Thinking of going into business with your spouse? Consider this before saying “I do”

Going into business with your life-partner requires careful consideration. (Photograph: MovieWeb.com.)

THERE are countless successfully operated husband-wife/life-partner companies around. They even have their own name, ‘copreneurs’. The earning potential of working with your loved one can be phenomenal. After all, who in life is your greatest admirer, ally and collaborator? Who else so intimately shares your hopes and ambitions, not to mention your assets and the potential growth thereof?

The truth is however, that many of even the most successful life-partner business partnerships have worked through many thorny issues before they reach this point – and as many have failed along the way.

Running a business, particularly a new one, with someone you love can present hazards that put a great deal of stress on relationships. In addition to the usual trials and frustration partners may experience regarding business issues, they also share and have to deal with household and financial problems. Disagreements can arise about how to manage the business and egos become particularly fragile when they are transferred from work to home and back again.

Life and business strategists say the best way to counter potential problems is ‘head on’ by, before even beginning the company, writing down basic guidelines on how the business will be managed. This document should be similar to any partnership agreement:

• Detail everything that you think could cause disagreement for either or both of you.
• Decide upfront how you are going to sort out disagreements.
• Agree on who will deal with emergency childcare and/or home situations, and which of the two of you will go back to work or home if the business fails.
• Determine how you are going to differentiate between working time and home time.
• Agree on times and places where business is not discussed.

The agreement should also include what each of your financial commitments are, how many working hours each of you will put in each day, what your job responsibilities are, and how any changes in the agreement will be handled.

According to coach and entrepreneur, Glen Snethun it is essential to “lose your ego” if you want to establish a successful business partnership with your life partner.

“In order to get the best product possible, you have to be willing to accept advice and suggestions from your partner in the same spirit that you would from a co-worker. There is no room for egos and you cannot allow your personal relationship to affect the productivity of the business. This means also accepting the fact that your partner is more talented than you in some areas,” he says.

Snethun also believes that, to boost your levels of efficiency and productivity, it is important to define your exact roles within the perimeters of the office. You need to decide on central roles, such as who of the two of you will be the planner, customer service interface and bookkeeper.

Roles can be decided by determining what skill sets each person has that best serve the business and, once areas of expertise have been established, it is crucial to respect each others’ role and not interfere.

It is important too, he says, to team up and decide who is suited to do what when problems arise or fires need to be put out: “Take the ‘you tackle that and I will tackle this’ approach. Then trust that your partner will deal with it properly. Do not look over each others’ shoulders.”

Another effective technique, advises Snethun, is to set specific times for discussion or problem solving in the different areas of your life: “For example, do not talk shop when you are trying to make supper and the kids are screaming, and make sure that everyone in the home knows and understands when you are working, and when you are available to be mom/dad or husband/wife.”

Furthermore, no matter how much you love your partner and enjoy their company, do not underestimate the need for you to have your own workspace and your partner to have his or hers.

“There is nothing more frustrating than being in the middle of a prospecting call and having a spouse barge in and write notes to you or try to get an answer to something while your talking. Bring down the stress levels a notch by respecting each other’s workspace and activities within that space,” says Snethun.

And, when things get tough, remind yourself of the advantages. You and your partner can spend more time together and, wisely done, you can use both sets of talents to achieve the level of financial success you want.

(First published in Real Business in 2006.)

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About Administrator

Freelance writer based in Hout Bay near Cape Town in South Africa.
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One Response to Thinking of going into business with your spouse? Consider this before saying “I do”

  1. Anne John says:

    Good post pennyhaw! Helpful pointers for anyone considering taking the plunge! At the end of the day, I guess mutual respect, trust and communication goes a long way! After all both a marriage and a business needs a lot of hard work, commitment and dedication to be successful and without a doubt, one needs to go the extra mile to make a business depending on married partners successful.

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