There is never enough time. If I had to narrow down the challenges of being married and being in business together to ONE factor, that would be the one. Especially now that we have children together, 19 employees to manage, an office to run, travel to plan and educational presentations to give… etc. etc. When do we have time to connect as a couple? Let alone connecting in the office to review our financial reporting, discuss scaling or HR for our three companies. And, the growth items that are always hovering somewhere on the horizon? When we go on dates, we have a rule that we can’t talk about work. Sometimes we don’t talk for like 30 minutes.
Open Lines of Communication
The biggest problem about skipping those important conversations is that when communication breaks down, stress levels skyrocket. I have always told Scott that my biggest pet peeve of being a business owner (especially now that I’m not in the office full-time), is being surprised. I’m not talking about birthday surprises, or the joy of new clients we weren’t expecting – those are always welcome. I’m talking about the ones that most business owners are well-acquainted with. Those ones that cost money, cause an instant red line of stress and raise your blood pressure. They catch you unaware and turn your happy day on its head in a moment.
I’d always rather know the potential bad news ahead of time, so I can be part of creating a productive solution. Don’t take away my freedom of choice or my voice – I have a lot to offer here! When we remember to inform each other and respect the attributes the other brings to the table, instead of trying to protect our spouse from stress by keeping them out of the loop (which is instinctive in many ways), we get along better. That’s when things seem to get worked out with less tension all around. Why? Because it shows that we have each other’s backs. “Hey, you’re smart! I need your help and you have a lot to add to this situation, so it works out positively.” That means a lot – as a business partner and as a spouse.
Commitment to Communication
In a recent Entrepreneur article on the roles of empathy and trust in startups founded by married couples, one of the couples interviewed addressed that, “Working against your co-founder is equivalent to working against yourself, not to mention an attempt at marital suicide. The major strength of married co-founders is the commitment to the startup because both of you know what is at stake and are in the same boat. As in any marriage, equality is the basis for fruitful co-existence.” In my personal opinion, an unwavering commitment to communication for both marital and business issues – is the key to equality.
We’ve been in business together long enough now to know that the best way to stay sane is to recognize that you have to raise your hands as you ride the roller coaster. Up and down, loop di loop, swirl and twirl and DROP – then blast off to the sky again. It doesn’t matter how prepared you are, there will always be moments in business that make your stomach drop. And on the other hand, there are the ones that make you scream with exhilaration and joy. Those are the ones that come from years of hard work and preparation, from solid communication, from strategic decisions and coaching, and from keeping agreements and commitments to our clients and our employees, but first and foremost to each other. And who couldn’t use more of those moments?
6 Rules for Success
So, here are my personal top 6 rules for being married and in business together – successfully and happily. (‘Cause anyone can be in business and just stay married – it takes more work to be successful and happy).
- Carve out time to wear your “business partner hat” to strategically communicate about work issues at work.
- Schedule dates to discuss marriage and life issues outside of work and wear your “boyfriend / girlfriend” hat. Don’t cancel dates on your spouse.
- Always remember that money doesn’t buy happiness. It’s just a commodity that comes and goes. Agree on a wise, written strategic plan and stick to it for paying off debt, saving for retirement and general savings. Don’t rob yourselves personally to make the business successful.
- Don’t argue or criticize each other in front of your team. It’s harder to do than it sounds.
- Celebrate success together. These cherished moments make memories and carve out small nirvana moments along the way, so you won’t lose your mind.
- Go on vacation and turn off your darn phone / computer / etc. Look each other in the face and be present. You can always get more clients! You only have your precious children in your home for a short, fleeting time.
In our observation, spouses can make common sense business decisions and enjoy more success and fulfillment in their business and marriage by sticking to these rules.
Partner with Experts
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