Starting a business is difficult enough, without adding unnecessary complications. If you’re considering starting a company with your significant other, or perhaps you already have a business and you want to bring your partner in on the action, be sure to run through this checklist to sidestep any potential pitfalls along the way…
1. Have an emergency fund in place: Cash flow is generally the primary issue when starting a new business, and seeing as money is the number one cause of divorce, it’s only natural you want to avoid cash flow issues when you’re trying to maintain a happy marriage. Avoid major money headaches by having a personal emergency fund saved up and ready to dip into if need be.
2. Get an office ASAP: I’m not saying to rush out and rent the first office space you see, but start budgeting sooner rather than later. Working from home can have its perks, but if the two of you are spending all hours of the day together, business and pleasure, then getting out of the house and working at a local coffee shop or even joining a co-working group to meet other entrepreneurs will help keep you both sane and your relationship healthy. It’s also a great opportunity to meet new people, make contacts and learn business tips from like-minded people.
3. Define your roles: To avoid clashes of personality and difficulties making decisions, you should figure out your business roles from the get go. Focus on your different personality types and write out separate job descriptions for you both accordingly. Make sure it is clear who will take on which tasks. Shai Aharony (who started Reboot Online with wife Naomi 5 years ago) says ‘Often the best husband/wife partnerships are those that have complimenting personalities. In this partnership, I tend to be the one with the constant deluge of risky ideas, and Naomi, who is far more cautious, tends to act like a filter ensuring that only the better ideas are considered.’
4. Be aware of your personality types: We all perform differently and peak at different types of day; are you a night owl or a morning person? Do you focus on the big picture or go into little details? Perhaps you work best with other people, or maybe you focus better working alone? I’d recommend taking a personality assessment; by understanding both yours and your partner’s strengths and weaknesses you can divvy up tasks accordingly as well as finding areas where you complement each other.
5. Engage in separate hobbies: When you’re just getting your business off the ground, you’ll be spending a whole lot of time working together. It’s important to make time for separate interests, not only to give you balance in your lives but also to give you something new to talk about outside of work. Furthermore, it’s important to keep the home/work life equilibrium as far as you possibly can; make a point of turning off your phones and tablets during dinner and having an hour just for yourselves not as business partners, but as a married couple.
6. Find ways to keep your relationship alive: Following on from the previous point, it’s easy to get sucked into your own little bubble of work and looking after the kids, day after day; this is neither healthy nor sustainable. Working non-stop with the same person can lead you to get bored of a person and stuck in a couple’s rut; the only way to avoid this is to actively participate in a social life outside work. Join groups, go out with friends and try new activities (both independently and as a couple).
7. Take relevant skills courses: There’s nothing worse than getting a business off the ground and then finding along the way that you don’t possess certain skills to help it grow. There are plenty of training academy’s offering courses which will help you build and grow your business to the best of your ability.
8. Discuss your tolerance for risk: Make sure you and your other half are on the same page when it comes to business risk you are willing to take. Decide together early on whether you are going to be risk-averse or take it all very slow and steady, to avoid arguments down the line.
9. Be conscious of each other’s feelings, but not too conscious: We often forget the basic rules of business when in a close relationship, but it is essential to balance both praise and constructive criticism. Although it can be tempting to compliment your partner to make them feel better, this just isn’t viable in a business situation. Giving and taking constrictive criticism are vital when you are business partners; by all means make sure any criticism you give is approached kindly, but recognize it is necessary!
10. Don’t take yourselves too seriously: Running a business is tough; long hours coupled with oodles of stress isn’t the best recipe for a happy home life. Avoid getting too bogged down with it all by having a sense of humor and taking time to find happiness in little things each day. Sing along to the radio or have a little dance break when things start to get too much – you’ll come back refreshed and ready to do business!
11. Have legal agreements in place: Last but not least, a slightly cynical one… However much you trust each other, no one has a crystal ball and it’s impossible to predict the future. When money is involved – unfortunately – people can get greedy.
Starting a business with a spouse – albeit challenging – can be one of the most rewarding things you will ever experience. Sharing tears, laughter, victories, frustrations and celebrations with your life partner will only bring you even closer together. After all, there’s nothing like sharing the benefits of working towards a common goal with the one person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with.