By Marc Kramer
Of the 28 million US small businesses, the Harvard Business Review says 3.7 million are owned and operated by a married couple. There are important implications for those businesses, because as we know from the US Census, the divorce rate is approximately 50 percent. Being married requires a patience, perseverance, a high tolerance for annoyances and good communication skills.
So while you are working in the pressure cooker of owning a business, toss in a couple of kids, taking care of elderly parents and trying to make sure that your personal relationship isn’t just based on your joint financial interest, and life can be harder than navigating white water rapids with one paddle that each person wants to control.
Here are five tips for successfully navigating a marriage that includes working together:
Following each element isn’t a guarantee, but it will enhance your chances of martial and business success.
- Divide Up Responsibilities
Like any good partnership, each person should bring a unique complimentary, but not overlapping set of skills. Each person has their own sphere of influence. One person should be focusing on inside operations and/or product development, while the other person handles marketing and sales.
Each person should question the other on their plans and procedures, to provide a reality check. Tone of voice is important. A condescending tone will immediately create walls of distrust. Starting with positive comments about what is going well, followed by questions in a calm neutral voice, will reassure your partner that you have confidence, but are checking to make sure all bases are covered.
- If It Won’t Crater The Business Defer
My ex-wife and I worked on a business for three years. One my business mistakes was I thought something was a bad idea, I pushed so hard she stopped making suggestions. Over time, she felt like an employee instead of a partner. Unless the business will suffer irreparable damage, you need to defer so the other person feels you have confidence in them. Allow them to learn.
- Never Go To Bed Angry
Going to bed angry means losing sleep and waking up in a foul mood until issues are resolved. Agree to talk everything out in the office. If you can’t compromise, agree to table the discussion for a while, unless a solution is needed immediately. Talk about something fun you plan to do, an accomplishment by your kids, or something funny that happened at work.
- Create a ‘No Business Discussion’ Date Night
It is critical to set aside one night as a couple enjoying each other’s company like you did when you were first dating. Go to a movie, concert, show, or even better, a comedy club. Pick a nice quiet place to have dinner and relax. Talk about trips you want to take, interactions with friends, sports, books you are reading, or something your kids or pet did. Stay away from anything serious, and under no circumstances talk about the business. You have 50 or more hours a week to get that conversation in.
- Marriage Comes Before The Business
Your marriage should always come before the business. Don’t let the business, like crazy parents, in-laws and demanding children, ruin your couple’s partnership. Remember why you got married in the first place. like love of common adventures, books, movies, sports, family values, how they make you laugh, and appreciation for your partner as an individual. I remind every entrepreneur that businesses are created to provide financial support for the family, not to take the place of family. Successful businesses, like good books, usually have a start and finish. They create economic wealth, but at some point, they will be sold. Your wife and kids will be with you forever. Those relationships count the most.
Having a business coach with experience working with their spouse, or seeing a marriage counselor when you can’t talk out the issues without third party assistance will enhance your chances of business and marital success, reduce stress and make you more productive.