Self-employment is rewarding, empowering, exciting, and challenging… So when you need to expand your team, onboarding your significant other might seem like an obvious choice. Why not run a business with your spouse or partner? This is especially tempting if your partner gets laid off or furloughed.
At first, it can be an exciting change for many couples. You get to spend more time with your favorite person and continue building your dream business with someone you completely trust. But the honeymoon doesn’t always last. Like a relationship, a business partnership takes work to last over time.
Here are my tips for how to run a business with your spouse or romantic partner in a way that keeps everyone happy, productive, and feeling supported.
Set Clear Roles + Responsibilities Early On
Juggling rando tasks and errands at home might work really well. But a surefire way to drive employees, vendors, and customers crazy is confusion and disorganization. You and your partner should have clear roles. Titles and job descriptions are helpful for you and your team, even though it seems very formal. Establishing these boundaries prevents redundancy and empowers your team and you and your partner to take action without feeling like you’re stepping on toes.
Learn About Your Spouse’s Work Style
You know that annoying coworker who always talks too much or writes ridiculously long emails? It can be a real shocker if your partner turns out to be that coworker.
Take time to learn about your spouse’s work style, preferences, and habits so that you can channel those qualities for good. For example, a chatty but cheery spouse might be well-suited to customer service and client relationship building.
Bring up any concerns you have the way you would with any other employee – diplomatically and respectfully. Leave out any personal or relationship differences and focus on the success of the business. After all, you might find out that you have a few annoying habits of your own…
Decide on How to Overcome Disagreements
If you’re going to run a business with your spouse or partner, you’ll both develop opinions and feelings about decisions made within the business. Over time, some of them will be different. Decide early on how you’ll deal with a disagreement in the workplace so that it doesn’t go home with you. For example, a respected general manager, coach, or consultant could provide a third opinion that makes the final decision. Depending on your roles, one of you may have the final decision. Or, if you’re a team of peers – consider doing some market research or referring to your brand mission and goals for some inspiration on what direction to take.
The Professional You
Once you begin working together as a couple, it’s easy to slip into treating time at the office as quality time. When I first started sharing an office with my husband Joe, we’d slip into conversations about life, our kids, what he said that pissed me off last night over dinner. Although it’s important to discuss those things, special, we had to set boundaries around what we talked about during working hours.
Working hours should be for the ‘professional you.’ The ‘personal you’ outside the workplace should get to have her guard down, to take time for self-care, and just to be the person in the romantic relationship. Having this boundary keeps you professional and focused during the day and an attentive and loving partner in the evening.
They’re both important sides to you, which is why you should fully honor them separately.
Setting work boundaries can be hard if there’s nothing else to fill the time. ‘Downtime’ can sometimes turn into work conversations or quick emails here and there that never end.
It helps if you and your partner intentionally pursue hobbies or interests actively to get out of the work mindset. It could be anything from spending time in nature to cooking something new together on the weekends. Yum!
Separate hobbies are a good chance to delve into your interests and enjoy some space and time apart. It’ll give you something to talk about when you’re together again.
Celebrate the Big and Small
Although you’ll have disagreements from time to time, you’ll also have plenty of wins to celebrate. When you reach key milestones or exceed your goals, set work aside, and toast to your success. Showing appreciation for both the big and small win is motivating and makes you resilient to the challenging parts of being in business for yourselves.
Overall, it’s possible to run a business with your spouse or partner successfully if you learn to work with your spouse with love and respect. If you leave your work at the office as much as you can, figure out how to handle the disagreements so that they don’t become personal, and celebrate the big and small wins, you’re more likely to enjoy long-term business success together.
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