The Business Couple Conundrum
It doesn’t take long for a couple working together in business to discover the pros and cons. Every couple has their own dynamic in the triangular relationship between each other and the business. The last thing you want is for the third part of that triangle—your business—to ruin your marriage. Being in business with your spouse does lead to unexpected challenges.
Starting a business is risky. Bloomberg economists reported that, “One-third of all new ventures close within two years, half within five years…” Plus, financial challenges place an additional strain on most marriages.
Working closely together is a dream born of love and enthusiasm. Couples in business together share a vision of happily running a successful business.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Not all couples thrive from working together. That’s because some couples need a little separation and distance. A select few, however, enjoy spending a lot of time together. Plus, there are financial benefits to teaming up.
As a couple-preneur, consider some basic guidelines for smooth sailing. Being in business with your spouse includes the good, the bad and the ugly.
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- Your opinion counts. Figure out how your skills complement each other. Although you work closely together, you will not always agree. And that’s okay. Your differing points of view offer an advantage. Between the two of you, it’s possible to look at several angles of a situation before choosing the best approach.
- Trust and respect. Unlike strangers who come together on an idea, you know and trust each other. One of you, however, may feel more ownership with the business. Similar to other parts of your marriage, any form of jealousy or competition will overshadow all that’s right and good. If you can’t work this out on your own, then seek outside support to resolve those feelings. Mutual trust and respect are critical to your success, personally and professionally.
- Combined effort. Optimize your combined efforts. It’s not 1+1=2. Instead, the possibilities become exponential. You get to multiply the joys and divide the sorrows. Realize, however, united growth is preferable to divided growth. Successful entrepreneurs realize that sometimes things will not go as planned. Don’t dwell on the failure and place blame. Instead quickly regroup, gain insight from the experience and move forward.
- Complementary skills. You both contribute skills and expertise to the business. Don’t continue holding onto tasks which are below your skill level. Figure out how your strengths will help grow your business. Your partner may enjoy keeping track of the business income and expenses while you savor networking and sales.
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These tips, when applied strategically, become a competitive advantage.
Challenges with Being in Business with Your Spouse
The same partnership that offers an advantage can also become a disadvantage. Being in business with your spouse is not always an ideal match.
Watch for these telltale signs.
- Communication breakdown. No one’s a mind-reader. So don’t assume your partner knows what you are thinking or why you are approaching a task in a certain way.
- Different expectations. Your interests shift as your business grows. When you started you both agreed on specific business goals. With growth, however, your expectations will change. Although you live and work together, set up regular meetings to review short and long term goals. Openly discuss what’s still working and identify where change is needed. Otherwise, tension will rise when your expectations about how much work is required or personal time off gets postponed.
- You step on each other’s toes. Once you and your spouse divide the work, you may discover areas where you overlap. Here’s where control issues sometimes arise, especially when your approach differs from your spouses. Where do you step on each other’s toes? Is it decision making, dealing with a difficult client or how to spend money?
- Cramped quarters. After awhile your workspace may stop working. The set-up that was originally quaint is now annoying. What change can you make to accommodate your growing business?
- You don’t unplug. Have some of your other interests been abandoned? You realize that everything you do together revolves around the business. What happened to casual nights off doing something fun together? Even your friends are somehow associated with your business. If that sounds familiar, then find ways to escape. Rejuvenate your relationship by sharing something that has nothing to do with another workshop or business concern.
[bctt tweet=”No one’s a mind-reader. So don’t assume your partner knows what you are thinking or why you are approaching a task in a certain way. #getpaidwhatyoureworth” username=”lorenfogelman”]
If left unchecked, these challenges will strain your relationship. That’s because your marriage and your business are closely linked together.
The Tandem Solution
Prevention takes less effort than intervention. So make it a point to address these concerns early on.
- Never assume. Don’t think you know what your partner thinks or why they do things differently than you. Check it out – without confronting. Verify that you both are on the same page.
- Acknowledge the tension. Being in business with your spouse has challenges. Don’t keep skirting around an issue because you tend to avoid difficult conversations. Be truthful with your partner. It’s not fair to your partner by claim that everything is okay when it’s not.
- Be direct. Learn to voice your concerns without placing blame. That’s called compassionate communication. Give your partner the opportunity to express their biggest challenge, too.
- Time off. Have you stopped having fun together? Plan for nights out to recharge and enjoy each other’s company. Schedule quarterly getaways or time off on weekends. Don’t talk about business during your “off-the-clock” time together.
- Workspace. Brainstorm ways to overcome physical space issues. Create distance or flex your schedules when you need to work undisturbed.
- The final say. Undefined roles will create friction about who gets the final say. Easily resolve this by deciding who works on which part of the business. You can always ask your partner for input. Go ahead and agree on some set boundaries. Create clear guidelines about responsibilities and who gets the final say.
Enhance your relationship
The basic rule of thumb is to keep communication open. It’s better to check things out than to make assumptions. At first, asking your partner about something may feel intrusive. You’ll discover that open communication reduces resentment, either about your partner or the business.
Growing a business with your spouse can enhance your relationship. It’s a venture that requires open minded thinking, clear communication, passion for the business and love for each other. Become a power couple to stack the odds for success in your favor.
If you find you and your partner have stumbled on a couple-preneur challenge and can’t see your way out, coaching can help. As a therapists turned business coaches, my husband, Steve, and I work side by side with entrepreneurial couples to resolve these common concerns.
Being in business with your spouse is a unique opportunity. Your marriage will strengthen as your business grows. Schedule a private strategy session for the two of you. We can help you discover solutions that work.