As we continue to blur the lines between our personal and professional lives, 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 upside and downside of partnering with your partner in business.
You have trust: 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 probably 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, it can be a great foundation for a trustworthy business partnership.
You have shared perspective: Business is much like a roller coaster with lots of ups-and-downs. As partners going through this together, you will have greater empathy and compassion to support your significant other — and vice versa — 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 — which is not a trivial issue with gas prices as high as they are today.
The Bad and the Ugly
The roller coaster comes down, too: While riding the same roller coaster as your partner gives you shared perspective as noted above, it also amplifies issues and puts them squarely in the line of fire for any projectile vomiting. 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 differentiate your personal life from your professional life.
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 can be 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 your business or the industry goes through a down-turn, 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 welcomed 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 can be an upside to working separately.
If you want to run a business with your spouse or partner, there’s no “right” answer. Only you and your partner can decide what makes sense for your own goals and circumstances. That being said, be sure to take into account both the pros and cons before you merge your personal and professional lives.