Whether the idea of working with your spouse thrills or terrifies you, you’re on the right track.
Creating and building together is one of the greatest joys in a relationship, but it can also be wildly damaging to your bond and your bank account if you don’t have a good strategy for managing your dual roles in each other’s lives.
My husband, Warren, and I have been living, working, and traveling together continuously since 2010. Over this time, we’ve discovered 5 secrets that keep both our business and our love life in the black.
When we first started working together publishing a website and writing a book, our roles were not clear-cut and we had similar, but not aligned, goals. Of course, we didn’t realize it at the time, but it soon became evident as we worked on different priorities and duplicated efforts.
When we finally had the conversation about what in the heck we were really doing, it was like a light bulb came on.
“You thought we were doing what?”
“Why would you expect me to do that?”
When your goals and roles are not clear cut, your result will be just as fuzzy as your plan. Take the time to map out exactly what you want for your business and lifestyle and how you each need to work to make it happen so you’re both on the same page and working from the same game plan.
Describe the end goal and how you see your business unfolding and make sure you are in agreement. You might be surprised to find you’re not even in the same ballpark!
You’ll save a lot of time and money, not to mention fights along the way.
Assign Separate Roles (and Stop Hovering)
No one likes a nag. If you trust your partner enough to go into business together, then you have to trust that he or she will get the job done. Constantly asking for updates, giving advice, and second-guessing will only cause resentment and slow your progress.
Assigning specific roles within your business will allow each person to ‘own’ their duties. Each person has a responsibility, and you stop duplicating efforts.
You also stop wasting energy on ‘checking up’ with the other person, which is easy to do when you’re in a holding pattern with a new business, frustrated over your own workload, or just stressed out about how things are progressing. It’s always easier to nag your partner than face the real issues, but that’s also a habit that will doom your business (and maybe even your relationship).
The key is to know your role and stick with it. You’ve got a business to get off the ground, and it takes 100% attention from each person on their responsibilities to make it successful. Leave the second-guessing and nagging to amateurs.
Assume the Best Intent
If you are the type to bring up all your past hurts every time you have a fight with your romantic partner, working together can be tricky. He or she is not out to get you, especially if they’ve chosen to merge money and effort to go into business together, and when you get melodramatic like that you’re only hurting your business.
Imagine screaming at a corporate co-worker that she’s always trying to sabotage you because she forgot to tell you about a meeting. Or rolling your eyes in the office and telling a colleague that you have to do everything around here.
If you can’t imagine treating former colleagues that way, don’t even think about doing it to the business partner you love.
Always assume your partner has good intentions and work from there. Mistakes will happen and you will deal with them, but remember who you are coming home to at the end of the day.
You can’t complain about the jerk at work if he or she’s the same person sleeping next to you at night.
Get an Office Manager (Even a Non-human One)
When you’re 50/50 partners, it’s sometimes hard to tell each other what to do or call each other out when something goes wrong. You need to manage your workload, clients, and business development without sacrificing your romantic partnership.
A third party is an excellent way to keep your communication from turning into a, “You’re not the boss of me!” kind of exchange.
One tool we really like is Nimble, which allows us to track our deals, activities, and contacts. We can also assign activities to each other when we’re working on a collaborative project. You can also use websites like Basecamp from 37 Signals, or Wrike for the same thing.
It’s sometimes easier to have assignments come through as a task from your computer instead of a verbal request from your mate, and when you’re both busy trying to get this business off the ground it is really easy to let those things fall through the cracks. With an online system to manage what you’re doing, you can avoid a lot of forgetfulness and fighting.
Turn It Off
It’s easy to let your new project take over your life. And in the beginning, it might even be necessary. But over time it’s important to flip off the lights from work and enjoy your personal life. Otherwise you’ll turn into co-workers who just happen to live together.
Give yourself mandatory days off or a mutual ‘quitting time’ so you can enjoy meals and activities together. See your friends, or go for a walk. It’s really easy to work all day and night and forgo a social life, healthy food, exercise, and even sex when you’re in startup mode (and sometimes well beyond it).
You started your business together to create something for your future, to spend time with the person you love, and because you believe in each other.
Don’t ever forget that, and you’ll have relationship and a business that’s always in the black.