Working with your spouse or other family members, does it work and what are the pro’s & con’s?
10 years ago, my now wife, Carol, and I discussed going into business together, it was a bit of a scary conversation!
We were both at a bit of a crossroads in our careers, I had been made redundant and she had lost her business partner, working together seemed to be the way forward. But would it work, could we be business partners as well as life partners?
Quite naturally we were very excited about the prospects of working together and what we could potentially achieve together. Not surprisingly our conversation started with discussing all of the benefits associated with working together!
Being life partners (and having met many years earlier a school in our early teens! Check out this article in the Daily Mail!) we knew each other pretty well. In business that is a real plus, knowing how your business partner’s strengths, weaknesses and emotions lays a great foundation for success. As in any relationship, being on the same page, as much as possible, is important for the growth and future of your business.
It’s also important to set some ground rules within the working relationship and to try to designate specific roles to each of you, so that you are responsible for different aspects of the business to your partner.
Working with your spouse – Decision Making
When the two people at the helm of a business are romantically involved, especially when they are married or long-term partners, there is often a different edge to important decision making.
When you are working with your spouse, decisions are taken with not purely the financial side taken being into account, or the overall benefit to the business, but also the personal side, what is best for each other, or the family. There is a broader picture when it comes to business decisions than just pounds and pence, which is usually the case.
You could also argue that important business decisions should ONLY be taken with the financial health of the company, and its overall long-term success, in mind, without any emotional or personal issues clouding the decision.
But I feel that is one of the real benefits of a close working relationship with your loved-one, you make decisions for the good of your business, yourselves and your family.
Some couples may not see this as a benefit at all! If that is the case I would suggest that working together is NOT a great idea for them!
But there are two sides to this coin, and both are equally relevant and need to be considered well. There is no right or wrong answer here, it is purely down to the individual couples needs and the way the relationship works.
Most busy couples never get the chance to spend much time together, often only a few brief moments in the evenings and at weekends.
Working closely together would obviously mean spending a lot of time together, combining your worktime and social/family time, a pretty full on situation!
When we first discussed working together, Carol and I talked about how much time we would be spending together, especially as our business is very much office based and on-line.
We decided that there was no way we could ever predict how our relationship would fare by spending most of our days, and nights, together, let alone handling the stress and strains of running a business!
So sometimes we need to take a punt to a certain extent, look at how your relationship is at the time and consider if that foundation is strong enough to greatly increase the amount of time you will spend together.
On the other side of the coin, some couples find they really need time apart. Not because they cannot stand the sight of each other (I hope!) but because many of us need our “own space” occasionally and frustration can build if we feel we are not getting enough “me” time.
So, again, this is really a personal preference thing and will relate to some couples and not others.
Obviously we all go into business with one key goal in mind – to make money! As I said earlier, important business decisions that are made by a couple who are romantically involved may well involve more than financial criteria, but making money for the business, and hence yourselves and your family, is always a top priority.
Working alongside your partner or spouse should provide a good balance financially, you will (should?!) both be on the same pay scale after all, and if the business is a roaring success you will both benefit. But equally, if anything goes seriously wrong with the business or revenue is scarce, you may both then be affected by financial hardship or even redundancy.
When our friends or family ask us, “How did you know you could work together as well as live together?”, we always reply that we didn’t know! It was really a case of “it’s either going to work or it isn’t”
That isn’t the most scientific of approaches I know but, in our case, it was true. We obviously had a fair inkling that we would be ok working together as we had both been married before and we knew that we enjoyed being together a lot of the time and we are both quite rational and calm people, most of the time!
We also decided that we would take on different roles within the business, where we could. For example, Carol is more at home doing the design work and the website layouts and working closely with the clients. Although I do get involved in that side of the business, I am happier handling the day-to-day running of the business, dealing with the admin and the finances, something that she, fortunately, hates doing!
So, you need to strike a balance, between responsibilities, time and objectives.
It is really good to be working together, which has been almost 10 years now. It’s not without its challenges and hard-times but, overall, I wouldn’t have it any other way …… I just hope Carol agrees!