I started a business with my wife.
Yes, we’re still together, and yes, the startup is still going strong. As impossible as it sounds, we’re not the only ones who have found success blending our personal and professional lives. In fact, two-thirds of all American businesses are family-owned and operated.
Many people assume working with your spouse is detrimental to your relationship, but my family has only grown stronger as a result. My wife and I do everything together, and along the way, we’ve come up with a list of dos and don’ts for those thinking about launching a startup with their spouse.
Here are four of them:
1. Don’t separate work and home.
While our business relationship is very different from our romantic relationship, our professional and personal lives have very much become integrated. Drawing a line between the two is simply unrealistic, so couples should instead learn to seamlessly and effortlessly transition from one to the other.
Instead of fighting to keep work and home separate, embrace the overlap, and use it to make your relationship even stronger.
2. Do communicate honestly.
One pivotal advantage of working with a loved one is that you worry less about trust in your business relationship. My wife and I built our startup on transparency. We’re brutally honest with each other, and because of that, we’ve developed our strongest asset: brainstorming. Our starkly different personalities complement each other and allow us to discuss ideas from different angles and quickly agree on the best course of action.
Married fashion photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin say that disagreements should not be avoided but arguing about them will get you nowhere. Instead, work together constructively to come to an agreeable solution.
3. Don’t evenly split the workload.
This may seem counterintuitive, but an even split should never be the goal when your business partner is also your spouse. Instead, each party should be equally committed to the business by performing tasks that suit that person’s individual talents.
For my wife and me, the key is a mutual understanding and willingness to work hard and cover for each other at all times. We sometimes share tasks and even switch roles so the other can have a break. If one falls behind, the other is expected to offer support to ensure everything flows smoothly.
4. Do support each other.
You and your loved one are a team. Success belongs to both of you, so both of you need to encourage the other’s ambitions.
But it isn’t easy to share a personal and professional life, so always keep a sense of humor. Extending an open ear or offering to help your significant other goes a long way. Most of the time, your offer will be rejected, but it’s great to know that someone has your back when you have a bad day.
Art collectors Don and Mera Rubell have been married and working together for more than 50 years. They say professionally supporting each other for more than half a century has saved and sustained their marriage.
If your business relationship does go sour, having a supportive foundation in place will ensure your marriage stays strong.
The best part of having your spouse as a business partner is the flexibility to tailor household duties and work tasks to your unique situation. You know the arrangement is successful when each partner is comfortable with the workload and feels fulfilled.
Above all, my wife and I found happiness in entrepreneurship because we trust that the other will always be there -- for better or for worse.