Like many couples, my husband and I met through work. Before founding our business together, I worked at the karate school he owned. In a whirl-wind, we fell in love, got married, and started a kickboxing franchise.
While most people might be hesitant to work with their significant other, let alone start a business with them, the practice is more common than people think. While exact numbers are hard to come by, Glenn Muske, a professor at North Dakota State University, has studied what he calls “co-preneurs” for more than 20 years and has found two-thirds of businesses in the United States are family owned, and a third of those are run by couples.
Working together can pose its own set of risks. As CEO and COO of our fitness brand, 9Round Franchising, Shannon and I are together literally 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We may sit side-by-side in our office, but if we don’t purposely go out of our way to control how the day goes, we would barely “see” one another.
Working with your spouse doesn’t have to be a death sentence for your marriage, and it can actually benefit your home life, according to a recent Boston Globe article. Shannon and I are about to celebrate our 9th anniversary with eight of those years spent working together full-time. Over the years, we’ve learned how to stay connected while spending so much time together.
Learn each other’s strengths and stay in your lane
Try as hard as possible to “let go and let spouse.” Early on determine who will be handling what, and what each of your responsibilities will be. If marketing is your spouse’s strength, then let them be in full control of it. Don’t give too much unsolicited advice and support ideas even when you are doubtful. Trusting one another is a key component to make sure the business – and your marriage – runs smoothly.
Schedule work related appointments at the office with each other and keep them
The key to working with your spouse is to treat them like you would any other coworker while you are at the office. By putting your meetings in your calendar and sticking to them, it shows the other person they are important. Plus, it’s a great way to make sure work stays at the office. Each of you will have important roles in your business, so bringing those two roles together to collaborate at work can help produce a well-oiled machine. Make sure to schedule these appointments weekly, that way you aren’t trying to discuss development plans over dinner when you should be focusing on each other.
Catch up first, before you’re tired and go to bed
Setting a routine at home can benefit the time you two spend together. A typical night for us goes like this: once our youngest son is in bed, I straighten the kitchen while Shannon feeds the dog. Once we’ve both checked emails one final time, we sit on the couch and just say, “Hi.” We take this time each night to catch up with one another and tell each other about our day. Just because we work together doesn’t mean we know what’s happened throughout the day. When you set a “no phone, no TV” time each night, even if it’s just for twenty minutes, it provides much needed quality time and is very necessary to the health of your relationship.
Allow the other to have the time they need alone
Being together all hours of the day can be stressful and one thing co-preneurs don’t have the luxury of is alone time. To make sure we stay connected, Shannon and I try to schedule alone time. Depending on what the other needs, that may mean alone time away from each other or spending time quietly together (without the kids!). Find something that you both enjoy and that relaxes the both of you. Simple activities like reading together, catching up on your favorite shows, or working out together can make all the difference. When you do activities that you technically could do alone, by doing them with your partner can make all the difference in a healthy relationship.
Remember that not everything has to be big and planned
Sharing fun texts back and forth or simple “I love you notes” for no reason are necessary for any healthy relationship. When your partner steps out of the office for a moment, placing a simple post-it note on their desk can have lasting effects. Simple gestures like this require no planning; just remembering to do them and they can end up being what carries your spouse through a tough hour or day, you just never know!
Keep a rotation of babysitters available
Sometimes, it’s necessary to get away from work and the kids. When you work hard at your business year round, reward yourselves with an adults only trip. Or, if you just can’t get a way, designate at least one night a month where you and your significant other have a date night. Plan ahead for each date or trip. The more details you put into your plans, the more excited you and your spouse will be.
Work hard on yourself
The saying goes, “I’ll work on me, for you.” This is the best thing ever to do for your spouse, kids and/or employees. If you are an empty vessel, you have nothing to give. Fill yourself up first so that you have an overflow for others. This cannot be stressed enough. Shannon and I expand ourselves mostly by reading. We are both huge fans of learning more and always going as high as we possibly can mentally. This includes always taking hard looks at our own bad habits and just in general trying to always become better and better.
Working with your spouse isn’t always glamorous, but at the end of the day, knowing you are running a successful business with your partner is so gratifying that it makes it all worth it.
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