One of the recurring questions I get about our business is, “How do you work together?” It seems most people at one time or another have worked with a couple that has started a business. Often, I hear horror stories of spouses shouting at one another while the employees search for another job before the divorce papers are handed out.
My husband and I have been in business for 16 years so I thought at this point, I could offer some good tips on how to have a healthy marriage and business. A new business is like a very demanding child that requires constant care. You must feed it and tend to its every need. The business child tends to have severe behavior problems and you never know when it is going to spit up on you. As time goes on, you both develop and grow. The pride you feel when you step back and look at what you built can be amazing.
Starting a business with your spouse can be a great benefit. You know you always have someone who has your back (in business that is sometimes hard to find). If you use the steps below, you might have a chance at creating something great.
How committed are you?
When you are first deciding to open a business, consider all of the negative consequences it will have on your marriage. How will you balance your family? One (or both of you) will have to work a lot to get things going, who will carry the heavy load of the business vs the heavy load of the family? Are you both fully committed? A business won’t be successful without great sacrifice. What does that mean to you? The more questions you can iron out in the beginning, the easier the decisions will be when you get to them.
Decide who has the final say
Some people live an altered reality believing that they can always agree on everything with their partner. There are times that you won’t agree. One of you has to give. Things are a lot easier if you understand who the controlling partner of the business is. That being said, the controlling partner should always consider their spouse’s opinion and never take control for granted.
Have the same vision
What does success look like to each of you? What is failure? When do you call it quits? Make sure you are on the same page for how the business will grow.
Clear well-suited roles
In the beginning of the company, both partners typically do what it takes to make it happen. Natural roles begin to form. One person is better at sales, while another is good at administration. Know your strengths and weaknesses and those of your partner. Talk about what roles you think you would be best suited.
Leave the business at work
Ok, I admit this one is the hardest for us. We are a 24 hour business, so there is always something going on. Try to the best of your ability, to separate work from home. I am chuckling to myself as I write because while I was in early labor with one of my children, my husband had a business meeting in the lobby of the hospital. The good news is, he had cleared it with me (it was early labor) and it was an important meeting – see what I mean about being on the same page? If we were not on the same page- I would probably still be seething in anger rather than chuckling.
The good news is that it is possible to have a healthy business and marriage. It is not easy, but life is not easy. It is a journey to be walked. Personally, I could not imagine anyone better to walk it with than my spouse!
Serena Ayscue and her husband Jeff created ByDesign Technologies. A software company that services the direct sales industry. They are currently in their 16th year of business and support companies around the globe. You can learn more at www.bydesign.com