Going into business with your significant other? Three husband-wife teams share pointers for making it work.
By Ritika Puri (Founder, Storyhackers)
Last year, my boyfriend Justin and I made the big decision to have him join my company, Storyhackers, as co-founder and CTO. We were both excited and nervous, but we knew that this was the right path for us — Justin and I have complementary and unique skillsets, hold each other to high standards, collaborate well under under pressure and share the same values for how to do business.
Even though we’re enjoying the process, crafting new revenue sources and taking tangible steps forward in achieving our product development goals, we’ve found that the process has been tougher than expected. There are a few reasons why:
- As workaholics, we both have trouble shifting out of ‘business’ mode, often initiating impromptu ‘brainstorming sessions’ at 1 a.m. — when the other person wants to sleep.
- Opposing viewpoints sometimes deadlock decisions because we’re both stubborn and alarmingly logical.
- We take heat from people who tell us that starting a business with a significant other is a bad idea.
However, there are ways to make it work. Here three married co-founders share their tips on going into business with your partner:
1. Separate Your Roles
Tip nominated by: Michelle Trontz, co-founder of TRONTZ Integrated Marketing and Design
When Michelle Trontz decided to launch a business with her husband, she had many of the same fears that I did — wondering if it would be a “smart” decision to survive on one income and put an added level of stress on her relationship.
“While all these thoughts were looming in my head, I couldn’t help but notice the glaring fact we would make a fantastic team,” says Trontz. “So in October 2013 I quit my job with benefits and we created TRONTZ Integrated Marketing & Design, a full service studio which partners with companies that can’t afford in-house creative teams.”
One of the biggest lessons that she’s learned is the need to separate responsibilities clearly and to make sure that each spouse has enough space to do his or her job well. Trontz encourages significant-other co-founders to be extremely empathetic to one another’s unique roles.
“Stubbornness and egos will quickly eat up productivity and leave you both uninspired,” says Trontz.
“Going into business with your spouse is hard. You will spend 24/7 alone with each other. Make sure he is a not just a business and life partner. He needs to be your best friend. It’s basically the both of you against the world. Hold on tight because it will be the greatest ride of your life.”
2. Tackle Tough Decisions After a Good Night’s Rest
Tip nominated by: January O’Connor, co-founder at GoGargle!
When you’re running a company with your spouse, there is no separation between “work” and “life.” You spend every waking moment with your business partner — he or she will be the first person who you see every morning and every night.
In other words, there is a high likelihood of driving each other crazy.
“The biggest challenge is time management, but we are becoming experts at scheduling fun time,” says O’Connor. “When working with your husband, business can become your only topic of conversation and focus.”
O’Connor and her husband make a conscious effort to carve out time to spend as a couple. They operate with a “work hard, play hard” mentality, and one of the steps that they take to maintain a sense of balance is save their hardest decisions for the beginning of the day.
“We have learned that decisions made in haste or because of artificial pressure of time constraints will cause poor decisions,” says O’Connor.
“We like to know the deadlines. We like to find out early what we are thinking individually. We then do some research, ask questions, at times seek out advisement from other business professionals and then make that decision in the morning with coffee.”
3. Apply the Cornerstones of Your Romantic Relationship to Your Business Relationship
Tip nominated by: Maria Graham, co-founder at HeyUpdate
As married co-founders, you’ve decided to work together because you make a great team. You both have different skillsets and complement one another. You have an unspoken understanding of one another’s needs. A co-founder relationship is built on these same values — but in a different context.
“Be honest when you are having discussions, trust each other — especially when it comes to things like your gut instinct,” says Graham. “Communicate, and most importantly, enjoy the journey you are on.”
Be confident that you are partners in life and in business. Your complementary skills, compassion, and trust will carry you far.
What are your tips for maintaining a healthy co-founder relationship?
Photo credit: isak55 via Shutterstock.