Starting a business with a spouse is without a doubt one of the most nerve-wracking adventures a couple could go on. A business partnership with a husband or wife is a terrific way to turn a shared passion into a physical reality. Moreover, it allows you to synchronize work schedules and gain financial independence. If done right, it can also grow and deepen your relationship.
However, owning a business with a spouse adds more complexities to your daily lives, since both livelihoods will depend on the success of a single business. Besides risking your personal finances, business conflicts and the proximity of your professional and personal lives can make things difficult for the marriage.
Here are some tips for Starting a Business with your Spouse
1. Discuss your vision for the business
If one wants to build an empire and the other wishes to work just enough to earn a reasonable salary, you’re bound to get frustrated. Face this challenge head-on by sitting down with your partner and envisioning the business’ future. Create a detailed business plan, which outlines the development of the business, provisions for unforeseen obstacles and both broad and specific goals. This way, you’ll always share the same perspective.
2. Create a financial plan
Money is the number one cause of divorce and cash flow the top challenge for new business owners. How much of your personal finances are you willing to risk? How will this venture impact your lifestyle? On average, it takes between 12 to 18 months for a startup to start making a profit, so what will you live off?
You could start saving for an emergency fund, cut living expenses, have one partner keep a part-time job or create some combination of these. Be extra prepared for financial ups and downs, especially if you have children. Clarify what each of you is willing to risk for the sake of the business and respect those financial boundaries.
3. Engage in different activities
Spending day and night with your partner can be nice, but it’s ok to want a break from working with your spouse. Set time aside for the things you enjoy – whether it’s dining out with a friend, hitting up the gym or walking your dog in the park. It provides you both with the opportunity to add some balance to your busy lives. In addition to “me” time, you’ll come away with something new, different, and totally yours to talk about that doesn’t involve the business.
4. Build-in time to reconnect as life partners
Don’t allow work to consume your relationship. You’re life-partners first, then business partners. Declare certain times of the day, for instance, dinner time, as off-limits for business discussions. You stress enough at the office, so once the day is through, you and your spouse should transition to focusing on home, family and enjoying each other.
Invest a little extra in your marriage by occasionally taking each other out on dates. You’re married to the best person in the world, remind them of that!
5. Know your personality types
Assess the strengths and weaknesses of both you and your partner. Perhaps your spouse is an early-riser and enjoys socializing with everyone in sight. Maybe you prefer working later in the evening and actively avoid small talk with others. Accept differences and focus on complementing each other.
6. Define roles within the company
Now that you’ve assessed your personalities, define your roles based on your strengths and weaknesses, or even just preferences. Is one of you terrible at math? Does one pay attention to detail and the other to the big picture? Make it clear who is responsible for what. Write detailed job descriptions that clearly outline duties and expectations.
Once you’ve outlined the expectations, trust your spouse to do their job. Don’t turn into a micromanager. It signals to your partner that you aren’t confident in their abilities. You’re married and owning a business together; don’t let it become a power struggle! It puts both the business and, more importantly, the marriage, at risk.
8. Address differences and resolve disputes
Strong communication is key to every aspect of your relationship. Giving your partner the silent treatment not only destroys productivity but also causes marital problems. Instead, hold weekly meetings to review the company’s performance, address problems and plan for future improvements.
Give praise where praise is due, but don’t be afraid to provide constructive feedback if necessary. Honesty is important to a successful business partnership with a spouse. The company is a team effort, so don’t be a solo player.
9. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Just because you’re working with your spouse, doesn’t mean all business operations should strictly be between husband and wife. If necessary, bring in an employee to assist in certain areas and help take the pressure off you and your partner. As you grow, you’ll likely need to hire more staff, which is a good thing!