This week, we have a special treat. Kicktastic members Victoria and John Derrick were kind enough to share some insights into collaborating on business ventures with a spouse. From the Derricks...
Teaming up with your husband or wife for a business venture might sound simple enough at first. You both have a stake in the success of the business, right? Each of you brings unique and perhaps complimentary skills to the table, and a partnership would mean that you could better coordinate your schedules.
Despite all the benefits, you should sit for awhile with the question: “Is it a good idea to team up with my spouse for business?”
Answers will vary, depending on whom you ask. Some people will be quick to remind you of an old saying—“Don’t mix business and pleasure”—yet for John and me, collaborating on business projects has been very rewarding, both professionally and personally. Of course we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that our Hawaii travel business has also at times put a strain on our relationship.
You’ll need to find and discuss what best works for both of you through open and honest dialogue. Surprise, surprise! As with any relationship, communication is definitely the main ingredient for balancing personal and work relationships. You’ll want to be respectful in both situations—always, without exception.
Time management is another big issue. We run our business from home, and thus, from time to time, work and home life can start to blur together. So on that note, let’s take a look at what to do if partnering up with your spouse.
The “Businersonal Relationship”
(That’s Business + Personal. Can you tell I made that up?)
- Set boundaries. We cannot stress this one enough. Leave personal issues to be resolved “after hours,” and use business hours for business. We strive to keep “work-only” hours separate from everything else, including family time and chores. Of course, there’s bound to be some overlap, and things can get messy. Be disciplined. Establishing this boundary can help you minimize the messiness.
- Define your roles. From the beginning we defined our responsibilities. We sat down and discussed each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We determined what each of us would generally contribute on a day-to-day basis. We also determined who was “the boss” on specific issues, so that if a consensus wasn’t possible, a decision could still be made. Every week we meet at least once to continue the discussion that we started years ago. We refine and fine-tune as necessary to make things work well for the business and for us as individuals.
- Maintain separate workspaces. We’ve tried both—sharing an office and working in separate spaces. We favor the separation. It’s not that we don’t enjoy having the same office; it’s just that keeping them separate gives us our own place to do our thing without disrupting the other. John’s a web developer by trade and has an office that looks like it belongs in The Matrix. I was looking to do a bit more decorating—that is, style a space without an electronics store vibe! If having separate offices isn’t an option, define your workspace as best you can, even if that means putting a piece of tape down the middle of the room. That was a joke, but you get the gist.
- Set up weekly meetings to discuss objectives and goals. As we noted earlier, we meet once a week to discuss the future of the business and our relationship within it. These meetings help ensure that we are on the same page and working as a cohesive unit toward our goals.
- Agree to disagree when necessary; never make it personal. Forming a relationship with co-workers in the office is one thing, but when you literally share a home with your co-worker, you have to learn quickly to let any disagreements stay “at work” (or at home). Agreeing to disagree is often the best solution. Be professional, and never let the two worlds become entangled, if possible. Trust us when we say this one will test your fortitude as a couple. If you can maintain this balance, you’ll grow stronger as a couple.
- Set your monetary compensation and stick to it. Because we’re an LLC, this one is easy to fudge on, and that’s true for almost any small business. We’ve found that it’s important to stick to being good stewards of our business and restrict ourselves from dipping into our business funds. We start by keeping our business and our personal finances separate. We also set salaries for each other and review those salaries annually. We basically review each other. It may sound silly, but we’ve found this really is important and helps keep us on track.
- Have fun together! Without this one, you’re never going to make the business a success. Running our business has always been about doing something enjoyable together, even if that involves 80+ hours a week. We want a business that fulfills both our lives in unison. We’re after the same goals, and it’s both exciting and fun to work on those together each and every day.
To recap, forming a business relationship with your spouse or partner is not always a walk in the park, but it can be a very rewarding experience if you use good guidelines, such as the ones that we outlined above.
We’d like to send a big high five to the Kicktastic team for inviting us to write a guest post. Thank you! If you run a business with your spouse, we’d definitely love to hear from you. Share your methods and guidelines in the Comments section below.