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6 Tips for Starting a Business with Your Spouse

October 17, 2016
Lindsey and Brad Laurain started Ezpz, a brand of nonslip children’s plates and bowls
Lindsey and Brad Laurain started Ezpz, a brand of nonslip children’s plates and bowls.

Working couplepreneurs give practical tips on how to run a successful business together.

Although starting a business with your spouse may seem like a great idea, the reality is not nearly as romantic as it sounds. If a business dispute occurs, it can spill into the home (and vice versa), which can cause conflict for both the owners and any employees, and even the most devoted couples may find that working and living with the same person 24/7 can get tedious.

Still, there are thousands of stories out there of couples who’ve done it successfully. We caught up with a few of them to get their best tips on how to make it work. Here’s what they recommended:

  1. Focus on communication. Regular communication is key to any relationship, business or personal. Check in with each other regularly to make sure that you’re still on the same page when it comes to the direction of the business and your tolerance for risk. Put some ground rules in place about which decisions (such as large purchases or new initiatives) need to be made as a team, and which you’ll be able to handle on your own.
  2. Set boundaries – on time and money. When you run a company with your spouse, it can get hard to distinguish between your business and your personal life. Although it’s fine to bring work home (most people do these days, even if they’re not working for themselves), if your spouse decides one night that she’s not up for talking shop, respect that. “One of the challenges of being in business with someone that you live with is that it’s really hard to get away from it and shut if off when you need to,” says Kjersten Merila, who is launching a distillery, Her Spirit, in St. Paul, Minn., with her husband, Steve.

    Scheduling some regular time to unplug and spend time together without talking about work can help you make sure you’re not neglecting your relationship. Do your best to leave work disagreements at the office, and not to bring couple issues into the workplace.

    You’ll also want to be sure that you’re separating your family’s money from the company’s. Make sure that you have a personal emergency fund and be vigilant about never dipping into it for business needs.

  3. Delegate amongst yourselves. Give yourselves individual ownership of the parts of the business that you most enjoy or have the most experience in, and respect that division. For James and Hannah Markiewicz, who run cold-brew coffee purveyor Danger Cats Coffee Co. in Tulsa, Okla., with a partner, that means that James handles the creation of the coffee recipes while Hannah oversees marketing and social media outreach. “We help each other out, but that division is the best way to utilize our individual talents,” James says. Splitting up the jobs neither of you like both at work and at home (and possibly outsourcing those that you absolutely despise) ensures that you’re sharing the burden and not micromanaging each other.
  4. Schedule alone time. Everyone needs some personal space. Having your own outside interests, friends or hobbies will provide some relief when you need some space from the business (and your spouse). Bonus: having a life away from your job will give you and your spouse something to talk about outside of the business.
  5. Celebrate small wins together. Sometimes you can get so busy looking at the big picture that you aren’t able to enjoy the journey. “The crazy thing about being an entrepreneur is that the highs are so high and the lows are so low,” says Lindsey Laurain, who started Ezpz, a brand of nonslip children’s plates and bowls with her husband, Brad. “When you’re both in it, it can get hard to stay positive during the lows, but those moments when you can celebrate are absolutely amazing.”

    Take time as a couple to take in what you’ve built and treat yourselves when your hard work pays off. The Laurains recently popped a bottle of champagne together to celebrate finally receiving a utility patent after a years-long application process.

  6. Be flexible. What works for you as a couple and as business partners now may not work as your business or your family grows down the road. Plus, new entrepreneurs never really fully understand the demands of starting a business until they’re into it. “When we started the business, I thought we’d have official, scheduled meetings with an agenda each week,” Merila says. “That went out the window pretty quickly.”