Tips for Running a Business with Your Spouse

Keelie and I run a couple of businesses together. To be honest, it’s a challenge. Today, Lynn Glover is with us sharing some tips for running a business with your spouse to help shave off some of the learning curve.

The 21st Century is bursting with young couples burning the midnight oil to make their way in the world by forming a successful small business. You and your partner have your dream, your vision is all written up in a nice business plan, one of you might even have a degree in graphic design, web development, or marketing. Great! But what if I told you tenacity, book, and street smarts will only get you 20% of the way to success?

Married couples going into business together seems like a foolproof plan for financial success. After all, you have a partner built right in! No need to go searching for a co-CEO who shares your visions, ideals, work ethic, and mindset!

Except, these assets that make you a killer team might also kill your dream.

1. Divvy Up Responsibility

If you’ve already written up your business plan, pull up your document—or notebook for the few Millennials like me who still like to use a good ole fashioned pen—and prepare to make a new section. Label it what you please, but in this section, you and your spouse are going to divvy up your business responsibilities. Why?

Charting out roles is absolutely essential for the success of any business. Would you expect the janitor to send out financial reports to China, or the head legal advisor to be giving out call-center advice? While these individuals are likely capable of stepping outside of their designated roles, when people leave their duties to go and perform others, several problems crop up. For one thing,

2. The person is operating outside of their strengths.

The beauty of going into business together means that you can tailor your duties to each other’s strengths and cover one another’s weaknesses. (Sounds an awful lot like marriage. Huh. Who knew?). So, if your wife is better at crunching numbers and you’re more inclined to customer service, would it not make sense for you to let your wife handle tax documents and order forms while you work one-on-one with your best clients?

Not only is delegating responsibilities going to make your business stronger overall, but you will avoid doing redundant work—which saves time, effort, and arguments.

3. Speaking of arguments…

Once you’ve delegated responsibilities, obviously tweaking can be done as you gain a rhythm of what works most effectively. However, the big takeaway here is this: 50-50 delegation, 100% authority.

If you are in charge of customer service, you are in charge of customer service. Your word is final. If your wife is in charge of the finances, she is in charge of the finances. No arguments.

Now, what was that quote about absolute power corrupting absolutely?

I am not advising that you become a dictator in your designated areas of responsibility. Quite the opposite. It is paramount that you listen to your partner’s input and concerns. Afterall, they are your partner and you married them for a reason.

Remember, you like the way their mind works, you like their ideas, and you like them. So, take their input into account. Listen, and really listen when you disagree. You never know when one of their ideas will take you from mediocre success to making your business boom!

Just remember, at the end of the day, someone has to have the final say. It only makes sense for that person to be the one who heads up the department.

To follow our example: you are your wife’s financial advisor and she is your customer service advisor.

View each other in both authority and advisory roles and there will be a more team-focused atmosphere. After all, every ruler has their cabinet.

And advisors, remember: No Backseat Driving. Your partner is in charge of their area for a reason—their expertise. Present them with all the information they need to make the decision that is right for the business.

4. Relationship Comes First

This last point is easily the most important. Your relationship with your spouse is first and foremost. Your successful business is merely an offshoot of your successful marriage. So, take time every day to step away from the business.

  • Go on dates and discuss anything but work.
  • Set aside hours and places that are purely for personal life.
  • Take some time apart to develop individually
  • Ask each other about your days: not just “did you finish that report?” or “I need you to fax those documents tomorrow…” but ask feeling questions. Though you were working towards a similar goal, you may feel very differently about your day than your partner does. So, ask, “how did you feel today?” and when it’s your turn to respond, use “I felt” responses.
  • Listen to each other’s sides, issues, joys, and fears
  • Forgive one another’s shortcomings
  • Leave your work at work, and your personal lives personal.
  • And lastly, tailor your business to suit your lifestyle so you may:
    • Work when you need to work
    • Play when you need to play
    • Rest when you need to rest
    • Care for one another always

If you keep these simple points in mind, you and your spouse will be able to manage change that benefits both your marriage and your small business.

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