Working Together as a Couple
As a husband-wife business duo, you're not just business partners you're partners for life. And while there are success stories like Adi Tarako and Alan Cohen (the husband-wife owners of the $2 billion site Houzz), there are also horror stories like the founder’s of Burt’s Bees—Burt Shavitz and Roxanne Quimby. The business owner-spouse dynamic can be a strange and rewarding relationship where what happens at home can affect what happens in the office and visa versa, and it goes without saying that starting a business together is not a light decision.
Here are six things you should consider before throwing all of your life savings into a “sure thing”:
It will be tempting to bring business matters home but this simply isn’t an option, especially if you have employees. It’s important to maintain a professional demeanor, any tension between spouses can and will carry over to others. Such tension can cause employees to feel awkward or compelled to “choose a side."
Inversely, when at the dinner table there will be times you’ll want to discuss unresolved business. And although in special circumstances this might be necessary—it’s important to set boundaries early on. Failing to do so will cause your relationship to suffer. After a long day of work, your mind and body need to decompress, and focusing on your relationship can only benefit your business in the long run.
As spouses you will share a level of comfortability that you won’t share with others including clients, employees, and strategic business partners. Talking down to each other, complaining about your spouse when they aren’t in the office, or too much public affection can all be cause for loss of professionalism. Keeping a professional demeanor will help you command more credibility and respect at the work place.
3. Skill Set
Once you have a well thought out business plan that includes the hows of business and not just the whats—it’s time to make an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. This crucial step will help you know what to expect in the way of expenditures. If you need a programmer and neither of you know how to program—you’re going to have to calculate that cost and adjust accordingly. If there are shared gaps in expertise, look to small business outsourcing as an easy way to save time and headache.
4. Shared Vision
The last thing you want is for both of you to be working your tails off while heading in opposite directions. Before you begin producing, hiring and investing—it’s important to make sure you're working together as a couple. Take some time, in fact, take a lot of time to draw out a well designed plan. Start with a long term vision and then work your way down to hyper-focused goals. This will assure that your end goal is the same and the only question left to ask is “How do we get there?”
5. Home Life
This may seem like an obvious one, but it just might be the most important. Have you talked about who will watch the kids when they're home? Are you going to hire a babysitter—and if so, can you afford it? Who’s going to do the chores? Are you going to hire a cleaning service? Or will you have enough energy to do the dishes after both of you have been working all day?
Working together as a couple has the uncanny ability to make you take an analytical look at the day to day. Make sure you discuss these things in detail so there's no confusion when things "fall through the cracks." This is especially true when it comes your children's health and well-being.
6. Power Balance
Is one person going to take the lead? Should one person take the lead? Or will you work together as an equal partnership?
It's easy to say you’ll have an equal share of power but when it comes to actively carrying out policies—sometimes one partner will take a natural leadership role over the other. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Remember consideration number 3? Play to your strengths as a partnership. Being master of your natural domain can be a bigger help to your brand’s success than being alpha dog.
If one of you does take a more public leadership role in the company, it’s important to try not leverage the cache that come’s with a position of power over the other. When you walk through your home's door your position as manager ends.