Many home-based businesses are run by husband-and-wife teams, and it’s not hard to understand why. After all, a connection and an understanding are already established, goals may be similar or complementary, and many people are more comfortable working alongside their spouses than inviting unrelated employees into their homes. But while marriage is hard work, the path from the altar to entrepreneurship can be even more trying.
Combining marriage and business is not an endeavor to be taken lightly. It requires serious consideration and answering some tough questions. Here are 10 tips for running a successful home-based business with your spouse.
- Determine if you can work side by side. This one is far easier said than done. Ask yourself honestly if you can work patiently alongside your spouse day in and day out, and then go from business partner to life partner after work. If you can’t picture yourself making this transition, then you probably should not run a business together. To do so against your better judgment may doom both the business and the marriage.
- Discuss your goals. Are your visions for the business the same as those of your spouse? Even the strongest marriage will be tested if you are working at cross-purposes. You need to be able to work together toward a common goal. In order to do that, both of you must know what that goal is and be committed to achieving it.
- Write a business plan and solicit feedback. Every business needs a business plan, no matter how modest. Once you detail your vision, show it to a consultant for an objective outside opinion. There is a tremendous value in feedback from an unbiased source.
- Define each person’s role. Once you determine that you can start a business with your spouse, you’ll need to decide what each of you will do. The roles can be flexible (and will likely have to change over time), but must at least address the basics: who will keep the books, who will do the shipping, etc. Think about each person’s strengths and weaknesses, and then assign tasks accordingly.
- Keep the lines of communication open. When you work together, communication is more essential than ever before. Don’t be critical of one another — and don’t be dismissive or contemptuous of your partner. Confront the challenges of the business, not one another.
- Be circumspect when talking with clients. Your customers don’t need to know that your partner in business is also your partner in life. While it may sometimes be tempting to confide in a client about your relationship with your partner, resist the urge. It can poison your relationship with your customer as well as your marriage.
- Form a united front. In business, as in love, you need to honor your partner. Do not allow employees or customers pit one of you against the other. Never put a sale or a customer ahead of your spouse.
- Set firm boundaries and honor them. Working from home can add another layer of complications to the everyday boundaries of business life and home life. Set up your office in a space that doesn’t disrupt the entire family.
- Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. You must consider the possibility that your relationship may not last forever. Draw up formal legal agreements detailing how the business will be divided if you split up or if one of you decides to opt out of the business. Also, have a contingency plan in place in the event that your spouse falls short of his or her business obligations.
- Don’t deal with family matters during business hours. Running a small business and being a good partner and parent are each difficult on their own. To do both concurrently will almost ensure that you fail at both. Set specific times outside of business hours for discussing family business.