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Advice to couples running businesses together Advice to couples running businesses together
by Joseph Gatt
2021-07-24 10:01:14
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A list of scenarios couples running businesses together can be confronted with. And how to deal with them to stay together or stay married, in a healthy relationship.

So you're a couple, male-male, female-female, or female-male. You run a business together. You guys had an idea, thought it would work out great. You start a business. Maybe it's doing great. Maybe it's doing awesome. Maybe there are ups and downs. Maybe you're off to a rough start. Either way. Here's my advice.

coupbus001_400-First tip. Big tip. Huge tip. Have very honest conversations about where this business is going. If one of you is not happy running the business, that's a red alert. You shouldn't shrug that off or brush that off like most couples do. You should discuss the dissatisfaction with running the business, and try to come up with a solution.

-So the wife or the husband is not happy running the business. You need an in-depth discussion on that. Should the husband or wife become the sole owner of the business? Should the husband run the business and the wife just be as an employee? Should the husband or wife seek a career elsewhere? Or does the husband or wife have a bad hunch about the business, in which case he or she should present their thoughts clearly on why they think the business should close or should operate differently. Maybe they see something that you don't see.

-So the husband or wife is going to leave. Employees should be clearly informed, and perhaps clients as well. Maybe the husband or wife will drop by occasionally. Maybe the husband or wife is just taking a break and is going to come back and run the business together. Maybe he or she is gone for good, and wants to know close to nothing about what goes on inside the business. Employees should never be left in an ambiguous position about what the wife or husband's role is in the business. That could lead to lots of misunderstandings.

-So as a couple you have a vision for the business. The business mission, unfortunately, should not be separate from your status as human beings and as a couple. A lot of couples run the business and work together as colleagues, and try to brush the fact that they are a couple aside. To me that's dishonest, and that's not good. So if your wife says “honey, with that kind of vision, we will never see our kids” or “honey, with that kind of vision, we will never get to spend time dating each other” or whatever. Those things should be taken into account, and discussed calmly.

-Division of labor. Some couples like to work together all the time, go to meetings together, deal with clients together, deal with the balance sheets together, do everything together. Others have more of a separate role, husband takes care of sales, wife takes care of logistics. Either way, disagreements, mistakes, misunderstandings, betrayal will affect your couple as well as your business. So you have a double responsibility as a couple and a business to work on your project consciously, honestly, and with good intentions.

-The “soul” of the business. As a couple, your couple will define the business. If you get along, your employees and clients will notice. If you don't get along, your employees and clients are going to discuss that at length at pubs. If the wife is “using” the husband, that will be noticed. If the husband is “using” the wife, that will be noticed.

So, as a couple, you will need to be comfortable with stuff. Some wives allow their husbands to be the boss. Not a fan of that but OK. Some husbands allow the wife to be the boss. Not a fan of that. Other couples operate on an egalitarian basis.

-”Imposing” yourself as the boss. I, Yossi, have this problem with women: I'm a kind guy; I tend to say “yes” to almost everything and every whim, because I want my girls to be happy. But then a lot of my exes end up “becoming my boss”. So, from then on, I have to say “yes” to everything, and that's an obligation, but my exes could say “no” to anything they wanted. That couldn't work. I say “yes” to most things, but also kind of expected my exes to say “yes” to most things, and, if they say “no”, to explain why they are saying “no.”

So, to the point. Your business and couple could collapse if one of you “imposes” themselves as the boss. This is, by far, the main reason why couples and the business collapse together. So you will need to work on treating each other as equals, and not being tempted to become the “ugly boss.”

-Finally, good old “creative differences.” Another reason why a lot of couples end up sleeping in separate beds while running the business. The husband has one vision; the wife has a different vision.

I'd say if you have “creative differences” you will need to take a step back and reflect. Maybe you need to split the business into two separate businesses. Maybe you need to divide the labor.

I know this is hard. The wife is 100% convinced her idea is the best. The husband is 100% convinced his wife's idea is bad and his idea is the best.

But if the wife ends up doing work she's not comfortable with and that make her blush, or that the husband feels that he's lost his pants and is wearing a miniskirt in public, that's not gonna work.

So, as a couple, you'll need to find the kind of business vision that makes both of you happy, comfortable, and proud to be doing what you're doing.

-And the bonus point: personality differences. Couples have personality differences to begin with. Some individuals are more comfortable working alone. Others are more comfortable working as a couple, always together. Some are straightforward and to the point. Others like to beat around the bush. Some are extroverted, others introverted. Some are shy and status conscious, others are more talkative and don't care about status. Some care about numbers and rankings, others are more into quality and customer satisfaction. Some have a long-term vision and want stability, others are more comfortable improvising. Some show up to work with a clear roadmap in mind, others show up to work with no idea what they're gonna do. Some like to exercise and eat healthy food. Others are into beer and junk food. Some are happy, love smiling and cracking jokes; others are more serious and austere in their demeanor. Some think dressing up neatly is super important. Others like to opt for casual clothes regardless of the occasion. Some value kindness, others value meanness.  

You get the idea. You'll have to work these differences out.

In sum, if running a business together as a couple feels right, do it! If it starts feeling wrong, take stock! And be honest, tell each other the truth, come up with solutions that make both of you happy, and you'll be fine!

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