Ah, the joys (and the pains) of working with your life partner on growing a business. Can you imagine how
frustrating wonderful it would be to spend all day with your spouse, working together for the common good of your company?
Er, yea. I have trouble with that one too.
My husband is transitioning from running his tech startup to helping me run my marketing company. Historically, we’ve butted heads when it comes to how I should run my business. But I’m willing to give it another try. After all, he sees my business from another perspective (and is quick to point out the flaws), which can only serve to help it grow. These tips are as much for me as for you!
If you want to start a business with your spouse, read on to make sure you’re ready. It’s like committing to marriage all over again.
1. Decide on Roles. If you’ve got two Type A personalities like the ones in my house, both partners can try to run the business. That doesn’t work. Decide what each of you are best at, and designate roles that best suit those skills. Look at Nellie and Phil Akalp, founders of CorpNet.com. Nellie is CEO and Phil serves as CFO. They don’t step on each other’s toes. One of you will have to be the big decision-maker, though both can give opinions.
2. Leave Work at Work. This is a bit hard for the Paytons, since we both work from home. But we try to designate time to talk about work, and time to relax. Or I do, anyway. If you bring work home with you, you will never feel like you have “couple time,” and it’s important that you do have it.
3. Don’t Bicker Couple-Style at Work. The flip side to #2 is: don’t bring home to work with you. If you have a habit of berating your partner, don’t do it on the job, especially in front of staff. Pretend you don’t know this person very well. You’d never treat a business partner or co-worker that way, so keep up those walls of professionalism.
4. Know What You’re Up Against. Meg Cadoux Hirshberg, who is married to Gary Hirshberg, co-founder of Stonyfield Farm, the organic-yogurt company, writes about couples running businesses in Inc. Magazine. She’s willing to bet that divorce statistics are pretty high among entrepreneurs. It’s key to know when you start a business that there will be a lot of strain on your relationship, and that it may even jeopardize your marriage. You may decide against starting a business with your spouse if you don’t think your marriage will survive.
5. Make Sure You’re Both Passionate About It. A new business is like a baby. It will require a lot of love from both of its parents to survive. If you’re not loving the idea of running a business, don’t be afraid to let your spouse know, and bow out. It’s better that he runs it alone if you will resent it.
I’m more than thrilled that my husband is joining me at Egg. I think we’ve laid the groundwork for open communication, and since we’ve both been entrepreneurs, albeit separately, for about 10 years, we know what to expect. But that doesn’t mean I won’t throttle his neck from time to time! Stay tuned for more adventures in Marriage/Entrepreneurship!