Owning a Business with Your Spouse: Good or Bad Idea?

Larry Alton

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It's not uncommon for a business to be run by a husband and wife tandem. Whether the business leads to marriage, or the marriage produces the business, there are pros and cons that come with being so closely connected in two important areas of life. But for those ownners that understand the challenges they face, it's possible to develop a proactive plan that increases the chances of success in both the business and the marriage.

Five Rules for Success

The dynamic in every marriage is different—as are the specifics of each business. Thus, it's futile to put forth an exact prescription for success. However, there are some time-tested principles that generally produce positive results. If you and your spouse put the following rules into action, you'll have more success than most.

1. Don't Let Arguments and Conflicts Spill Over

It's so important that you learn how to separate your personal relationship from your work relationship. One of the more serious risks you face is letting arguments and conflicts spill over from one area to the other.

If you're having an argument at work, leave it at the office and make a point of not discussing the issue at home. If you're having a problem in your marriage, don't even think about talking about the issue in the office. Being conscientious about establishing these boundaries will help you stay focused in both areas of your lives.

2. Establish a Division of Labor

As owners and spouses, you can't afford to be loosey-goosey about who is responsible for which business tasks. Any lack of communication in the area of roles will prove disastrous.

"In our particular case, we each own a specific KPI (key performance indicator) for the business," business owners David and Carrie McKeegan explain. "David staffs our accountant team and ensures each one is performing at the highest level, while Carrie focuses on new customer acquisition numbers. While either person can and should input on approach and strategy, there is no question on who makes the final call."

This responsibility also helps your employees a ton. They should know exactly whom to speak with when they have particular issues, questions, or needs. A clear division of labor gives them direction.

3. Have Your Own Space

Whether you work out of your home or have a massive office building downtown, you and your spouse need to have your own individual workspaces. This space gives you much-needed separation and ensures you aren't spending 24 hours per day with one another.

4. Celebrate the Wins

As a husband and wife business team, it's easy to talk about all of the issues, problems, and shortcomings. Most people find it rather natural to discuss the friction and ruminate on the troubles. But make sure you're also taking time to celebrate the wins together. The celebrations establishe some balance and helps you both remember that you're succeeding.

5. Date Your Spouse

It's not hard to get caught up in the routine of work-sleep-rinse-repeat. If you let this cycle go on for too long, your marriage will ultimately become nothing more than a glorified business partnership. Make it a point to date your spouse, and do fun things together outside of work.

Don't Choose Business Over Marriage

At the end of the day, you have to figure out what's most important in your life. Is it building a successful business and making lots of money, or is it having a happy and healthy marriage with the person you love? While it's often possible to have both, you'll sometimes be forced to choose between the two. And take it from those who have been there before: You'll be a whole lot happier if you put your marriage first and your business second—even when they're so closely intertwined.

Larry is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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