You and your spouse make a good team in your personal life, but does that mean you will make good business partners?
Couple-founded businesses have exploded in growth over the past 30 years. Companies such as EventBrite and Modcloth were built by married couples who managed to achieve success both personally and professionally.
As you go through life together, your personal or mutual goal of owning a business is bound to come to the table. So how do you know if you and your spouse should pursue a shared passion and start your own business? Before deciding, ask yourselves the following questions.
Do we work well together?
Marriage is similar to business in that you have to be able to communicate well and manage finances, as well as solve problems together. If you have a strong sense of mutual respect and find that you and your partner are well-suited to each other both in life and in business, then you should fare favorably in both environments.
As spouses, you already have a head start in that you’ve established trust and understanding. But do you have the professionalism to be respectful to each other when you don’t agree? Your ability to deliver feedback will be the true test of whether you will last in a business endeavor together, and whether you can be honest and constructive without bringing personal feelings into the mix. In other words, can you put your pride on the back burner for the good of the business?
Do we have complementary skill sets?
The reason many business partners succeed (think Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin) is that they have complementary sets of skills. For instance, if you and your spouse want to start a bakery, and your spouse excels as a baker, maybe you excel at running the business.
Michael Lazerow of Buddy Media says of working with his wife, “…I focus on the ideas, sales, raising money, and the strategic direction of the company. Kass handles all operations, finance, HR, marketing. She’s the Tom to my Jerry, the Beauty to my Beast.”
Determine where your skills lie and who should be responsible for what. Dividing responsibilities in the beginning can give you both a sense of purpose. It will also allow your spouse to take the lead on one aspect of the business while you pursue another. That way, you both have your designated roles and won’t interfere much with each other’s work. A clearly defined division of labor helps to keep you both focused on your shared business goals while still contributing to the business in individual ways.
Can we separate business from personal?
While you and your spouse might have a strong family life, drawing the lines between work and play can be difficult.
Some couples find that they rely on the separation between their business and personal lives to keep their relationship healthy, especially if they have a family.
Jennifer Wong and Casey Sackett, co-founders of Alt12 Apps, approach work-life balance as follows: “We’ve created hard and fast rules about when ‘shop talk’ must stop, and from the moment our kids are home…we don’t allow any work conversation. This isn’t just important for us as a couple, but our kids also need us to be there whole-heartedly.”
Communicate about how you plan to balance your marriage with your work. The right mix will depend on your relationship. Whether that means scheduling date nights with your spouse, spending time apart, or compartmentalizing your work from your home life, figuring out what separation looks like for you is key to a lasting and successful partnership.
Is it financially viable?
When one spouse decides to start a business, generally the other one may be in a position of financial stability. But what if you both want to go into business together? Can you both afford to start a new venture? Talking about your finances before building your startup is very important. You may not be able to both quit your jobs and set off on your new enterprise without first discussing your plans for startup capital.
Most businesses don’t see a profit right away, sometimes not for a couple of years. Before making any moves towards a business of your own, be sure to create a Business Plan and also discuss personal finances with your spouse and how you plan to fund your passion.
Do we both share the same vision?
Starting a business is a courageous decision, usually fueled by passion, determination, and vision for success. As spouses, do you share the same goals for your business? Likely, if you both invested in launching a startup, you’ve discussed your hopes for the business. But make sure you talk about objectives and what you envision for your business in 5 or 10 years. It’s important that you not only have the same goals but that you share an equal commitment to the new venture. An unequal balance will only bring out feelings of resentment if one partner is contributing more than the other.
How will your vision impact how you conduct business? Essentially, what kind of business are you starting and how do you plan to execute your vision? These may be “big picture” questions, but they are worth exploring to know that you and your spouse are on the same page.
What happens if our business fails?
This is a question no one wants to think about, but that every entrepreneur should consider when launching a business. A business is an asset that you’re contributing time and money to, and you want to protect it from failure. Talk to your spouse about what will happen if the business should perform poorly, or if one of you suddenly becomes ill or unable to continue running their portion of the enterprise. Put these plans into writing so that you both have peace of mind knowing that you’ve addressed all possibilities, even the bad ones, and have settled on a contingency plan if the unexpected occurs.
Partners for Life
As a couple, you already share your lives together. If you’re thinking of expanding that relationship into a business partnership, you’re in for an adventure of possibility and challenges. It can be exciting to dive into new opportunities together, but, like any new business, there are bound to be bumps in the road.
Hayes and Jenn Davis, owners of Union Metrics, say, “We love working and building our company together. There is nothing more challenging and more rewarding than running a business, and it’s pretty incredible that we get to experience it side by side.”
Entrepreneurship is never easy, but it’s always worth it. When you add marriage to the mix, there’s more room for problems. However, if you and your spouse have taken the time to evaluate your relationship—personally and professionally—and you feel like you have a solid marriage, your business already has a strong foundation. Just remember to support each other when times are tough, because there most certainly will be tough times, and it’s how you both handle these challenges that will determine your success, both at home and at work.
Would you start a business with your spouse? Why or why not?
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