Aug. 30, 2022
Going into business with your spouse can be successful and financially rewarding.
But to reap the full benefits it will take focus, role definition, clear boundaries and transparency.
Here are four things to consider before taking the leap:
Focus: Set your business goals
Do you and your spouse have a comprehensive business plan that stretches out between one and five years? It’s imperative that this plan be designed together, laying out how your business will make money.
No plan? No goals? Stop what you’re doing and create a success road map for the business. Start by answering these six questions:
- What are you selling and why is it unique? Your business won’t survive unless your offering stands out.
- What big problem does your product or service solve and how? Profitable businesses solve real problems, not you or your spouse’s perception of problems.
- Who are you selling to and how will you reach them? Use data to describe customer demographics and purchase behaviours, such as where your ideal customer likes to shop.
- What evidence do you have that your product or service is in demand with this demographic? Hands-down, the best way to determine this is to interview at least 20 people who fit your target demographic and hear it straight from them that they want what you have.
- How will you price your offering? Do a competitive sweep of the market before setting up your pricing grid.
Role definition: It’s OK for one spouse to take the lead on the finances
It isn’t realistic that both of you will be great at every aspect of your business. Lean into each other’s strengths and encourage each other to “own” their role within the business. If you’re stronger with finances than your partner, take the lead. If your partner is the creative person in the relationship, have them lead the marketing. If you’re both great at sales, divide your prospect list and each of you can focus your efforts to sell to clients you work with best.
For clarity’s sake, it is not a good idea for spouses to work in silos. You and your partner should know enough about the total business to be efficient with your respective roles, but also to be able to run it solo for a limited period; think about what happens if you have a child together and one person takes parental leave, or if one partner gets sick.
Clear boundaries: Set expectations for work and home
Keep work out of the bedroom. Keep the bedroom out of work. Give each other physical and emotional space. Figure out your work-life balance, especially if you have children, and make it work for your unique life. My best advice is to not let anyone tell you what you should be doing with your life.
It can be extremely helpful to have job descriptions for the roles you each play in your business. Pre-determine what you need to do in the event that expectations are not being met, or they are being exceeded. For example, if one spouse is working until midnight every evening while the other is crushing episodes of “The Terminal List” and not delivering on their end of the workload, arguments will ensue, and the business will suffer. Activate the “what to do if expectations are/aren’t being met” framework and that might mean the hardworking spouse off-loads some of the work to the other spouse or hires an assistant, and the lower-performing spouse might need to be booted out of the business, or given a different role.
On the relationship side of things, find personal shared experiences that do not involve work and keep the workload at home balanced — laundry, cooking and so on.
Mega transparency: If you don’t know, just say so
One of the biggest mistakes couples in business make is lack of communication (sounds familiar to our intimate relationships, right?). There’s too much at stake to guess, hide, pretend or try to figure something out that’s impossible to figure out on your own. Confide in your spouse when you don’t know how to handle a certain situation. Share important information with them about your business financials, product development or what’s happening with a difficult client. Work together to resolve business challenges.
You will lock horns in business and personally, at some point. But, a courageous conversation is the solution. These talks can feel hard and your pulse will speed up. However, when you both focus on the problem (not the person), you can work through just about anything, build trust and grow your business. Make room in your budget for regular couples therapy and business coaching. These investments help ensure your relationship is healthy and business is profitable.