Working with a business partner, or spouse will be difficult. There will be times when you both want to be “in charge”. Disagreements will occur when you have different opinions. However, it can be done! I have been working with my husband, Harry, for 15 years now and we have successfully grown our companies. Even though I own the companies, and he reports to me, we have found a way to make it work. It is not always easy, but here are a few suggestions that worked for us and can help you prepare for your new adventure.
- Clearly define each person’s roles. What will each of you be doing for the company? Both of you cannot be paying the bills. To determine this, you can each list what you are good at, and determine job duties from there. I am terrible at balancing my check book, we decided it would be best if Harry assumed the role as CFO so he pays the bills, creates invoices and so on. I am good with people; I assumed the role of CEO and handle all employee and HR issues, as well as marketing/networking and so on. Write out each of your roles on paper. By writing them down you are committing to them. You can always go back and readjust them as your company grows. Having something to refer to will make it easier. You will each know what is expected of you. This is a good thing to do for all employees and contractors as well.
- Create a system of checks and balances. You want to know what is going on in your company. For example set up a schedule to go over the checking account once a month. I don’t handle my company’s checking account, but I do know what gets paid and when. If need be I can step in for a short time and do the CFO’s job.
- You each need to find someone you can confide in or bounce ideas off. When you are wearing the spouse hat and business owner hat, it can get a bit complicated. You each need someone you can go to who will be on neutral ground. It would be very difficult to address issues calmly when you are mad at each other. Instead go to your friend and vent. Perhaps you have an idea but are not ready to announce it to the world; you want to tweak it a little more. Your friend becomes your sounding board. When you have it to near completion, you can take it to your partner for more discussion.
- Don’t take everything that happens personally. If you get into an argument, the other party isn’t out to destroy you. Things get heated during battle. Take a moment to step away. You have to figure out how to separate your personal relationship from the business one. Nagging your spouse at work about the laundry not getting done is not professional. This will only add to more fighting. Try and keep the discussion to relevant points about the business. Remember ultimately you both want what is best for each other and for your new company. It will be tough but not impossible to work together. At the end of the day respect each other’s decisions and choices and it will be ok. Are you going to agree all the time? No, but there will be rough times. Just listen with an open mind to what the other is saying and it will work out.
Originally published in the Democrat & Chronicle on February 19th, 2014.