How To

The Dos and Don’ts of Starting a Business with Your Spouse

wedding rings

If you want a genuinely inseparable marriage, starting a business with your spouse can be just the ticket — personal and professional life combined, 24/7.

That may seem like the express lane to divorce court, but many couples successfully combine marriage and business, albeit with a few hiccups. Careful thought and planning are absolute musts to ensure that both your business and marriage prosper.

Before going into business with you spouse, it’s important to weigh both the advantages and drawbacks.

The good news

  • Trust. Finding a business partner in whom you have complete faith is critical, at most likely you your spouse is the person you trust most.
  • Compassion. Since you know your partner extremely well, you’re well aware of how he or she handles stress. You also know the best way to lend support when coping with the challenges and occasional pitfalls of running a business.
  • Skill knowledge. Knowing where your individual strengths lie shouldn’t be a guessing game for most couples. That makes it easier to delegate responsibility and professional obligations. It also makes it easier to allow one partner focus on their strengths and skills while the other focuses on their own.

Potential snafus

  • Constant contact. You may have the most solid marriage around, but even the most idyllic partnership can be strained by an overdose of interaction.
  • Financial. In a sense, you may be putting all your financial eggs in one basket. Unless you have other sources of income or substantial savings, starting a business together can be financially perilous. It’s also another possible source of strain if one partner is more comfortable with risk and volatility while the other is far more conservative.
  • Keeping things separate. A day spent in the business together followed by an evening dissecting the workday can make your professional and personal lives feel uncomfortably intertwined. It’s a challenge that many couples admit they have a hard time overcoming.

If starting a business with your spouse still appeals to you, here are a few guidelines:

 Dos and Don’ts

  • Try to keep a balance between your business and personal lives. For instance, try to avoid shop talk at dinner or on weekends. When you come home for the day, don’t keep checking the business website. Safeguarding your personal time not only ensures genuine downtime, but can also prove revitalizing when you do turn your attention to business matters.
  • Identify potential issues well in advance and map out a strategy to address them. For example, if the prospect of too much contact has you yanking your hair out in clumps already, consider clearly separated work spaces or distinct schedules.
  • Be certain that you and your spouse are in sync with what defines a “successful” business. Do you agree on where you want to be in five or 10 years? Do you have a common philosophy? If one spouse wants to make piles of money while the other places greater value on social impact, you’re bound to clash over time.
  • Don’t downplay the possibility that, while the business may thrive, your professional partnership may not. That makes an exit strategy for one partner an important fail safe that can limit damage to both your business and your marriage. It’s far better to abandon a small business rather than dissolving your marriage.

“The Dos and Don’ts of Starting a Small Business with Your Spouse” was written by Jeff Wuorio.