So you're starting a new business. As a smart entrepreneur, you've done your research. You know how important it is to write a plan with measurable goals and objectives, choose your MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and determine your USP (Unique Selling Point). You know you have to designate start-up funds and plan a budget, then monitor your budget as you move toward your goals. You know you need a marketing plan. You've covered all the bases . . .

Or have you? What about the "unbusiness" part of starting your business, that is, the rest of your life, most importantly your relationship? What can you do to keep your relationship strong while you get underway? All relationships need nurturing, and they don't take a vacation while you start a business. Some simple techniques will help.

  1. Review your plan with your partner, and be sure you're both on board with your direction and potential changes in your situation. If you and your partner differ, or if you are not able to work out a cooperative attitude at the outset, the chances are slim that a cooperative, accepting attitude will develop as you work through the stresses of starting your business.
  2. Plan time for your relationship into your schedule to make certain it happens. Keeping a relationship strong doesn't have to take lots of time, but it does require some. Most important is time to do things with your partner that you both enjoy, especially if it's something that will let you laugh together. A few minutes each day for direct, focused listening-and-conversation is also good. It gives you a chance to connect, know what's going on with each other and identify any frictions at an early point.
  3. When you and your partner talk, practice the skill of "active listening". MindTools provides specifics on how to become an active listener. Active listening techniques encourage your partner to communicate with you and help you actually hear (and remember) what your partner is saying. Good communication is critical to any relationship but especially a relationship that is potentially stressed, and starting a new business is stressful. If your partner isn't familiar with these techniques, share them, so your interactions are reciprocal.
  4. If you and your partner share finances, be certain you are both in agreement about how you will accommodate personal financial commitments during the start-up time. Many people starting a business must use their own funds or live very frugally until the business is profitable. Profitability can take 2-3 years. That's a long time to rely on another person to pick up the slack without warning or planning and can put tremendous stress on a relationship.
  5. If you and your partner share a home, be certain you are both in agreement about how you will accommodate household responsibilities. There is no "right" way to divide up household maintenance or laundry or meal preparation. It depends on capabilities and the time commitments of both partners. Daily life requires time from someone, though, and it's important that you and your partner divide those responsibilities rationally and with respect. Dumping or expecting that someone else will pick it up because you're really busy won't work.
  6. Keep your partner informed of progress. While you don't need to go over every little detail of your growing business with your partner, it's important to give your partner a sense of how things are progressing, especially if your partner picks up slack at home or with personal finances. Regular, honest conversations about your progress will strengthen your relationship. Your partner will feel included, and you will feel your partner's interest in what you're doing.
  7. Agree in advance on a maximum end-date you can sustain if your business isn't as successful as you hoped. Since 50% of new businesses fail in their first five years, you must consider this possibility and agree with your partner on the amount of time you (as a couple) can reasonably give to your venture. This agreement has both financial and emotional dimensions.

With good communication and time to continue to enjoy living a life with your partner, starting a new business, whether it ultimately succeeds or fails, can strengthen your relationship. You will both develop skills, or strengthen skills, that are important for your relationship in any circumstances.

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