7 million in a year — put it down on paper and do math to get you there. Nothing is impossible and your own thoughts are all that limits you, so find people who think BIG.

Attribute 3. You would go on a family vacation with them. If you work with people who you don’t like, you will be waiting for your weekend to happen all week! You need truly fun, exciting, motivated people who you can do life with and with their families as well.

Attribute 4. They exercise, eat healthy, wake up with goals for the day, and get you excited about that as well. Remember, they can’t be your source of happiness, they’re people so it’s impossible, but if you encourage others to do better and they do the same it’s pretty great. Healthy people are happy people.

Attribute 5. They let go of the past. Once a conflict has been resolved, there’s no dwelling on it. They move past it and are on to the next big thing.

Attribute 6. They operate in integrity, honesty and have outstanding character.

Attribute 7. They value time. Yours and theirs. They get stuff done, and delegate the rest so you all can live this amazing life we’ve all been blessed with.


Stars and Stripes MarketingKalen Arreola, president of Stars and Stripes Marketing, is a veteran and passionate business owner based in San Diego, Calif. Her personal military experience and past life as a military spouse give her a unique vantage point on today’s military landscape. Her expertise is public relations, event management, and military marketing strategy. A passionate team of extraordinary digital marketers helps her give clients the 360-degree results they are looking for, both on and off the web.