As the lines between our personal and professional lives seem to get more blurred, some couples really take the idea of a merger to the next level by working together in a business. But is this a good idea? I worked with my own husband for a 10-year period before parting ways (professionally, not personally), so I can share with you some of the benefits and perils of partnering with your partner in business. The Benefits
A good partner in life can be a good partner in business: Just as in a relationship, finding the right business partner requires putting your trust into another person, which is challenging to do. Theoretically, your spouse should be one of the most trustworthy individuals you know (if you don’t agree with this, you may have bigger issues to consider). Once you have found someone you can trust as your partner in life, who has skills and values that complement yours, that can be a great foundation for a trustworthy business partnership.
You have perspective: Business is a roller coaster, with lots of ups-and-downs. As partners going through this together, you will have greater empathy and compassion to support each other when you have front-row tickets to understanding what the other person is going through. This can make it easier to deal with some of the pitfalls of business, or at least lessen the burden on the home-front from a rough day at the office.
You get to avoid Craigslist: Not only is it difficult to trust someone as a business partner, but the process of locating, interviewing and testing out a partner is a tough one, with no guarantee that they will work out in the end. So, you can save time, money and effort by eliminating that part of the process.
The team effect: It can enhance your relationship to work jointly on projects. When you create something of value together, you can deepen your bond and connection.
Plus, don’t forget that you save gas money by carpooling—not a trivial issue with gas prices as high as they are today!
The roller coaster comes down, too: While riding the same roller coaster as your partner gives you perspective, it also amplifies issues. Problems in business may morph into problems for your relationship and problems at home can find their way into the office. Plus, it becomes even more challenging to discern between your personal and professional lives.
Insiders vs. outsiders: It can be difficult for a couple that runs a business together to attract top talent and maintain a strong business culture. Couples are protective of each other and therefore, as an employee, it’s challenging to tell your co-worker or your boss that their spouse is causing problems.
Financial diversification: Working in the same business puts your family’s financial “eggs” all in one basket. If something happens to the business or the industry goes through downfall, all of your income is at stake. Dual-income families can benefit from the spouses working in different companies and industries.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder: Having intertwined business lives creates even more dependence in a relationship. This can make the flame fizzle for a couple. You may get relationship burnout from seeing each other nearly every waking hour or become bored from constant business talk day and night. Having some mystery and independence can be a benefit in a relationship.
Forgoing benefits: Especially if you are working in or starting a small business, you may not benefit (pun intended) from the great benefits of your spouse’s employer, because now you are working together. Having access to great healthcare, paid vacation and other perks are often missed when they go away.
Do you want to run a business with your spouse or partner? While only you and your partner can decide what makes sense for your own goals and circumstances, you should take into account both the pros and cons before you merge your personal and professional lives.
Carol Roth is a national media personality, ‘recovering’ investment banker, investor, speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is currently an on-air contributor for the national cable television station CNBC, the pre-eminent name in business news, and the host and co-producer of The Noon Show, a current events talk show on WGN Radio, one of the top stations in the country. Carol multimedia commentary covers business and the economy, current events, politics and pop culture topics.
Carol has helped her clients complete more than $2 billion in capital raising and M&A transactions. She is a Top 100 Small Business Influencer (2011 &2012) and has her own action figure.
Very helpful article. Indeed it is a union of opposites: ego, which particularly speaks out more in between relatives, needs to be neutral since business comes first. At the same time, business aura must prevail over personal interests and conflicts. If close people genuinely share the same passion and have similar "objective' background, this can indeed create an unshakable foundation for success.
Great blog post Carol. I also have been working with my wife for the last 9 years and we have certainly been through all that you described above. We often say that we live our marriage in "dog years" as a result of being together 24/7 most days. It is certainly not for every couple and we still get strange looks from people who can't comprehend how we do it all week and still want to do things together on the weekends. For those who can make it work it is a very rewarding, enriching and fulfilling experience. We're lucky in that we get to see each other do and achieve great things for our clients each day. We're with each other when we win and when we lose and that is an incredible feeling of support, respect and love.