image: Just Married | by RachIgnatiev
We often get asked what it's like to be married and be in business together. Sometimes, people comment, "oh wow it must be tough to be married and in business together." Tough. Yes that's the word. Sometimes it is so tough to be sleeping next to a business partner that you could not come to agree with that day or feel like you do not agree with ever! LOL!
The other day, Michael and I were out, at a local diner, eating lunch with the kids. Now, like most business owners you start talking about business with the owners. This time, what struck me about our conversation was what one of the "married business partner" said, "Oh and we start getting mad at each other." And for the first time, in a long time, I did not feel alone or like a total loser for getting mad at my husband. ALL THE TIME.
I came home that night and was up just thinking about how many of "us" are out there "getting mad at each other". And I came to realize that every business partnership is like a marriage, whether you are married to one another or not. The truth for Michael and I is that being married and owning a business together is like being married twice. If that makes any sense.
Business partnership and marriage are similar in many ways. Both are huge, life-changing decisions that require trust, respect, love and commitment. They both involve finances. They both require you to be working towards a goal with someone other than just yourself. The truth is that maintaining both our business and our marriage is more "tough" than just maintaining our marriage alone. Here is a list of things that we deal with constantly:
1. We spend too much time together.
We spend not only our working hours together, but also our home life together. And especially true when our work life just spills over into our home life. Our interactions tend to be more intense and more prone to conflict because of all the external factors that are beyond our control.
When we are mad at one another because of work, there is no end to our day. We don't get to go home and not think about it or talk about it. The problem is there with us. We also cannot escape our problems from home, at work. We still have to be there conducting business, as usual even when we are faced with a relationship at work that is way more than just business.
Finances can be cited to be one of the root problems of many marriages. Well, imagine doubling that. Imagine having to talk about budgeting and spending habits at work with your husband or wife! Not only do you have to talk about it at work, but you actually have to collaborate on how to earn it.
By the way, I read and implemented this book Profit First by Mike Michalowic into our business and home life. It has helped us a lot with finance management. I only wish I would have found it three years ago, when we first started in this journey. It would have saved us many arguments and many "I am mad at you moments." I highly recommend it to any business and/or married couple.
3. More at stake
In a marriage you have to consider the well being of your family. Especially, when you have small children. In a business, it is one hundred times as stressful. The success of our business directly affects our family, impacts our employees, clients, contractors, partners, etc. That's a lot of people counting on us to make it work. It is intensified tenfold by the pressure to keep up appearances when we hit a rough patch because we don't want to jeopardize any of our business relationships by conveying instability.
So what do we do?
1. We work at it.
Like most marriages, a business partnership needs to be constantly worked on. Just like in a marriage, people's objectives and goals change over time. It is inevitable that at some point my husbands/business partner's goals are going to differ from mine (I believe this has already happened to us, as much as Michael may want to dodge the topic). So we work at whatever the problems that might arise through communication, trust, with a pinch of love and commitment.
I am constantly working on communicating with Michael whatever my expectations or thoughts might be. And I push us until we come to a compromise, and it is clear to him what I expect in return. Although, he might not call it communication, but I am okay with that because it is such a small price to pay to come to some sort of solution and compromise. ;)
The point is that we are discussing our differences and coming to some sort of solution that will benefit both of us. The alternative is a business divorce and more likely a marital divorce (btw we are not even legally married, Yikes!). So like any marriage, a business requires for you to work at it together by communicating, having trust and building that trust. And above all else, for us, we have to remember to love each other. We have to remember who the person we fell in love with is, and remind them that we want that person to visit us. We forget who we are, a lot, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't remind each other.
And when all this fails?
Just like any marriage sometimes, we need counseling. We need a third party to help us through whatever it might be. We need outside support from friends and family to help us see the bigger picture, whatever that might be, even though they could not possibly relate to or understand the amount of stress and pressure that our marriage has or how to even start to fix any of our business marriage problems.
For now, I hope that Michael and I can look back to this time one day, while laying on a beach, in some island, sipping margaritas, and can say, "Gosh, we are a tough couple." Cheers.
If you and your business partner are married or if you own a business, let me know your thoughts. Do you experience any of our experiences? How do you handle certain situations? What has worked for you?