Over the last decade, people in droves have been leaving corporations to start businesses of their own.
In their simultaneous search for work independence and family intimacy, sometimes these corporate refugees look to a spouse (or a very close personal friend) to become a trusted business partner.
Together they set out to create something more meaningful and lucrative for themselves, so that they can be more than “a small cog in a big corporate wheel.”
Couples in business experience their ups and downs.
Even when each partner is a capable professional, it can take time for the partnership to reach a state of business self-sufficiency (where work seems to flow by itself) and financial abundance (where money is not a worry).
One couple weathered many years of false starts to get their business to beyond the stage of living “hand to mouth,” and their relationship beyond the point of always being edgy with each other. Many times they said, “We will give it only one more year, and close shop if we can’t make it work.”
Today, their business is thriving because they finally found a workable formula for both business and personal success.
Even a couple’s business success can create its own stress.
After a couple of years in business, another couple found themselves inundated with more business than they could handle.
They were pulling their hair out, and attacking each other from trying to serve all their customers well without a large enough organization to handle all the work.
Their company’s normal growing pains almost tore their relationship apart.
Here are some tips to make your part business, part personal partnership work for the long haul:
Tips for Couples in Business
- Define a mission, vision and set of values for the business.
These may need to be adjusted as the business evolves, which is fine so long as there is a continual investment in working on the issues.
Most important, if each partner can find a way to have the business express their personal and professional values, then the business will help keep the couple whole and committed to the partnership.
- Make sure that your talents and skills complement each other’s and are mutually respected.
If the two of you as individuals are too similar or too different, then you might experience problems in working together.
Assess your professional talents and skills, then define your roles in the business accordingly.
One partner should not run rough-shot over the other, telling them what to do.
Couple partnerships that last are those with mutual respect for what each person brings to the business.
- Design a workable organization.
Don’t have a partner play a role in the business that they dislike, even if they appear more suitable for that role.
I’ve seen a number of cases where one partner took on the role of General Manager (while the other partner acted as the technical expert) because it seemed logical to divide roles that way.
However, the partner was miserable in that role and the business suffered accordingly.
When neither partner feels able nor interested in performing important roles, then bring in capable managers and staff, outsource the tasks, or bring in another partner who can provide high-level talent.
Despite the disadvantages of these options, they are all better than perpetuating a partner’s loss of interest or commitment to the business.
- Build forums for partner communication.
Having open, scheduled forums for partner communication and decision making is also critical to a business.
Making important decisions “on the fly” or in kitchen or bedroom conversations won’t work in the long run.
Regular weekly meetings to review customer commitments, work progress, marketing/sales efforts, will make the work flow more undisturbed, and thus more efficient.
- Insert some separation between business and family life.
It is vital to set aside space and time for personal and family endeavors, and not just be “all business all the time.”
Overindulging or under-indulging in any facet of one’s life can lead to monotony, boredom and disillusionment.
Undisturbed time for quality family and personal endeavors contributes to your mental health.
- Get outside help/advice when needed.
Wise business partners realize that they don’t know everything, and seek out competent advisors for their business.
Trusted advisors can look out for blind spots in the couple’s perceptions and flaws in their thinking.
The right advisors also can provide access to critical resources that the couple may find difficulty in obtaining themselves, like financial, technical or human resources.
The intensity of combining entrepreneurial life and a personal relationship doesn’t work for every couple, but with the right attention put to the above matters, many can discover the independence, collegiality and reward in both working and playing with a trusted partner.
Couples in Business: Reward and Challenge for Partners Harvy Simkovits, CMC – Published in Boston Business Journal