Married couples running a Family Business

Working husbands and wives naturally tend to “unload” on each other at the end of the workday, recounting how things went at work. But when husbands and wives work together in the same business, things can get a little more complicated.

Married couples have been working together since the beginning of time, and it’s a wonderful thing.  In 2007, the most recent year for data, there were 1.4 million firms “jointly owned and equally operated by a husband and wife,” according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners.

Many of these business-marriage partnerships begin this way: someone sees an opportunity where they can either make a good living, or achieve a desired lifestyle, and they jump in. And if the spouse has a job, they retain it to ensure a reliable source of income for the family while the new venture is launched.

However, you can be sure that at the end of every day the working partner will get an earful about how’s things are progressing with the new business. Then at some point, seeing that the business has reached liftoff, the other spouse jettisons his or her corporate job and comes aboard.

Married couples who are in business together are thought of as “co-preneurs.” And many of these co-preneurs say it’s good for them to have guidelines to keep both their marriages and their business ventures strong:

Share responsibilities: Knowing who is supposed to do what each day not only makes for a smoother workflow, but allows spouses to just slip right into their roles. At the same time…

Be flexible about who does what: Tim Rhodes made the leap first from avid runner to retail owner to launch Run For Your Life athletic apparel in Charlotte. Although busy raising their children in the early years, wife Robin slowly moved into the business. “…Not only does she handle the inventory, but (she) now can slot into any role,” says Tim. “She enables us to have balanced lives together.”

Work as partners: Some businesses are conceived as a team effort from the beginning, like Baskets of Yarn in Charlotte owned by Patty and Gary Frame. Patty had the opportunity to turn her love for crocheting it into a business when the store she patronized came up for sale.

“When the idea came up, we were both working on the business plan and running the numbers together from the outset,” says Patty. “We always assumed that we would both be working in the business.”

Do not compete with each other: That causes conflict in the workplace. If you have employees in your workplace, for example, agree on how to handle supervision of them. Also agree on what your business priorities are so there’s no confusion about goals.

Other tips to consider when getting into business with your spouse:

• Set aside specific times, away from the hustle and bustle, to discuss how things are going, and ensure that you both are on the same page.

• Talk about and be clear on expectations of each other before starting the business.

• Don’t avoid expressing a difference of opinion.

• Do realize that there will be disagreements – perhaps heated – and that you will need to calmly work through them.

• Be sure to take time away from your spouse and allow your spouse time away from you.

• Don’t sacrifice your personal life for the business.

• Don’t get into business together if you already have issues cooperating on projects.

Managing a successful business requires unemotional decisions about what will improve revenue and profit. Hands down, that’s difficult. Achieving this with a partner is even harder. Trying to do this with a partner with whom you are in a relationship predicated on unconditional love is the most challenging.

Entering business with your significant other with your eyes wide open and a commitment to maintaining good communication, can greatly enhance your personal and professional life.

As your family business partner, we’re here for you!