Are you considering starting a business with your spouse? It may seem like a smart plan–you already know you’re compatible, after all. The lure of entrepreneurship and the flexibility running your own business is very tempting (even more so when you have children!). However, getting a new business off the ground is incredibly challenging and puts pressure on everyone involved. But this doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
So if you're thinking of starting a business with your spouse, consider these five critical rules...
Establish Your Roles
When you start a new job, you walk in understanding your role within the company. This should also be the case when you start a new business. Take the time to really map out each other’s strengths and skills–as well as preferences and workstyles. This will help you create a health work environment and define who does what. Will there be situations in which you'll both need to jump in and help wherever needed? Sure. But having clear roles will head off countless problems. And that's important becuase remember: when you're starting a business with your spouse, what happens at work doesn't get left at work.
Evaluate Your Work Habits
Starting a business with your spouse is a union all its own—and that means variables galore! Oh joy!
Are you a morning person but your partner doesn’t hit their stride until the afternoon? Are you detail-oriented, or more of a big picture person? Do you do your best work right before the deadline, or are you a slow-and-steady type? Even if your work habits differ considerably, you can still work together. In fact, that sort of yin and yang can work incredibly well. The key is open communication and keeping reasonable expectations. If your partner only thrives as a deadline approaches, anticipate and expect how that will impact your work flow. Just like you accommodate each other’s habits in the home, you need to accept your work habits too.
Create Rules and Management Strategies for Both Business & Family
You know that employee handbook the human resources department hands you on your first day? You’re going to need one for your business too. But that's sooooo corporate! Too bad. You need some sort of documentation that outlines protocols for your business, policies, and the potential situations that could impact the business and your family. So this will read a little differently than the typical HR handbook (i.e., have a plan for who takes over when there is a sick child at home). Not only will this be good for business but it will also help develop a strong working relationship.
Spend Time Apart
While you might initially love spending so much time together, you might find this eventually wears a bit thin. If you’re working together out of your home, consider spending a day or two a week working at separate locations, such as a coffee shop or a local coworking space. If you’ve got an office space or a shop, work behind closed doors away from each other every now and then. (But be clear that it's not a "I can't stand you right now" thing!) You also might want to join different local organizations for networking purposes. This isn’t to say you need to stay away from each other, but when you’re starting a business with your spouse, 24-7 takes on a whole new meaning—and everybody needs their own space and time. It’s just healthy.
Have An Emergency Fund
Money is the number one destroyer of marriages, even when a couple isn’t in business together. That’s why good business bookkeeping is critical. (Learn more about Accounting 101 basics.) But since starting a business with your spouse is a family affair, business finances impact personal. One of the best ways to protect both your business and your marriage is to set up an emergency fund before launching, amounting to roughly six months of living expenses. Pouring every dime into the business isn’t a smart plan and will likely backfire in the long run. Invoices aren’t like paychecks, and rarely get paid with any regularity. Don’t let your next grocery run hinge on a 60 days past due payment.
Starting a business with your spouse can be incredibly challenging, but it can also be deeply rewarding. You will celebrate achievements and help each other shoulder frustrations. But nothing beats the joys of working together toward a common goal. If you’re in business with your spouse and want to share you story, email us and we’ll feature you here on the Kashoo blog!