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Couples in business: Should you do it?

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Up above, you’re in love…down below you’re too slow! When it comes to the subject of couples in business and working with your boyfriend or husband I was clearly too slow, but that’s for another post [dot, dot, dot].

They say for better or worse, for richer or poorer but no one ever mentions at the office AND at home, do they? Now whether you made those vows or not, I know the thought has crossed your mind…

So should you go into business or even work with your  boyfriend, or husband (aka your “beloved”) in an effort to gain financial freedom, and spend more time with your family?

Now before I give you my take on this, I want you to know that this has been a post I’ve been meaning to write for a long time. Those of you who know my story are probably thinking OMG what the ‘BLEEP’ is she going to write!

Have no fear – I’m a pro!

You see, I’ve first hand experience of building a business and working with my (ex) beloved! I worked with him for just over 13 years and we owned a company together for 16 years.

I have to be honest – it’s not a pretty story. There were both good and bad times. Owning a company and working together is not going to work out well for the vast majority of you. Very, very few can pull it off.

Sorry to burst your bubble!

The truth of the matter is few couples’ relationships are strong enough to weather the storm. It’s not an easy ride. So the question is….are you the exception to the rule?

Disadvantages of couples in business

There’s an old saying, “you shouldn’t work with friends or family” and having done both, I can understand why! But, that’s my story, so the question is, can you survive working together? Let’s look at the challenges…

There’s no real separation between work and home life

They say you need to set boundaries and have a clear separation between your work and personal life, but that’s easier said than done. Take it from me, when you work and live together you never really switch off from work. There’s always an opportunity to talk about it. Whether you’re feeding the baby, out having dinner, on holiday or in bed making out!

I’m not joking…seriously! And, from a business perspective, it can actually be quite productive; there’s a lot you can achieve!

Yep you heard me right!

However, from a personal relationship perspective it can be so damaging. For example, I remember several times returning home from the office, annoyed with my partner for not fulfilling something during the day. It was hard to look him in the eye, when he got home, with love. He’d let me down on a job and I was the one who had to answer to our client the next day. There was no getting away from it. I had two choices – 1) to bury it and let it fester or 2) to communicate my feelings and work to resolve it that night. This leads me naturally on to my next point.

You need to be very conscious of each others feelings

This point is particularly relevant when expressing criticism. Remember you’re sharing your bed with this person and you don’t want to start a personal war. Effective communication is paramount if you’re going to be successful in business together so get good at it and resolve any disagreements immediately. Harbouring ill thoughts will kill your relationship.

You need to find ways to keep your relationship alive

If you’re working in close proximity it’s very easy to get bored of one another no matter how much you care for each other. In my opinion, the only way to deal with this is to have an active life outside of work (independently) and a good social life. When you don’t and your day consists of working on the business and then seeing to the kids, you end up being quite cut off from the world and living in a bubble.

You need to agree how to make decisions

You need to agree who’s the boss and if your business operates on 50-50 share split, who’s voice gets priority. If it’s 50-50 split, you need to decide what will happen in a stale-mate situation. This is vital. In my company we both owned 100% of the shares and although there was an MD we decided that if we both couldn’t agree on something, no action would be taken. Agreement was vital for the company to move forward.

You need to have legal agreements in place

No matter how much you trust one another, you need legal agreements in place. I CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH. No one has a crystal ball and when money is involved some people view things in a very different way. They get greedy.

You need to make sure they’re the most qualified for the job

This is a hard one as you’re going to have to take out all the emotion and communicate this in a diplomatic way. One of the best things you can do is to agree this rule upfront. In my business, this is what we did. If someone was more capable of doing the job then they would be employed. Neither my partner nor I maintained our positions by default. We either had to step up, learn the skills and perform for the sake of the business, or we stepped aside and let another take our place. In some cases, there was never a question of us doing the job. It was clear from the offset that we didn’t have the skills and didn’t want them either.

Advantages of couples in business

You’re more understanding of one another

Working together actually brings in a whole new level of understanding in a couple. You have a totally shared experience that brings you closer together. You’re both on the same page. You understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. You’re both working for the same end goal, pulling in the same direction and as a consequence you work with more understanding and gumption.

For example, I remember having to book my partner in for jobs over the weekend of Bank holidays, or even our children’s birthdays. Had he come home and told me someone at work had done this I’d have been quite resentful, but because I’d done it (as we were growing our business) it was OK.

You’ve got more flexibility

Having built a business along with raising a family I can honestly say it’s much easier when you can do this as a family unit. Again, you’re both on the same page and you can always find ways to deal with child care or take time out to be at their school for an event. You can also have lunch breaks together or agree who’s working late and with remote access and mobile communication anything is possible.

You’ll achieve more and build a successful business

Napoleon Hill wrote about this in a chapter of his book Think and Grow Rich. It was all about sex transmutation. He said that love, romance, and sex are all emotions that are capable of driving men to heights of super achievement. Love is the emotion which serves as a safety valve, and insures balance, poise, and constructive effort. When combined, these three emotions may lift one to an altitude of a genius. All I can say is that I know what we achieved! [Wink, wink]