For nearly all small business owners, business ownership is a labor of love. Yet running a business with your loved one can bring on additional challenges that may take out all the romance this Valentine’s Day. The challenges that face a typical business owner – working 24/7, operating on tight budgets, and wearing many hats – are often times intensified when a spouse or significant other is a business partner. Yet many couples have achieved success both personally and professionally working together, and offer lessons that can be applied by all small business owners.
Here are four tips that every pair who runs a business can put in place to help ensure their entrepreneurial partnership is as successful as their romantic one:
Define roles and responsibilities
It’s important to define roles and responsibilities in every business partnership, particularly for couples who operate a business together. The old saying “opposites attract” can often mean that each person brings a unique set of skills and strengths to a relationship, something that should be harnessed in a business partnership. As you’re developing your business plan, take time to identify your respective strengths and passions, and divvy up the business operations from there. For example, if you’re highly organized and love crunching numbers, yet your partner is more energized working with people, then it probably makes sense for you to run the books while they manage customer relations and new business efforts. Make sure to clearly outline and document the agreed-upon company structure, responsibilities for each role and each individual’s ownership stake.
Commit to regularly revisiting your business plan to ensure the structure is still working, and adjust roles as needed. A well-thought-out, updated business plan will help keep you focused on company goals and objectives, and track your progress.
Focus on communication
Communication is essential in all areas of life. It lies at the foundation of a happy marriage and a successful business relationship. But running a business with your spouse could entail difficult conversations. You might not want to upset them if their performance isn’t as good, or there could be bad news you’re afraid to reveal to your partner. Whatever it is, you need to develop effective communication with your spouse. This will help you handle problems in the long run, and could also help strengthen your relationship at home, too!
Put in place a suitable exit strategy
One area of business operations that is frequently overlooked is the exit strategy. Winding down is a crucial stage of the business lifecycle and something that should be addressed early on. This is especially true when owning a business with your loved one, as emotions can sometimes get in the way of tough business decisions. While it’s uncomfortable to think about things going south, an exit strategy will lay out a clear process to follow if an unfortunate situation occurs. This strategy should outline what will happen if one partner decides to leave the business to pursue other opportunities, or there is a need to close the business for other reasons. Whether the business is sold to an external buyer or liquidated, a business banker or tax adviser can help establish a plan that works for you.
Separate work from personal life
One final tip for couples in business together is to take time for each other outside of the business. Most small business owners will tell you that the line between work and home is often blurred, and this applies even more to couples who work together. To ensure a healthy work-life balance, set clear business hours and respect them, and carve out time away from work to do things that you love.
Going into business with a loved one is hard work. However, many couples who have found success will tell you that the benefits of being in business together are worth it. By laying the proper foundation in the beginning, having strong communication and setting clear boundaries, owning a business with your loved one can be an incredibly rewarding experience.
Brandon Meredith is a Wells Fargo small business leader.