Any business owner will tell you that along with the headaches, stresses and worrying about keeping a company healthy comes joy, challenge and (hopefully, if you are doing it right) wealth. Sounds a little bit like marriage, right? Some people combine the two when they are both business owners and spouses. Running a business with your significant other has its own set of logistics to pay attention to. If you and your spouse spend your days together at the office and your nights together at home, here is some advice to keep yourselves balanced professionally and personally.
Benefits to working together
You can trust your spouse
One of the benefits of working with your spouse is that you know them well and can trust them. They are not going to cook the books or run off in the middle of the night with the cashbox. You know you can leave the company with them at the wheel while you go and pitch to a new client and still find the company intact upon your return. You know how to communicate well with each other so mulling over decisions that impact the bottom line can be easier than with an employee who is not related to you.
You are on the same team
Both of you are invested in a profitable outcome. You don’t risk someone trying to sabotage the business or take it over. You and your spouse have shared goals and dreams for the success of the company.
Your challenges are the same
Because you work for the same business, you each know what the other is up against. A long day for one is a long day for the other, and when you finally return home your spent energies are the same…there’s no talk of “You do it, I’m exhausted.” When one of you suggests ordering takeout rather than slaving away in the kitchen because you’ve just spent 12 hours at the office, the other person is not going to argue…they were there, too!
Challenges to working together and overcoming them
Too much togetherness
Before deciding if you want to operate a business with your spouse, you both need to ask yourselves if you have the type of relationship that can withstand this level of togetherness. There are certain people who are quite independent and would not thrive if put in a situation where they are with their partner 24 hours a day. There is nothing wrong in deciding that you are one of those people and it doesn’t mean you don’t love your partner. It’s better to know this before committing to investing in a business. If you aren’t sure, take an extended vacation together. If you are still speaking to each other at the end of it, it’s a sign that you could run a business together without a problem!
Owning a business together means that you may have lean times. Start-up costs can be high, which means you may have to live like students again, renting a cheap apartment and cooking your meals at home. Vacations may have to wait until the business grows. Employees need to be paid before you start earning a real salary. Some months you may not earn any salary at all. However, once your business takes off, the financial rewards can make this all worth it.
Have everything on paper
Even though you are married, you must have legal paperwork drawn up that outlines the terms and conditions of your business relationship. You may think that you will never need to refer to this, but one day you might, and that contract will be worth the money you spent to create it.
Your work and your home life need to be separate
According to couples who run companies together, this is key to having a successful company and not driving the marriage into the ground. When you walk into the office, you are both professionals. Did you fight this morning on the way in? Forget about it for now. Talk about it when the workday is finished. You need to treat each other as colleagues when you are in the workplace, not as a couple.
This means applauding your spouse’s great money-saving idea, or signing of a new client, or excellent personnel management skills. This also means that if you do not agree with your spouse, your criticism is constructive, professional (and not personal), and offered privately, not in front of other employees.
It can be exhausting to work 12 hours a day and then come home to another type of work: the household tasks. Once your business starts becoming profitable, you may want to outsource certain chores in order to enjoy the home life you have built. Contract with services such as a cleaning team, gardener, nanny for the children, handyman who can do home repairs, dog walker. You work hard. When the money starts coming in, why not use it to help you enjoy your time away from the office?
Managing your money: a must-have conversation
Once the business that you and your spouse have built starts generating big profits, sit down with your spouse and a financial advisor to talk about how you wish to protect these assets. Trusts for the children, investment properties, college funds, charitable giving…these are decisions that, like your business plan, should be made by the two of you.