5 Tips to Help Make Working With Your Life Partner Successful for Your Business & Beyond
I am often asked the question: “You own a business and work with your husband, really? How do you like that?” There are two schools of thought: one where spouses or partners do not want to work together (even if sometimes, one in the couple would be more approving of it than the other), and the other where they really enjoy the idea.
I’m in the latter camp. I truly love working with my husband. It is very comforting to work with the person I trust the most in this world. He gets me on track on days when I’ve been derailed, in line when I’m too scatterbrained, and calm when I am anxious. He truly is my voice of reason. He works with numbers and sells, and I work with the creatives and manage. We definitely complement each other. A complementary work relationship is more than anyone could ask for.
It is okay to gush about your partner or spouse (as I did above!), but don’t turn everyday into a romance novel. Yes, I am my husband’s biggest fan, and I could blush about him all day, but I have learned that private and professional lives should definitely be separate at work.
So, if you are considering working with your partner or spouse here are some things to consider:
Don’t Appear to be Joined at the Hip
It’s important for your employees to see you and your partner as two distinct people, not as a unit. That way, your team can feel comfortable coming to you or your partner and expressing any issue with the other. And yes, I have had employees come to me and complain about my husband missing a deadline or not being available. I handle it professionally, and treat him as anyone else I work with: i.e. he needs to be accountable in the professional realm.
Take Advantage of Having a Built-In Best Friend
You don’t have to outwardly gush about your best friend/confidant, but you can silently enjoy all of the benefits. And one of the benefits of having your spouse or partner as your business partner is that no matter how upset they get with you, they still come home with you. Being a unified team means that it is possible to work through disagreements without the fear of someone quitting or being insubordinate. They will listen to you cry and scream, and there will be no ramifications; it’s unfiltered and free venting. It doesn’t get better than that!
Define Your Place, and Find Your Space
The reason our arrangement works is that we have clearly defined roles in the company, which helps us, our employees and clients understand where to find answers, express ideas, and know how to meet their goals. Furthermore, this helps with not being seen as a unit — we are two distinct professionals.
Don’t Hang in a Holding Pattern
We have one understanding that was decided on back in 2002 when my husband joined the company (in fact, he wouldn’t join unless I agreed to it). If we had a major disagreement, and a decision had to be made, then I, being the original founder, would be the one to make the final decision.
This has only happened four times in all of these years, and secretly each time I felt a little guilty, but a deal is a deal. It is important to have a rule like this, so there is no power struggle, but rather a defined way to reach a conclusion.
Blah Blah Blah Can be Good for a Couple
The way my husband decompresses is to stay on top of his programming and IT skills and interests. So instead of binge-watching a Netflix show with me, he will be present in the room, yet have his laptop and headphones on, while taking a machine learning or calculus refresher class just for funsies. Oh, how that goes way over my head. However, when I talk about management and HR issues with him, it’s the same as if he started talking about artificial neuro networks and logistic regression, blah blah blah with me. See, opposites do attract!
My husband did not imagine himself working in the paper industry. He has an IT background. “SAP implementation and management consulting” was his career description before I scooped him up with my alluring offer to pay him less, have no travel budget, and work ridiculously long hours — yet work with the cutest girl in his life. Of course, it was clear for him the decision to make. He is my rock and my foundation, and has helped me become the entrepreneur I am today.21