If your spouse is trained in a specific area of expertise, don't try to do his or her job. They're in that position for a reason. "When we got into arguments, it's almost always because one of us would come over to the other person's side of the business," Ken Wright, co-founder of Dinner A' Fare, says. "It's about the other person's responsibilities and trusting that the other person was going to complete those tasks."
Launching and then running a new business can occupy a significant percentage of an owner's waking hours. But if married entrepreneurial teams donâ€™t make time for each other away from the business, there might not be a marriage to return to when retirement comes. â€œTen years down the road, you donâ€™t want to look at each other and only have work in common," says Stephanie Wright, co-founder of Dinner A' Fare.
Collaboration on something as simple as a home remodeling project can offer some insight into whether a couple can coexist in the business world. If you can't get through that, you might want to rethink launching a company side-by-side. "If one person was away on business often and worked late and the other person had their own career, although they may be married and live together, when you haven't interacted on projects together you can only hope for the best," says Max Beckwith, co-founder of The Little Author.
Having a strong marriage doesn't necessarily mean you will have the same success in a business partnership. If you aren't confident you can work together, you're probably right, some entrepreneurial couples say. "I think you just know in your gut whether or not you can do it," says Sharon Beckwith, co-founder of The Little Author. "It doesn't mean you're not compatible for marriage. But business is different."
Our entrepreneurial couples say it's an imperative that both parties know the financial ramifications of the business' possible failure. This is one case where surprises aren't a good thing. "If we pushed too hard and lost everything, you want to know that we both understood, and were willing to take, the risks," says Jennifer Davidson of PJ Madison's Ice Cream Company.
Business growing pains can sometimes be mitigated by a business-minded founder who has planned ahead financially. If each spouse grasps finance, even better. "We made a lot of mistakes starting out because we didn't know what we were doing," says PJ Madison's co-founder Jennifer Davidson. "Ideally, one of the people has a business background and understands the importance of a really detailed business plan."
Boss-employee relationships can be difficult to navigate to begin with, let alone if the two parties are married. When spouses are considered equals in the personal life, the same respect needs to carry over into the workplace. "If you are working together, there needs to be some time of equal input," says Karin Kilburg, of the Hospitality Performance Network. "There can't be a boss-employee structure."