With Valentine’s Day here and love in the air, you might be thinking you’d like to spend more time with your significant other. If you’ve considered going into business with your partner, it’s a big decision, and not always the right one. To set yourselves up for success, follow these guidelines.
1. Put the Terms of Your Business Relationship in Writing
Without some ground rules, it will be too easy for the dynamics of your marriage to spill over into your business relationship, so clarify at least some of the terms of your new partnership in writing. Even if you feel you have a mutual understanding of your roles, put it on paper anyway. There can be a lot of “he said/she said” when arguments arise, and having a document you both signed and agreed on up front can quickly clear up any emotional disputes. In it, include:
- Your job titles
- Areas in which you each have absolute power to make a decision
- Areas in which you need to both agree on decisions
2. Designate Roles for Each of You
Even if you love doing everything together as a couple, it’s imperative that you separate your roles in the business so that you can each focus on what you’re best at. Maybe he’s more analytical and better at marketing strategy, while you thrive at operations and managing people. Give one another free rein in your designated areas, and trust each other to do their job.
3. Don’t Bring Personal Issues to the Office
Just like you shouldn’t bring work home with you, don’t bring home to work. That means if you’re in the middle of a tiff, your staff shouldn’t see you arguing. Your employees want to be able to trust you both as solid leaders, and letting what’s going on at home show in the office can undermine your authority and ability to manage. Also, don’t make your staff feel uncomfortable about the elephant in the room — your personal relationship — by engaging in inappropriate behavior with your spouse at work. As best you can, treat one another like co-workers, and save the cute nicknames and other displays of affection for home.
4. Respect the Other’s Decisions
You chose your spouse as your business partner for their acumen in his area of expertise; don’t second-guess every decision he makes. Just as your personal relationship is founded on trust, so is your professional relationship. If your partner feels like you don’t trust him to do his job, it can have repercussions on both the business and your marriage.
5. Find Other Interests Together
It’s easy to let your business consume the two of you, but find other ways to grow together outside of the office. Take up tango or go fly fishing. Strengthening your personal relationship will benefit your business partnership as well. You also can find separate interests, since alone time is beneficial, too.
6. Go on Dates
All work and no play makes a couple very stressed. Even if you love what you do, you need to get out of the office (and the house) to stay connected in other areas. Book a babysitter and make a reservation for your favorite restaurant. Then talk about the kids, that upcoming vacation, your exercise class … anything but work.
7. Listen to Each Other’s Ideas with an Open Mind
Remember that, regardless of each of your roles, you’re both committed to your business. That means that every idea — be it yours or your partner’s — is worth considering. Strive to hear each other out completely before interjecting with your thoughts. Dismissing your partner’s input can put both your business and your relationship at risk.
8. Keep Lines of Communication Open to Avoid Conflict
It’s a good idea to have a daily or weekly meeting with your partner to ensure that you’re on the same page with what’s happening in the business. If something comes up before the next meeting, be sure to communicate it. You don’t want to feel in the dark about a major decision he’s making, even if he doesn’t need your input. Communication is a matter of respect and critical for a strong partnership.
9. Shut Off Work Talk at Quitting Time
It’s tempting to keep talking shop when you leave the office, but for the sake of your marriage, set a hard-and-fast deadline to wrap it up before you leave. It’s important that you separate your work and home life and are able to transition to thinking about your family and your relationship, rather than living, sleeping, and breathing your job.
10. Remember: You’re on the Same Team
When miscommunication and disagreements get in the way, it can be a challenge to remember that you’re on the same team. If things aren’t as harmonious as you’d like — maybe you constantly argue about decisions you make or are taking your stress about work out on your partner at home — step back and see why. It could be you need some distance from one another or more quality time outside of work.