When you’re starting your own business, it can be great to have a partner, a sidekick, an ally. They can help handle the workload and bounce ideas off of. They can be someone you can vent to if you have a work crisis, you know, when the sky is falling and the walls are crumbling around you. Or someone to meet around the water-cooler, which is your fridge when you work from home.
It helps to have someone there that understands and supports your goals but also gets you and where you’re coming from. It’s great to have someone in your corner, but when that person is not just your business partner, but also your life partner, well, you can get more than you bargained for.
Being self-employed is a journey with a very steep learning curve. My boyfriend and I have been self-employed for 7 years now. We’ve been through every emotion, every trial and every challenge together with it, and it hasn’t been easy. When you work for yourself, you have a lot of challenges but when you work with your partner, there are a lot more sacrifices and obstacles that you’ll come across. Here are some tips to help keep your business and relationship thriving.
Start with a Strong Relationship
I know couples who can’t even stand being in the same space for too long. They need separate jobs so that they get a break from each other. If this sounds like you and yours, then starting a business together is off the table. If you can’t be around them everyday, all day, without butting heads, then the business will not bring you closer together and your relationship will suffer. Only a strong relationship can get through the challenges you will have to face. Start with this.
Work to Your Strengths Separately, Together
You will both have different opinions or ideas, different skill sets and maybe different ways of doing things but that’s good. You work with your strengths and let them work with theirs. That’s the beauty of having a second person involved.
Because we’re both pretty stubborn, my bf and I find that it is best for us to work on our own tasks (to our strengths) within the business. We have found out, the hard way, that control issues and egos can sometimes cloud our judgement and we end up at a stalemate. Working on our own but towards the same goal is the best way to make it work for us.
Decide what each of your strengths are and delegate tasks that fit your strengths. Then, go off and work on it. Each week, or when the task is complete, get together and discuss what’s next and see how things start to fit together. You don’t need to be on top of each other constantly, to make it work.
Try not to compare how much effort is being used or work that is being done. It’s not a competition. If you both want the same goals for the business then you should both be committed to making it work. Support and encourage each other to meet your deadlines. No one wants to be told what to do, so make sure your suggestions don’t sound like that.
Respect Each Other’s Decisions
While working on my bf’s business, although he is the owner, he would ask for my opinion about decisions and I would happily offer it. We don’t always see eye-to-eye so I will make my case if I strongly disagree with something, but at the end of the day, it’s up to him to make the final decisions and for me to support them. When the tables are reversed and we are both working together on my business, I have the final say, but I still value his opinions.
If you’re both working together on a business where you’re both equal co-owners and you’re at a stalemate, then you need to work on a compromise, a work-around or drop the idea altogether and come up with something you’ll both agree on. Even if you don’t agree with their decisions, you can still respect them.
Be Gentle with Criticisms
Any judgements or opinions should not be taken personally but it is also up to the person giving those opinions to use tact and sensitivity when relaying them. This business is like a baby. It’s a personal endeavour to put your creative efforts and ideas out into the world and will make you feel vulnerable. The last thing you both need is to be discouraged about your ideas or efforts so tread lightly.
Set Work Boundaries
At the end of the work day, put it to rest and don’t drag it into your downtime. Leave work ‘at the office’. This can be difficult when your office is at home. My bf will often have sparks of ideas while watching tv and want to discuss the business while we’re in the middle of a netflix session and I might not be in that frame of mind.
I think it’s important to be able to switch off after work, especially when you work at home and the lines between work and home are often blurred. The mind needs to relax at the end of a stressful day so try to keep work talk within work hours but by all means, right down your ideas for discussing at work the next day just as you would with a normal job.
Getaway to Get Clear
Because we work for ourselves, we’re not limited to being indoors. We sometimes like to go for a drive, sit at the park or by the sea and discuss our ideas or plans for our future or the business. It’s invigorating and there’s so much energy when you are around nature. It helps to both re-visit and align your goals and dreams so that you’re both on the same page and mentally in sync. Both of you visualising your end goal will give it more power.
The same can be said individually. You work together everyday and you live together. It’s fair to say that you’re both going to need some time apart. Make sure to give each other enough space when needed. Go for a drive on your own, see other friends or family or just have days off from being around each other. Outside interests and some time apart, is important to a good long-lasting relationship.
Be a Crutch
Starting a business will take time. It is often difficult to be constantly in an upbeat mood when facing the amount of time you’ll be putting into the business before you’ve seen any reward for your efforts. You’ll be working for free and working more than you ever have.
When one of us has a down day, it’s up to the other one to help lift them up and stop them from spiralling into negativity, doubt and fear. The same happens when one of you is sick, which can happen when you deal with such stress, the other can pick up the slack. So no matter what, the business is still moving forward. This is another great advantage of having a partner.
Take Pleasure in The Little Things
When starting a business, we often put off ‘living’ till we’ve reached a certain level of comfortability. Whether this is for financial reasons or work ethic, it’s not a healthy way to be. Make sure you take time out to enjoy the little things throughout the whole journey, and to feed the soul.
Although money was tight when we first started, my bf and I made an effort every Saturday to go for a drive, get a cheap fast food meal out and go for a walk in nature. It gave us something to look forward to after working so hard all week and helped us to reconnect. It doesn’t take a lot of money, just some good quality time together and getting out of the house/office, will do wonders.
Make Your Relationship Your Priority
Working together with your partner on a business should strengthen your relationship, not weaken it. Your relationship should be your main priority, not the making of money, so if you start to see cracks in your relationship after you’ve followed all the above tips, then maybe thats a sign to throw in the towel on the business or to work it alone. Only you can make that decision.
But when you can make it work, when you’ve worked side-by-side on your common goals and accomplished what you set out to, when you finally get to experience the rewards of all your hard work and your business is successful, there’s no better feeling knowing you faced that journey together. When you’ve done that as a couple, congratulations, there’s nothing you both can’t do… together.
You got this… Are you a dynamic duo?
Make sure you and your partner answer these questions…
- What are your strengths?
- What do you believe are your partner’s strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
Do not, under any circumstances, relay what your partner’s weaknesses are to their face, if you know what’s good for you! No one likes that.
- What role do you see yourself having in the business? What responsibilities would you like to take on?
- How should you both settle arguments or disagreements regarding the business? What will be the protocol?
- What if one of you didn’t want to work on the business anymore? What would you want to see happen?
- What if you just can’t work together? What happens to the business?
- What are your long-term goals for the business?
- What can you do to reward yourselves and spend quality time together?
- What would be the best thing about working with your partner?
If you are both on the same page and want the same things for the business, if you agree on how to handle disagreements and scheduled breaks together and apart and you both believe that your relationship can withstand the pressures of working together, than all that’s left is to settle on a ‘Hold up! I need a time-out!’ safe word and you’re good to go.
May the divorce not be with you.