Working with a business partner can be a real challenge. It can be even tougher when that partner is your spouse. The result can be pure craziness or business bliss…depending on how you arrange your business relationship.
Working together can be stressful. Problems at home can affect the business; problems in the business can affect the home. In extreme situations, marital troubles can tear the business apart or turn it into a pawn in an ugly divorce.
On the positive side, the benefits can far outweigh the potential disadvantages. Couples who know how to work together share a unique dedication to their business’s success. Plus, it can be fun working shoulder to shoulder with your life partner in a common purpose. That’s why husbands and wives who are successful in business together tend to enjoy peace and harmony in their personal lives as well.
If you and your spouse are business partners, the following suggestions can help assure that your business and your marriage continue to prosper:
- Maintain clear and separate responsibilities, and give each other plenty of breathing space. If necessary, write down job descriptions. Then let each other work in peace. Perhaps she heads up marketing and sales, while he focuses on product development. This division of labor is crucial for maintaining the working relationship. Otherwise, you risk stepping all over each other. Then, it will only be a matter of time before problems develop…resentments build. Too much togetherness can make you miserable and drive you apart.
- Keep your personal lives out of the office. Conduct yourselves professionally while on "company time." Public displays of affection, personal conversations or other intimacies can embarrass and alienate employees and disrupt the business. The Acid Test: A stranger should be able to walk into your company and not tell you are married.
- Keep business out of the bedroom. Many spouse teams don’t have time during the day to talk about business. So, they take a few minutes after hours to catch up, unwind together and make the transition from business partners to marriage partners. Then they put business away for the day. The ideal: Strike a healthy balance between your business life and your personal life.
- Get away with each other. Plan work-free vacations and get-away weekends so you don’t ever forget that you’re much more than business partners.
- Get away from each other. It’s unrealistic to believe you can be side by side 24 hours a day and still maintain a healthy outlook and attitude. Develop outside interests in things that belong strictly to you.
- Capitalize on the benefits of working together. Maybe one of you puts in just 20 hours a week or splits time between home and work. You have the rare luxury of controlling your time and planning your agendas. Schedule vacations and special days off, or knock off at 1:00 on Wednesday for a standing hot date that includes walking in a park, followed by a romantic dinner and a show.
The bottom line: If you and your spouse are in business together, you know it can be challenging. However, when everything clicks, when everything works right, there’s nothing better. That’s what makes a family business so special. Don’t leave that most important part to chance. Work hard. Make money. Have fun. — JRIngrisano
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