For better or for worse, you’ve decided to forever intertwine your lives by getting married. Now you’ve decided you want to shake things up a bit and become cofounders of your very own company. Well, they do say that the best way to see what someone is truly like is to put them in stressful situations, and it doesn’t get much more stressful than that.
Investors aren’t big fans of married cofounders. Their immediate concern is usually that there’s no way you or the business can last, and you’re most probably on your way to an inevitable and nasty divorce. The following tips from successful married cofounders are about to prove to you that it’s not just possible, but the shared experience can bring you closer together.
Cofounders and business partners are already often compared to married couples, so being married should really give you an advantage; you’re already together and know each other pretty well so, you get to focus on the business rather than needing to learn about each other. Here are some of the things you should be considering:
1. Decide Who Has The Power
No matter how equal two things are, one always has a slight edge. Not only is a completely equal partnership not possible, you shouldn’t really waste time trying: you don’t want to wait until your first major business decision to decide whose vote carries more weight.
Part of having control is knowing when to relinquish it; part of being a good partner, whether marital or business, is having complete trust in each other. If there’s any doubt between you, or a refusal to hear each other out when there’s a problem, then you’re likely to end up letting your personal issues get in the way of running a good business.
Whenever two people do something together, there’s usually a natural divide between their personalities and what they’re best at: early on in your partnership you should decide which of you is more creative and which of you is more business-minded and split the decision making evenly and fairly. Each should get a say, but someone needs the power to break a tie situation.
2. Sync Your Vision
You probably decided to start a business in one of two ways: you both saw a problem and decided to do something to solve it, or one of you had a problem that became a concern of the other and you decided to work together to fix it. Your aligned goals and visions will only make your business grow stronger.
Trusting each other enough not to have a prenup for your marriage, is a personal preference; thinking you trust each other enough not to have a written business agreement is a bad idea whether you’re married or not. Getting things down in writing clarifies your shared vision and is something to refer to when things go wrong and you need some inspiration. It also ensures that you agree on what sacrifices you’re going to make and that you won’t have any unforeseen problems down the road.
3. Channel Each Other's Strengths
Have you heard the myth that two people find each other because humans used to have four arms, four legs and two faces, meaning that you are literally each other’s missing half? Yes, it is a bit of a creepy thought, but here’s my point: as perfectly matched as you are to your other half, you should also flawlessly match with your business partner too. The two of you should have skills that complement each other, so that together you’re the perfect business package, with each one of you adding value to the other.
4. Learn How to Work Together
Starting a company with your partner is the ultimate compatibility test: can you navigate their pet peeves without killing them? If your partner is a late riser when you’re a morning person, then schedule tasks accordingly; if your partner loves peace and quiet and you need noise, get yourself some headphones or go to a coffee shop so you both get what you need.
You need to learn to understand each other’s needs and to avoid letting love cloud your judgment: if they’ve done something wrong, have the professionalism to tell them. A mistake that’s ignored can grow and turn into a failure, and then you’ll both be miserable - all because you didn’t have the heart to put the business first.
Conflict is inevitable, both in a business and in a marriage; remember that both of you need to give and take. You shouldn’t go to bed angry, but you also shouldn’t return to a tough decision or argument before you’ve taken the time to cool down and think about how you can respect the other’s point of view. The good news is that if you can make it through starting a company, then you can make it through anything.
5. Remember to Have "us" Time
If you think it’s hard to separate your business life and personal life when you go to an office every day, or when you work from home, then imagine how much harder it will be to actually work with your spouse. You need to have set hours, when work shouldn’t even be discussed - if you have a family, this might be a family dinner. If you don’t make the time to detach, the stress will eventually result in burnout.
Additionally, you need to avoid business problems turning into personal dramas, and vice versa. It might be difficult to put things aside when you shift between "work time" or "off time" but you need to stay objective and remember that constructive criticism at work, has nothing to do with your current argument about who forgot to change the batteries in the TV remote.
Avoid letting your business become your entire life; see what works best in terms of when you need to call it a day, when each of you works the best and how you can juggle your business and your family. No matter how proud your children are that mummy and daddy are business owners, they still want quality time with you.
All relationships can be tough at times, whether it’s a relationship between a husband and wife or between two business partners. Although being married means having to work harder to ensure that you maintain a divide between your work and home life, it can also be a unique strength and asset to your business; no two other business partners will know each other so well or be as willing to work on their relationship when things are going wrong. Understand and respect each other’s goals and qualities and this will eventually show on your successful business.
Have you ever considered starting a business with your significant other? Have you done it, and have some more tips to add? Let us know in the comments section below.