When you are first starting out in business, you will need help. Good help is especially hard to find when you have very limited resources. Other than interns, you may be forced to look around your personal network to see if you have any friends or family that can jump in and help you build your new enterprise. One of the most obvious helpers that may jump out to you is your spouse. But working with the one you love can be a slippery slope. If you drive each other crazy with simple household work, it’s probably not a good idea to work together. There also are those who believe that you should never hire someone you can’t fire. Why? If you fire your spouse you could ruin or severely damage your marriage.
Relationships and certainly marriages are hard work every day without adding the complications and stress of working together in a start-up business. My husband and I worked together in my first business Quintessence Multimedia for four years–so I have perspective on this subject.
Whether you go it alone or work with your sweetie… it’s a challenge. One of things that you need to do if you decide to work together is really understand each other’s best skills and work styles.
I am a morning person, who is a hyper Type-A, task master. I make lists and mow down the list daily. My husband is a corporate MBA, six sigma, sales manager, and a procrastinator. We annoyed each other every day, before we even got to the office. We drove to the office together, and were late most days because my husband was usually running late. I found myself sitting in the living room, waiting silently and getting more upset by the minute. One of the things that really helped us was seeking out mentorship from an older husband and wife team who had an office in our building. Once they suggested that we drive separate cars to work, that problem was solved.
One of the critical decisions that need to be made if you are working with your spouse is whether you are going to be equal partners, or if one of you is the boss. Defining this dynamic upfront – and communicating it – is essential. There’s a big difference between being a partner and being a key employee. This especially comes into play when handling disagreements about the business.
Ladies–this is a big issue for you if you started the business, and your husband later joins the business. Some men really can’t handle being a key employee, and may assert themselves like they are the boss.
The long term viability of the business and the marriage are intertwined. Resentment from this dynamic can really spill over into your home life. When you are personally invested in your business; it’s hard to not take a bad day in your business home with you at night.
So How Can You Avoid Having Your Work-life Ruin Your Home-life?
Here’s SmallBizLady’s 10 Rules for Working Well With Your Spouse.
- Have clearly defined roles at work, and stay in your lanes.
- Regular date nights (weekly if possible)
- Drive separate cars
- Have separate offices (and separate assistants–if you can afford it)
- Have clearly defined roles at home, too
- Have regular meetings to air out disagreements
- Have separate interests outside of the business
- Make decisions based on what’s best for the business
- Be accountable to each other (regardless of who get the final say)
- Seek out other couplepreneurs to get advice and support.
A great husband and wife business owner team, Donna Maria Coles Johnson her husband Darryl Johnson inspired me in part to write this blog post. They lead the Indie Beauty Network http://www.indiebeauty.com. I interviewed them last year about being successful couplepreneurs.
Do you have a rule or suggestion for how to work successfully with your spouse?
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Melinda Emerson, known to many as “SmallBizLady,” is a Veteran Entrepreneur, Small Business Coach and Social Media Strategist who hosts #SmallBizChat weekly on Twitter for emerging entrepreneurs. #Smallbizchat is the trusted resource on Twitter to discuss everything entrepreneurs need to know about launching and running a profitable small business. Her first book Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months is out in March 2010.