In business with your life partner?
Married couples in business together have extreme opinions when asked about it. It’s either the best thing that happened to them, or the worst. Very few couples, if any, are indifferent about running a business with their life partner.
Married couples have long established and run successful family businesses, one third of the fastest growing private companies in the UK were owned and operated by husband-and-wife teams.
The benefits are innumerable for those couples who can work closely together and share a passion for their business. In addition to having the opportunity to spend more time together, they also tend to enjoy peace and harmony in their personal lives as well.
This may not always be the case, however, for those who try to raise a family and run a business together. Both require a lot of tough decisions that ultimately might only highlight the differences between partners.
The couples that can’t work it out usually end up in a long-winded divorce, arguing about who did what in the business, and who deserves to get more. I’m sure we all know at least one or two people that have experienced this.
As a result, companies can be torn apart if the domestic relationship begins to fall apart. Misunderstandings at home can lead to trouble in the boardroom, eventually leading to a lack of harmony in the office, bad decisions, and a loss of business. Worst case scenario, because it’s often the single greatest asset in the marriage, the business becomes a pawn in the divorce settlement.
This doesn’t have to happen though. If you’ve been married or life partners for a while, you know that the relationship takes a lot of work and compromise. The same goes for good and prosperous business partnerships.
What happens when a couple sees themselves heading down the divorce path, but truly want to save the marriage? One person will usually end up leaving the business to let the other run it. Only then, can they work on salvaging their marriage and actually succeed.
Being able to successfully work with your life partner depends on many factors. It’s not easy. If you do decide to do it, have a look at these 10 tips.
- Same goals from the business. Successful partners are equally devoted to their business. Yes, one may appear to be the outward driver, but in reality, both partners are dedicating equal time and energy to growing their business. They feed each other power and energy in their own respective ways. But if one is constantly trying to grow the company, while the other is content with standing still, resentment and anger will build, and the marriage or business (or both) will fail. Just because you are committed to spending the rest of your lives together, it doesn’t mean you have the same goals or vision for your company. If one wants a lifestyle business, while the other wants to make the business scalable, you’ve got a huge problem. It’s impossible for a company to evolve when the visions are not aligned.
- Divide the responsibilities. Separate your areas of responsibility and then let each other work without interfering. Much like at home or within a family, a division of labour in the office is the key to maintaining good working relationships, as well achieving your business goals.
- Do what you are good at. Sometimes when a couple starts a business together, they end up in their respective roles whether they like it or not. If at some point one or both of the partners realise they are not suited for the position, the couple has to make a decision. Either switch roles, or step away. Staying in a role that is proving detrimental to the business will only hurt the business – and ultimately the marriage. It’s not easy to admit that you are not cut out to running a certain aspect of the company that you helped build. But if the goal is to build a successful business, you need to leave pride and ego out of the equation.
- Respect each other. Have you ever come across a married couple that deeply respected each other in their business, but had zero respect for each other personally? What about vice versa? Probably not. Happily-married couples that start a business together usually end up respecting each other even more, or losing respect entirely. Personal and business respect go hand-in-hand for a married couple. Couples will likely lose respect for each other if they consistently disagree on how to run the business. An easy way to find out if a couple respects each other is to ask their employees. They are the first ones to sense it and can usually foresee if the couple will last. The sad part is a marriage that may have worked pre-business partnership, will likely fail once they lose respect for each other in business.
- Leave the intimacy and issues at home. When you’re at home you wouldn’t expect your spouse or partner to talk with you as you would expect him or her to address others at a business meeting. The same goes for time spent in the office together. Public displays of affection, heated arguments or personal conversations can embarrass or alienate others. Worse, they can disrupt the smooth flow of business. That’s why it is important that you conduct yourselves in a professional manner anytime you’re on “company time.”
- Keep business out of the bedroom. The same applies when you and your spouse or partner leave the office and return home. Although you may find that you are so busy all day long that you haven’t had much time to talk about business with your partner, it is important to set limits. To make a smooth transition from business to domestic partners, you can limit the time you take each day to catch up to half an hour or so after you leave the office, after which you agree not talk business again until you’re both back in the office.
- Know how to shut off. Running a business is difficult and stressful enough. Add marriage to it? That’s quite the challenge. When a couple knows how to turn off the business switch and enjoy their personal lives, they are one step ahead of the game. Unfortunately, most couples that work together can’t shut it off. Their entire lives revolve around their business. In fact, the only moments where they really have time talk about their business issues are when they are eating dinner or lying in bed! The problem gets worse when one spouse wants to shut it off, and the other one can’t or won’t.
- Get away with each other. A short break from work together can do wonders for both your relationship and the business. A getaway weekend can quickly remind you why you love being in business together.
- Get away from each other. In addition to occasionally needing a break from the stress of the business; it can be just as healthy to take a break from each other. Couples who are not in business together are often separated everyday by the usual office hours and the extra time and distant of the commute. However, when you’re in business with your spouse or partner you can find yourselves together 24 hours a day for weeks on end. Give each other some space and breathing room by regularly engaging in personal interests and activities that belong only to you.
- Protect your investment. If one of you suddenly dies or becomes disabled, are you prepared for the business or your lifestyle to continue? Unlike other business owners, since you are partners with your spouse your needs will be unique. Develop a contingency plan with the help of your lawyer, accountant and/or insurance broker that protects both of you in the event of death, divorce or other unforeseen events.
Running a business with your life partner can be extremely challenging – especially if you married your polar opposite. Think of it as trying to juggle two marriages simultaneously. You can imagine how much effort that involves!
Do It Now!
If you would like to improve your chances of your business and life partnership surviving have a look at this one day seminar! Couples in Business!
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