Are you mixing business and pleasure in your business? Perhaps you’ve heard of someone being “married to their work”, but what happens when you’ve literally done this and are now in business with your significant other?
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 1.4 million businesses in the U.S. are run by a husband-and-wife team. This number is on the rise, as modern couples are finding ways to work together while still having a fulfilling marriage.
Another study by Harvard Business Review also showed that couples who collab in business can reduce income inequality in the household.
When my husband, Vince, asked me to join him at his food start-up, the prospect seemed exciting. Entrepreneurship is already demanding enough, but we quickly realized that doing it together took things to a whoooole new level. Here are the ground rules we have established to make sure that we don’t rip each other’s faces off every day!
1 Thou Shalt Define Your Roles (and Stop Hovering)
Even if you get along most of the time, power struggles are bound to ensue in a work setting, since both of you bring unique ideas and abilities to the table. Work together from the start to establish roles and responsibilities that leverage your very particular set of skills.
Vince and I had a massive whiteboarding session where we charted all the major business functions and the key deliverables we would each own. This can change over time, but the starting point is important so you can hold each other accountable. Once you agree on who is doing what, then let your spouse do their thing… because nobody likes constant nagging.
2 Thou Shalt Separate Home & Work
Establish “work hours” and “off hours”, and schedule meeting times to have bigger discussions. When we first started, we talked about business non-stop, often into the wee hours of the night. 6 am wake-up calls from our little guy made us feel like zombies the next day, which didn’t fare well for quality family time.
Now that we have scheduled times to discuss work, we can better focus our attention during the day. No business is discussed over dinner or during family time.
3 Thou Shalt Not Sweat the Small Stuff
Just because Vince doesn’t pick his socks up off the bedroom floor, it doesn’t mean he’s a complete mess when it comes to his to-do list. It took me a while to understand that.
Don’t let your everyday annoyances leech their way into your working relationship. The key is to keep communicating to make sure your priorities are aligned, and not sweat the small stuff.
4 Thou Shalt Give Space
Just because you live and work together, it doesn’t mean you have to be together 24/7. Try to give each other space where you can by setting up your workspaces in different areas, or establish certain DND hours where you can focus.
It’s also good to enjoy downtime separately once in a while. I’ll go to brunch or shop with my girlfriends, and I’m happy to let him catch a game with his boys. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, and it also helps us divide and conquer while holding down the fort at home.
5 Thou Shalt Put Egos Aside… and Listen
I’m not gonna lie – Vince and I have ALOT of arguments because we’re hotheads who are damn passionate about what we are doing, and we just enjoy being right (who doesn’t?). When you’re in a heated discussion, you have to shut up and listen to the other person’s perspective… REALLY LISTEN, and respect their opinions.
One trick I use to listen better is to repeat what I heard back to the other person in my own words. In the process, I reinforce the other viewpoint, and sometimes even end up agreeing with it. #mindblown
6 Thou Shalt Always Play on the Same Team
Continuing from Commandment #5, NEVER let a disagreement turn into a situation where you deprive your business only because you can’t give your spouse the satisfaction of knowing they were right (sometimes they’re actually right!).
Your relationship isn’t about winning or losing when you’re playing on the same team. Call a “time-out” if needed so you can get your strategy back on track before heading back on the field.
7 Thou Shalt Respect Your Differences
Vince and I have had enough discussions to know that we will never see eye-to-eye on certain issues. But that is OK because we are not carbon copies of each other, so we agree to disagree.
Because we already have clearly-defined roles (see Commandment #1), our decision-making allows the person who ultimately owns that function to have the final say. That’s how we avoid endless discussions and analysis paralysis. Even if you are not completely aligned on every decision, try to make sure you agree on the big-picture items.
8 Thou Shalt Never Forget the “Why”
It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day chaos of marketing, bookkeeping, walking the dog, doing laundry, getting dinner on the table, and somehow carving out time for yourself.
Make it a habit to step back from the craziness and remind each other of why you are doing this in the first place. Always make time to practice gratitude, and set some intentions every day to ensure that the most important things get done (ie. the tasks that move you closer toward your goals).
Every morning, I take 10 minutes before sitting down at my computer to practice mindfulness and visualization. Vince slips in an hour-long workout after daycare dropoff. It has done wonders for our productivity.
9 Thou Shalt Put Your Marriage First
Every evening after we put our lil’ guy to bed, Vince and I set aside time to just relax and connect. Whether it’s unwinding over a glass of red, indulging in Netflix, re-watching baby videos (he’s growing up too fast!), or hanky-panky (it’s important!). We understand that the foundation of our strong business relationship is an even stronger marriage.
Ensure that your relationship is always based on commitment, trust, and continual support of one another. [insert marriage advice from your wedding here] – it’s all applicable. Also, don’t forget to to laugh together regularly!
10 Thou Shalt Celebrate Your Wins (Even the Small Ones)
When you reach important milestones, or hit certain business targets, take time to celebrate your successes together! Go out and live it up for one night sans kids, treat yourselves to a couples massage, or eat a whole pizza (guilt-free) while watching reality TV, whatever tickles your fancy – you deserve it!
After all, in this life you have chosen, the journey is so much more important than the destination.
How do you guys hold it together with your other half?
I would love to see your tips on how business and pleasure mix in your relationship!
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