By Bill Stump, Lead Business Execution Consultant, Wells Fargo, February 8, 2022
For almost all small business owners, being a business owner is an affair of the heart. However, running a business with your loved one can bring additional challenges that can ruin all the romance this Valentine’s Day. The challenges faced by the typical business owner — working around the clock, working on tight budgets, and wearing lots of hats — often become more intense when a spouse or significant other is a business associate. Still, many couples have successfully worked together both personally and professionally, offering lessons that can be applied by all small business owners.
Here are four tips any couple running a business can use to ensure their business partnership is as successful as their romantic one:
Define roles and responsibilities
It is important to define roles and responsibilities in any business partnership, especially for couples running a business together. The old adage “opposites attract” can often mean that each person brings unique skills and strengths to a relationship, something that should be leveraged in a business partnership. As you develop your business plan, take the time to identify your respective strengths and passions, and segment operations from there. For example, if you’re organized and enjoy working with numbers, but your partner has more energy for working with people, it probably makes sense for you to keep the books while they manage client relationships and new business endeavors. Make sure you clearly outline and document the agreed organizational structure, the responsibilities for each role, and the ownership interests of each person.
Commit to regularly revising your business plan to ensure the structure still works, and adjust roles as needed. A well thought out, updated business plan will help you focus on business goals and objectives and track your progress.
focus on communication
Communication is essential in all areas of life. It forms the basis of a happy marriage and a successful business relationship. But running a business with your spouse could involve difficult conversations. Maybe you don’t want to upset her when her performance isn’t great, or there might be bad news that you don’t want to share with your partner. Whatever it is, you need to develop effective communication with your spouse. This will help you deal with issues in the long run and could also help strengthen your relationship at home!
Determine an appropriate exit strategy
One area of doing business that is often overlooked is the exit strategy. Settlement is a critical phase of the business lifecycle and should be addressed early. This is especially true if you own a business with your loved one, as emotions can sometimes get in the way of difficult business decisions. While it’s uncomfortable to think that things are going south, an exit strategy will provide a clear process to follow if an unfortunate situation arises. This strategy should outline what happens if a partner decides to leave the company to pursue other opportunities, or if the company has to close for other reasons. Whether the business is sold to an outside buyer or liquidated, a business banker or accountant can help you create a plan that works for you.
Separate work from personal life
A final tip for couples who are in business together is to make time for each other outside of business. Most small business owners will tell you that the line between work and home is often blurred, and this is even more true for couples who work together. To maintain a healthy work-life balance, set and respect clear business hours and make time outside of work to do things 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 doing business together are well worth it. When you lay the right foundation from the start, maintain strong communication, and set clear boundaries, running a business with your loved one can be an incredibly rewarding experience.
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