I'm sure you've heard this statistic before: the failure rate of all start-up businesses is around the 90% mark. Add to that the unpleasant fact that roughly 50% of all marriages end in divorce and you can see that the odds of your new small business succeeding, already slim, become even slimmer if you run your business in partnership with your spouse.
Here are some of the challenges faced by entrepreneurial couples and what can be done to reduce the chances of becoming a statistic.
A structure is only as strong as the foundation upon which it is built. If you're in business with your spouse, the foundation of your building is the relationship. Make sure you honestly assess your commitment to the business and to each other up front. Do you share the same family values? Are you both committed to sharing family and business responsibilities?
In the early days of the business, your relationship will need to thrive on a lack of quality "couple" time or possibly any time at all. It's not unusual for new business owners to work 16 hours a day, 7 days a week to get their businesses off the ground. That's one reason why your relationship needs to be in good shape before you start a business together. You don't want to be adding additional pressure and stress to a relationship that is already troubled.
To help relieve the pressure and stress of your new business together, plan to spend quality time together. Go on a dinner date where you don't discuss business. Take a romantic walk together. The thing to remember is that the relationship with your spouse is important and needs to be nurtured.
Division of Responsibility
Each of you must have your own clearly defined areas of sole responsibility. Any business needs one and only one person to make a final decision. This doesn't mean that one person makes all the decisions. It means that one person can make the decisions for their areas of responsibility.
The business is not the only area where responsibility needs to be divided. Don't forget to allocate responsibility for household chores and parenting responsibilities. Who will do the grocery shopping, the laundry, the cleaning and bill paying?
Each of you should treat the other just as you would a respected colleague outside the business. Show each other the same respect, courtesy, appreciation and gratitude that you would show any valued co-worker.
No matter how well people get along, disagreements about certain aspects of the business are inevitable. And just as in any other business, what is important is how those disagreements are resolved.
A good way of communicating about business issues is to hold regular business meetings together. The meetings don't have to be formal, just discuss any issues that may have come up since the last meeting and figure out an approach to deal with each one of the issues. This way you both will stay informed on where the business is headed and what each of you is working on and planning for the business.
Set Business Hours
Set regular business hours and stick to them. Except in an emergency, what doesn't get done in business hours doesn't get done until the next day.
To keep your relationship fresh and interesting, you should both pursue interests that are independent of the business and each other.
You live and work together. That's a lot of togetherness. Everyone needs personal space. If possible, have separate work areas so you're not under each other's feet all the time.
The prospect of running a successful business with our mate is the dream of many of us. It is natural to want to share as much as possible with our spouse. But it is not for the faint-hearted and there are many issues to take into account. Don't make your decision based on visions of romantic togetherness. The reality will be altogether very different. But if, with your eyes wide open and having taken all of the factors into account, you believe you can be successful in business together, than by all means go for it.