It can be really stressful to be a business owner. And there’s a special kind of added stress if you are in business with your spouse!
Whether you are in the planning stage of a new business that you will run together with your mate, or you’ve been operating a family business for years, you are probably already aware that there can be perils to all that togetherness. As someone who was the “mom” part of a home-based construction company for over twenty years, I am pleased to share with you some of the tricks to keep the romance in your marriage while building a thriving business together.
• Decide up front how many hours each of you will devote to the business on a weekly basis. Keep in mind that if one of you will also have the responsibilities of homemaking and caring for children or elderly parents who live with you, those hours of work count, too, toward the whole.
• Talk it over with your tax advisor before selecting the form of business you will operate: sole proprietorship, LLC (Limited Liability Corporation), corporation, or other entity. At first it might seem totally fair that if your husband is the one who will be out making the deals and meeting with clients, while you stay at home working part-time in the business as the bookkeeper and manager, that it’s no big deal if the business is a sole proprietorship in his name. Think it through, and anticipate if you will still be happy being invisible as the business grows and you take a larger role in administration. Also decide how salaries and wages will be paid to each of you.
• Establish a “date night” each week, preferably for dinner outside the home and not just sprawling on the couch in front of television. Keep the romance alive. As your budget allows, hire a babysitter or trade with other parents in your neighborhood who would like a weekly date night, too. Here’s the secret to making this actually work toward keeping your marriage and romance alive: no discussing business during your date! Seriously, it will feel so tempting to catch up on projects, client updates, brainstorm new business ideas. After all, you’re finally in the car together or on the subway, eating in a restaurant or diner, and it seems almost like a waste of valuable business-owner-time to not spend at least part of your evening on catching up. But make it a strict rule, and keep to it.
• Instead of allowing business to encroach on personal time together, set up a weekly status meeting for business projects. Depending on whether both of you are working in your home office, or one of you is out in the field, try to schedule this for daytime hours, perhaps during Friday lunch time. Just as you keep your date night for refreshing your romance, make this business meeting strictly about issues involving the projects you are working on together as mom-and-pop.
• You may wish to also schedule phone calls with each other in a businesslike way when it involves the business, and not just call to chat and then “Oh by the way…” and rattle off a lot of business-related items. Text or call and agree on a time to go over necessary updates, and also for practical home-related tasks like cleaning the garage, fixing the dishwasher, scheduling a car repair. The separation between business and home life is critical in order to not have an unhealthy shift where all you ever talk about is chores and business, and it runs together so that each of you secretly dreads talking to the other because every call turns into an ordeal.
• When your focus is on building a business, it can be tempting to overlook holidays, three-day weekends, and vacations. After all, when you’re keeping the business thriving, it’s hard to get away, and if business isn’t thriving, you want to stay there and drum up new clients. But that Catch-22 will sap your energy, and make you both wonder why it once seemed a great idea to have a family business.
• Take time for your own activities and hobbies, and quickly discuss any resentments or upsets that arise when one person feels overworked while the other still manages to find free time. Work these things out while the issues are small and manageable. As the old saying goes, Never go to bed angry at each other. That includes not going to bed with a resentment that you are nurturing but feel afraid to bring up. Honest communication is the cornerstone of any healthy mom-and-pop establishment, whether you have an office or storefront you go to, or you both work at home.
• Keep up your social life with outside friends, not just business associates, so that you can enjoy the occasional movies or dinner out with other people and talk about topics besides business.
No matter what your work is, it’s important to keep a balance in your life between business and personal goals. Following the tips above should help you keep the lines of communication open with your business partner so that both your marriage and your venture can thrive.
If you need a boost of self-confidence to implement these changes in your family business, check out my Home Training Program “Unstoppable Confidence” CLICK HERE