There are few decisions as life-changing as deciding to marry. Perhaps equally life-altering would be the decision to have children or choosing to start a business. But, what if you mix all of those together into one crazy life experiment? Is it a recipe for disaster or an opportunity to take a wild ride down the road less traveled? If you are thinking about going into business with your spouse or if you are in business together already, you can increase your chance of success in marriage and in your business by following these steps:
1. Full Disclosure of True Aspirations
Talk candidly about your business and personal goals -- early on and often. Take the time to write a business plan and a life plan so that professional and personal goals are clearly revealed and discussed. While you will definitely learn about your spouse, you might learn even more about yourself.
2. Know Your Role
Work with your husband or wife to define crystal clear roles with precise measurable goals that have specificity and realistic deadlines. If your business has employees, be sure they understand your position and your spouse's position in the organization. It may feel uncomfortable, but consider drafting a formal job description for yourself and your spouse that you then share with employees so they have a clear understanding of what you both do in the business.
3. Keep It Equal
Responsibilities in the organization can be different, but your work ethic should be the same. You and your spouse must be working at a similar pace. If your wife is working hard while you are taking too much time off, this will most certainly lead to frustration. Be especially cautious if one spouse is enthusiastic about going into business together because of the opportunity to "be our own boss" or "set our own hours." These perks can be misleading.
4. Remember How You Spoke to Each Other On Your First Date
We all fire off emails and text messages hurriedly to each other throughout the day. Pressed for time, we sometimes omit the friendly "thank you" we may otherwise include in a more formal letter (the type of brevity we wouldn't dare to use with a new client, for example). But, as damaging as it can be to send a rushed email void of any polite, warm pleasantries to a new client, it is even more damaging to a marriage to get accustomed to sending emotionally cold emails or texts back and forth. It could cost you ten more seconds, but ensuring your communication is just a few degrees warmer when conversing with your husband or wife can serve to remind both of you that you are marriage partners first and business partners second.
5. Pillow Talk
Create rules about when "business talk" is off limits. A good starting point would be to ban business discussion just before sleep and during family dinners. Your business and lifestyle is unique to you, so other areas you may want to consider limiting or eliminating talk about your business could be breakfast, weekends, or vacations.
6. Till Death Do Us Part
Both a strong marriage and building a successful business should be approached with a "till death do us part" mentality. Many hopeful entrepreneurs will excitedly give a convincing elevator pitch only to immediately undermine themselves by offering a list of "ways out" should their plan not go well. They explain how they could "sell the real estate" or "convert the use to something else" if and when "it doesn't work out." As Tony Robbins explains, we must burn the boats. We can't half-heartedly embark on any journey -- business, marriage, or otherwise -- and then expect a level of success that will be anything more than half of our full potential. If you choose the road less traveled, you must first burn the boats.
There are armies of people just waiting to talk you out of going into business with your spouse; and, the statistics for successful marriages and viability of new businesses would be on their side. So, why bother in the first place?
Going into business with your spouse does mean that you would bear all the risk without the benefit of spreading this risk across a group of outside-of-the-household partners, but the flip side is that it also means that 100 percent of the business profits funnel into just one household. As nice as it may be not having to divvy up profits with external partners, the greater reward could actually be found on the marriage side of the equation. When you work with your husband or wife, you have unique firsthand knowledge of the daily challenges (or triumphs) they face both in the workplace as well as in the home. If approached the right way, this unique all-encompassing partnership in marriage, parenting, business, and beyond can forge a powerful bond that could make you and your spouse doubly effective in each of your roles as husband, wife, mom, dad, and business owner.