Not all entrepreneurs go it alone. More than three million of U.S. small businesses are run as partnerships, and many of those businesses are run by life partners—married couples. While this can make being your own boss even more rewarding, it can also put one of your most important relationships at risk. You already know you love living with your life partner. Here are six great tips for making sure you love working with them, too.
According to the Small Business Association, the 1980s saw a 90% increase in companies run by couples, and the new freelance economy has accelerated that trend. By 1995, one-third of successful Fortune 500 companies were run by married teams. Successful small businesses take smart risks and develop strong relationships—with their customers, their vendors and suppliers, and their investors. When you decide to start your small business with your life partner, you put one of your most important relationships at risk. At Coffee News®, 50% of our successful franchises are owned or operated by spouses, and they have six great tips to help you and your spouse succeed!
Tip #1: Set Up and Structure Your Small Business from the Start
Are you both going to mastermind your new venture, and lead as equal partners? Or does one of you have more of an entrepreneurial spirit, and the other is eager to be the first, and best, employee? Deciding early how you want to structure your business will help you best determine how to grow that business together. It also has important implications for how your successful small business will be taxed.
Tip #2: Divide to Conquer
One of the biggest reasons entrepreneurs decide to start a small business with their spouse is to share the risks, responsibilities and rewards. Sharing everything might not be the best strategy for long-term success, however. Dividing up tasks according to each other’s strengths, skills, talents and interests can be more efficient and eliminate potential conflicts. And once you agree on each other’s turf, agree to respect each other’s turf. Don’t micromanage and second-guess your spouse.
Tip #3: Create an Emergency Fund
Money is the number one reason 50% of small businesses fail in the first five years. Money is also the number one cause of divorce. If you start a small business with your spouse, you have twice as many reasons to worry about money as other entrepreneurs. (In fact, many of our married Coffee News® publishers chose Coffee News® for its low cost and how quickly it generates positive cash flow.) Agree on your mutual tolerance for risk, make sure you have adequate cash on hand to meet your responsibilities at work and at home.
Tip #4: Keep it Professional
Make sure that when you are at work, you and your spouse have a working relationship. Even if you were bickering at breakfast, you need to be congenial with your clients and co-workers. But don’t overdo it! Displaying inappropriate amounts of affection can make others uncomfortable. Find a working relationship that works, and refine it as needed.
Tip #5: Find Ways to Separate Work from Home, Even if You Work From Home
Many small business owners decided to start their own business in part to achieve a better work-life balance. When you start a business with your spouse, especially if you start that business from home, you can blur all sorts of important boundaries. And if you have kids, it’s even more important to create space between your work life and home life. Decide together how early or how late you want to work. Should you answer the phone at dinner time? Are weekends on, or off-limits? Who will take time off to care for sick children or elderly parents?
Tip #6: Decide on Your Exit Plan
Couples who start a small business together don’t always finish that business together, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Lives—and people—change, and success can create as many stresses and pressures as failure. New additions to your family, another job offer or even simple burnout can all cause one spouse to call a timeout. Agree in advance to check in frequently and see situations clearly, and you may never need that exit plan at all!