How can you make a business partnership with your spouse work without damaging your romantic partnership? Andrew and I are doing just that. Read this first if you’re thinking of starting a company with your spouse.
You will often hear people say, “I could NEVER work with my spouse”. For one thing, if you choose this path, you will almost literally spend 24 hours, 7 days a week together. There is no coming home and talking about your days. You’ve both had exactly the same day. Not always a recipe for a happy relationship.
A year ago I would have agreed. But working on Listen, Money Matters with Andrew has proven to be super rewarding for both of us professionally and personally.
Working with your significant other has the potential to be the best decision you have ever made or it could be the thing that ends your relationship. Through all the challenges, balance and communication have been key to being successful in the business and at home (which are the same physical space. So if you were under the impression that LMM was run out of some swanky New York City office, sorry to disappoint you!).
So if you and your spouse or partner are thinking of making the business leap hand in hand, how can you do it without ripping each other’s heads off?
Work Life Balance
The most important thing is to make sure not neglect your personal relationship. One downside of being in business with your spouse is that the line between work and marriage doesn’t exist. You are constantly transitioning between the personal and business all day.
Making an important decision for the company will turn into a discussion and then an argument about whose turn it is to take out the garbage. There are even some days I feel as though all we talk about is work.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve said, “I want to be your wife right now, not your business partner.”
Making a rule that you only talk about work between certain hours of the day can help. Remember, shop talk is not pillow talk. It’s not sexy and it’s not productive. Go on dates and do things together while leaving the work at home.
Divide and Conquer
The great thing about having your spouse as your business partner is that you know this person so well. You’re compatible and there’s trust from the beginning of your venture. That’s not always the case with a business partner and it’s a nice advantage to have. Be honest about each other’s strengths and weaknesses and establish work roles based on them.
Once you have an idea of what each person excels in, create team-focused goals. This will allow you both to maximize your skill sets. This is especially important when you’re starting off. There is so much work and it needs to be shared with you in a way that is most efficient and productive.
This strategy applies to our personal life too. I clean and plan trips. Andrew takes manages our finances (surprise, surprise) and takes out the garbage. Sometimes. After I ask him to do it at least twice.
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Be Teammates, Never Opponents
Never forgot you are on the same team trying to reach the same goal together. Respect each other’s work and talk out business disagreements without getting emotional. Easier said than done, I know. Remember, you want to make a decision that will move the company forward.
The last thing you want is a disagreement about the font on your website to turn into a personal confrontation over the dinner table. You should formulate the same short and long term vision for the business while remembering to do what is best for the business and your relationship.
This Is Your Decision
We are all for getting the best advice from the best sources you can. But don’t crowdsource the decision to all and sundry. This can be an especially touchy thing if you let your families know that you are thinking about starting a business together. Everyone has an opinion and they may not be supportive of the risk you are about to take which can result in resentment.
Take your family’s advice on board but this is a decision between you and your spouse. No one understands your life and dreams the way the two of you do. Treat the announcement of your plans the way it’s advised to treat a pregnancy announcement. Wait until the most touch and go part is behind you before you make the big reveal.
Talk About the Financial Risks
This is an ongoing conversation for us and probably the most difficult. When you’re starting a business, the money won’t be flooding in for quite some time. Right now, Andrew is still working full time and I focus my time on LMM.
He makes exponentially more than I do so this made the most sense for us. We are now slowly moving toward the next step which is for both of us to work on LMM full time. From a beach. While drinking things from coconuts.
Going full time is a huge leap and there are a lot of things to take into consideration. What will we do for insurance? What if we start a family? How much time do we have before draining all of our savings? What is the plan if none of this works out? Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
You can build a runway by figuring out how much time and money you need to get your business off the ground. If you go into business full-time together, you could also go broke together so you cannot just jump in blindly.
This will not work out for all couples so we consider ourselves incredibly fortunate to be able to work together to reach our goals. To my surprise, Andrew has been the easiest person I have ever worked with.
Just like in our marriage, we complement each other in business as well. We both have completely different backgrounds and experiences to bring to the table but share the trust and passion.
Starting a business is risky. Starting one with your spouse, the risk is ten-fold. Think about it carefully, create a plan and have fun!