To Start or Not To Start a Business with Your Spouse.

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by Janine Popick

 

Starting a business with the one you love might sound dreamy, but you should give it careful consideration before making the business commitment.

 

I'll start off with this. I'm crazy about my husband. John and I have been married 11 amazing years and have been together for 13. Since we are both in high-tech and marketing, we are very involved with each other's businesses. But it stops there.

 

Flashback, Burgundy, France, January 2001. We were traveling around the country with our two basset hounds, trying to decide what to do next in our professional lives. Voila! Since we both love high-tech and direct marketing, we thought, "Let's start a company together in the small business arena."

 

So there we were in France, discussing John's role as CEO, and mine as COO. Sounds dreamy, right?

 

Reality set in quickly. "Why might this be a bad idea for us?" we thought. Let us count the ways.

 

1. All of our "eggs" would be in one basket. Risky? Yes. What if we failed? We'd have invested our cash into the business, spent time to grow it, and would have nothing to show.

 

2. We're down one paycheck. We figured that the pay would be minimal -- if any -- until we either raised more money or became profitable.

 

3. We'd kill each other. Since we both are fairly opinionated and bring similar backgrounds for this type of business to the table, it seemed that it might not be a good idea for our already great relationship.

 

Luckily, a friend who had just started his own business needed someone with our skills to work at his company. Since I already had worked for him for a few years, John bowed out of the new venture and went to work to provide the household income. In a way, our decision was made for us by this opportunity, but if you're going to consider working with your spouse or significant other, you need to seriously consider the answers to the following questions.

 

* What type of personality do you each have? If both of you are "alpha" people, or strongly opinionated, be careful. If you are constantly in disagreement, it could leak over to your home life.

 

* Do you bring complementary skills to the business? This is important because if you overlap too much, you potentially could find yourselves going up against each other too often (see the last bullet). However, if you each have your own "domain" to manage, chances are you'll have some new things to talk about at the end if the day.

 

* What happens now when you have disagreements? Be careful if you are the type of person to go to bed angry. If disagreements go unresolved, not only will it make your home life uncomfortable, the tension could make your hours -- and your employees' hours -- at work unbearable.

 

Zafra
06.03.09

I am doing exactly this right now and have been for about 7 years! It works well when it works, but keep in mind that it goes both ways - business will affect personal and personal will affect business. If you fall out-of-love with having the business and your spouse does not, that can cause strife, as well. I would recommend any couple looking to start a business together speak with and get mentoring from other business owners. Use resources like SCORE and really try to grasp what owning a business is like. Many people like us, family businesses, are service businesses because one person has a trade-type skill and the other provides office support. This is great - except you know how to fix the widget you specialize in, but that doesn't mean either of you know anything about metrics, finance, pricing, marketing, etc. etc. The reality of, as you say, having all your eggs in one basket can be extremely painful sometimes. Especially when you have a young child.