It’s Valentine’s Day and you’re thinking of launching a start-up with your sweetheart. Prepare yourself for an amazing journey. Few can count the people with whom they work – and spend more time with than anyone else on the planet – as also their chosen partners in life, the special people with whom they choose to spend their non-paid hours.
…it never hurts to seek out advice from others…
But be warned – these arrangements can be tricky. There is no respite from the people at the office or at home when these are one and the same. And the very best qualities of romantic relationships may not translate when you’re both, together, on the clock.
Thriving as partners in both life and business takes communication, cooperation and flexibility. And it never hurts to seek out advice from others.
Here are five tips for couples starting businesses together:
- Acknowledge individual talents and accept different styles of working. One partner might be the type-A lead generator and the other a cerebral process improvement strategist. Both roles are important and serve the organization. There is no need to keep score as long as a couple can agree to consistently acknowledge the strengths of the other, give way when needed and – important for us – agree to firewall confidential information to maintain a client’s trust.
- Don’t assume you must follow any classic paradigm. Hierarchies. Ownership structures. These are often influenced by the culture around us. Organize your company so that it best fits your strengths and individual leadership styles even if it means thinking outside-the-box. For example, our firm employs a management model similar to a franchise, meaning one partner receives a commission for many of his efforts and pays the other partner for invoicing, web hosting and other services.
- Try to separate work and life. Work will inevitably seep into your off hours, but couples should still remain diligent in preventing this bleed-over as much as circumstances allow. We regularly invoke a “the-office-is-now-closed” rule, especially as the weekend sets in, and also on our regular weekday evening date. If it comes to a point that you and your spouse don’t do or talk about anything else but business, it’s time to re-asses priorities.
- Continue to take vacations together. And remember to completely shut off while you’re away. On our recent annual trip to Barbados, we set different rules for ourselves about checking work-related emails, but did not discuss work at all. Our “job” was to unwind and reconnect.
- Accept that you may need alone time, apart. Separation is good for all couples from time to time, and thus especially important for those who are together 24-7. Devoting precious time to maintaining individual hobbies and friendships can help reinforce personal identities and ultimately yield ROI for your business and relationship.
Karen Karp and Dick Batten have been in a committed relationship for 17 years and have worked together since 2006, when Karen invited Dick to join her firm Karp Resources, a NYC-based small business of eight full-time and four part-time employees. The firm helps government, business and non-profits plan, execute and evaluate food system and organizational effectiveness strategies.