When I read Nicholas Sparks’ “The Notebook,” these words leapt out at me and stayed with me forever, “So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s going to be really hard; we’re gonna have to work at this every day, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, every day. You and me… every day.”
This one quote from a soppy, romantic book sums up the reality of being married to my business partner.
It’s not easy.
We work on it every day.
Being married to your business partner can be quite the test. It is challenging, exciting, exhausting, infuriating and most importantly, completely and truly worth it.
I have been married to my business partner for 11 years now, 5 of which have been with us in business together. When we launched ContentBistro.com, we were like newlyweds with stars in our eyes and a song in our heart. Thrilled, yet a bit intimidated by what lay ahead.
Five years down the line, I can safely say that being married to each other while growing a business may be one of our best business decisions so far.
Like marriage, running a business requires patience, persistence and perfecting the art of balance. If you and your partner are planning on getting into business together, you need to know that there will be days when you want to throw in the towel on both your business and your marriage.
But more than those days, there will be days when you’re excited to be able to discuss strategy, sales techniques, social media woes with your partner and have them actually get it.
At the same time, it’s important to understand that you need a plan to ride out the days when the excitement and enthusiasm aren’t that high, when things get rough (as they often will) and when all you want to do is either curl up in a corner or walk out of the house.
So, how do you keep at it? Both at being married and running a business together?
1. RESPECT INDIVIDUAL STRENGTHS AND SKILLS
It all starts with respecting the other person and playing to each other’s strengths and skills.
Whether it’s assigning roles in your business or tasks that need to be done regularly, making a list and going over them together will ensure that both of you have roles you love and enjoy and tasks that excite you. Mayank and I “meet” every quarter to review our roles and responsibilities based on our individual skills and strengths, as well as our unique personality types.
It’s how we split chores at home as well. My husband is very strategic about the laundry, so I’ve happily handed it over to him. I’m obsessively Type A about order and organization, so those jobs are mine. We also split our time so one of us is always with our daughter while the other focuses on work.
Turns out we aren’t alone. Katie Kimball, who runs KitchenStewardship.com and TheBlogFixer.com with her husband Kris, adds, “Couples must know the importance of demarcating ‘the worker’ and ‘the parent.’ The children know who to go to and when, and we know who needs to grab something in the house versus being able to sit at the computer and focus. We actually have magnets with our faces on them on the fridge with ’worker’ and ‘parent’ zones.”
Robin Pisciotta, who owns MarketingYourPurpose.com with her husband Mike, further shares, “When you and your spouse are both highly driven entrepreneurs, it’s important to be honest and humble with each other to define your individual strengths and weaknesses. Without clarity and acknowledgement on these things, there’s bound to be a power struggle often.”
She continues: “Mike and I actually sit down and assess our strengths and weaknesses at least twice each year. It’s important to revisit this frequently, because these change as we evolve. We have a real meeting and write it out on the whiteboard for clarity. Then we divide the duties and operations of the business according to who has the strength to be in charge of that particular area. We let the other one thrive in their zone, and we don’t nitpick or criticize. We each stay in our lanes.”
This is non-negotiable. It’s tempting to go into all-business, all-the-time mode because you live together—but don’t. Instead, set business hours.
Business hours are when you talk shop, discuss plans, execute and implement. Non-business hours are when you do family and home-related stuff. It’s tough but worth it, because this one boundary will help you balance both roles with ease.
Time away from business is just as vital and energizing as time spent working on and in your business. Make sure you take time off from work and savor the results of what you’ve achieved so far.
Kimball and her husband have date nights weekly. She says, “We take time once a week for date night, which doesn’t have to take place outside of the home. It means nobody does anything on the to-do lists after the kids are tucked in. We focus on each other, even if it’s as simple as watching TV together. Shared activity outside of work doesn’t always happen that much.”
Pisciotta recommends, “Be sure you find fulfillment in many areas outside of your business, and even outside of your marriage. Mike and I have a relationship with God, serve in our community, give to the needy, do prison outreach, foster powerful relationships with friends and get into fun hobbies. It’s important to have a life. Don’t force your business or marriage to be your be all and end all.”
Talk and talk often. Share what your goals and dreams are, your hopes and plans. Review and revisit responsibilities. Talk about your fears and how you can overcome them.
Kimball and her husband have a daily standup routine. She says, “Keeping communication flowing about work is super helpful. We have a shared document where we can dump anything we have to discuss with each other. Once or twice a week we meet to dig into the doc. We try to do daily standups where we check in on each other and one another’s business to be a support and help each other prioritize.”
Pisciotta says, “Whenever Mike and I disagree or don’t see eye to eye on one of our great ideas, we like to take a step back and look at it from the perspective of the client or customer. What is the highest and best way to serve them? That’s what trumps our great ideas, stops arguments dead in their tracks, and where we find the peace and harmony in our plans.”
Yes, there will be tough times. Times when you lack motivation, business is slow or you’re simply cranky and need a nap. Know what you’ll do when those times hit. Go for a run. Soak in the tub for a solid 30 minutes. Get a massage. Journal. Color. Take a short trip or a staycation.
Have a list of things to do to pick up your spirits and keep you going. You’ll need it often for yourself and equally often for your partner.
If you’re married to your business partner, are thinking about going into business together or want to make it happen at some stage of your life, keep these tips front and center and you’re sure to have a match made in heaven.