Starting your own business sounds sexy. As a culture, we throw around the words “entrepreneur” and “creative” very easily and while it’s incredibly admirable and downright necessary for most people to create and sustain their own businesses, it is not a task for the weak.
Now, try adding on being married and raising a family with your business partner! Again, while it may sound cool and it does have its advantages, there are also many, many challenges.
The “new mom and pop” model of couples doing business together is taking off. In a variety of industries, married folks want to be just like Will and Jada, Jay and Bey and Michelle and Barack: a power couple. And for that to happen it takes dedication and discipline.
My wife and I have started four businesses together and have learned a lot. One failed, one is in a holding pattern, one we are reviving and one is our mainstay that still feeds the family. We have never had venture capital or any kind of investors. It’s hard juggling so many of our ideas and innovations, but we stay committed to the task and look to each other for support and assistance every step of the way. In order for us to communicate effectively and thrive as a couple, parents of four and business partners, we adhere to a few simple, but not always easy to follow, rules.
Have business meetings outside of the house. Whenever we need to review the business budget, cast a vision or delegate duties, we drop the kids off at school and go to breakfast. Since our home is our office, we often go to a local library or a Regus office to have serious and focused conversations. The same way we went to meetings when we worked for other companies, we prepare ourselves with spreadsheets and presentations. It lifts a huge burden off of us rather than doing it at the kitchen table when we know we may slide off to the fridge or start to do laundry.
Use Slack for business and texting for personal stuff. Slack is an awesome messaging app for business groups and teams. You can create “channels” for different divisions or departments within the business. When we text each other, we communicate about grocery lists and who’s picking up the kids and when. It’s nice and necessary to have boundaries, and Slack versus texting allows this.
Never talk about business in the bedroom. It’s hard not to, but bedroom should be a sacred space for relaxation, sleep and…. married people stuff. Would you talk to your boss in your bedroom, so don’t do it with your business partner/spouse.
Designate roles. In our partnership, we know that one of us is the “visionary” and the other, “integrator.” The visionary usually has the big ideas and is super eager to start new projects. That person is also usually not as detail-oriented and has too many ideas at once for any one team to handle. It is the integrator’s job to oversee much of the dirty work such as the finances, hiring and often vetoing the visionary’s demands to add something else to the plate. Every great company has a CEO, but the CFO is just as important, and those roles must be determined for any business (or marriage) to succeed. (See Rocketfuel by Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters for more details.)
Starting a business has been often exhilarating and sometimes exhausting. We have learned the hard way that we must hire help. I cannot stress this enough, you cannot do it alone!!! My wife and I have tried to do too much too many times. Time is valuable and when you have employees or independent contractors you are freed up to pursue your professional passions. We are big believers in mentoring and coaching through mastermind groups. Having access to people who are more experienced helps us to stay accountable as does having a community of fellow entrepreneurs who are also going through it.
We consider ourselves fortunate and blessed to work together, share family responsibilities and instill an entrepreneurial spirit in our children. Creating a legacy, psychologically and financially, drives us and will drive anyone who dares to endure the journey.