|Susan Solovic, The Small Business Expert is an award-winning entrepreneur, an attorney, a New York Times best-selling author, a media personality and a highly sought after keynote speaker.|
For Richer and For Poorer: Can Your Marriage Survive a Small Business Partnership?
Can your partner in life also be your partner in business without the second partnership jeopardizing the first?
Couples who have "been there, done that" hold opinions that are polar opposites of one another. Many can be productive and amiable from the first 7 a.m. meeting to lights off at night, while others experience days that are often interrupted by mini-world wars.
If you're considering such a partnership, the first thing to do is be honest about how you relate in your marriage. If you tend to be a couple that spars over almost anything that pops up, moving your relationship into the business world might not be a good idea. "Fiery" couples can often make things work on the personal sides of their lives. But when the finances and future of a business are at stake, the sparks that fly between two people can set the house on fire.
Here are some questions you both need to ask:
What are your individual strengths? If you are both strong in the same area, it could be a problem. If you have different strengths, you may be able to slot into different roles within your company and both be comfortable.
What do you want to get out of the business? If you're both looking to grow your business, sell it and move on to the next adventure, that's great. However, if one of you wants to found and flip while the other wants to create a family legacy, you're in trouble.
How much time do you typically spend together now? If you have both had separate careers that have kept you busy, and apart from each other most of the time, breaking that routine could be disastrous. Maybe I shouldn't say it, but some married couples manage to stay together because a good deal of the time they're apart!
Can you laugh at yourself and yourselves? If you take yourself too seriously, then every little mole hill becomes a mountain. Can you recognize your weaknesses and failings and smile about them?
Do you communicate well? Can you discuss issues and problems in your marriage or do either of you allow things to get bottled up? If there are one or two bottlers in a marriage, it makes running a business difficult. Also, can arguments be settled peacefully or does someone have to emerge with a victory?
If your business fails, will your marriage follow? Can your egos and finances survive a business failure? You both will invest a lot of yourselves and perhaps your family nest egg in the business. If it comes crashing down, your relationship could get buried under the rubble. Honestly discuss "worst case scenarios."
Many couples love living and working together. Starting a business is a seamless event in their lives. But if you have any question about your compatibility in the family-owned small business environment, be very careful. Starting a part-time venture together could be the best way to "test the waters."