For many people, their spouse is the ideal small business partner. Most married couples know and trust each other implicitly, and they're often already aware of their partner's strengths and weaknesses and preferred communication styles. So why wouldn't you jump at the chance to run your business with the person you've chosen to spend the rest of your life with?
While it may sound like a match made in heaven on paper, running your business jointly with your spouse can pose both professional and personal challenges. Traditional boundaries between work and life can blur, which can lead to additional pressure being put on your family, your relationship with each other, and the business.
If you already co-own a business with your spouse, or if you're considering starting a joint venture, the following tips may help set you up for success, both at home and at work.
Choose Roles Carefully
When choosing a small business partner, you should always think of the types of roles that are best suited to the person in question. When you're thinking of starting a business with your spouse, it is an essential exercise to make a careful checklist of what skills are going to be required to make the business a success, and determine which partner is going to be responsible for which aspects of the business. Matching requirements to your individual personality traits, work styles and skill sets can go a long way toward helping to prevent disputes that could derail the business or bring tension into an otherwise happy marriage. For example, if you know your better half isn't a people person, keeping them out of the storefront is a no-brainer.
Have Separate Workspaces
Just because you run a business together, doesn't mean you have to spend all day in an office together or share the same routine. Giving each other space and flexibility to create your own workspaces can help each of you stay focused on your own individual tasks and responsibilities without potentially getting in each other's way.
Communicate and Listen
It may go without saying, but communication and patience are key in every successful marriage and business partnership. Letting an argument at home spill over into your professional life can run the risk of negatively impacting your employees.
Don't shy away from discussing important business matters, and make sure you discuss and agree upon all big financial decisions. And always make sure you take time to celebrate your successes, not just with each other, but with your whole team.
When discussing business matters with your spouse, it may also be helpful to clearly define whether you're asking for their opinion as your business partner or as your spouse.
Make Time for Your Private Life
Many small business owners are extremely passionate about the business and will work long hours to help ensure that it stays on track. But working every available hour can put a huge strain on a marriage, especially if one person is working much longer hours than the other or there are children involved. Take time out to spend with your family or as a couple. Plan outings in an environment that's the complete opposite of the business. Set rules regarding when and where business can be discussed, such as "No business talk during meals at home."
Have a Contingency Plan
It's not pleasant to think about, but what if you got divorced, or what if one of you fell ill or passed away? It's wise to discuss such circumstances before embarking on the business. Would the business be viable with just one partner? If the two of you split up or one person needs to take an extended leave, who would walk away? And what if one partner loses interest? Ceasing to work together does not need to herald the death of the business or have a negative impact on your marriage, as long as the ground rules have been set from the start.
Running a business with your spouse can give both of you the freedom to explore opportunities with someone you know and trust. But careful planning is a must if both the business and the marriage are to be successful.