How to make a husband and wife business partnership work

Going into business with your spouse brings with it many potential problems. However, if done right, it can be a successful and enjoyable partnership

 
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It is imperative to establish who is doing what and what department each person manages or oversees. This fosters a degree of independence for each spouse in the workplace

Author: David Caren, CEO and Co-Founder of Run Angel

16 Nov 2017

After an incident during a morning jog when a stranger startled me, my wife, Ellen, and I decided to develop Run Angel, a personal safety wrist wearable designed to keep runners safe.

Having received funding from Irish government agency Enterprise Ireland, we developed the product and have experienced tremendous growth since launching in the UK earlier this year. We have high hopes for the future.

Being a husband and wife team presents unique challenges, but with determination, continuous innovation and support, Run Angel has the potential to become a leading global player.

Redefining the home office

As a married couple working together, it can be challenging to separate your home life from your work life. If you’re in business with a co-worker or friend and you have a difficult day, you can return home discuss your concerns with whoever your live with and seek their unbiased view or support. For married business partners living together, this is not possible.

While many other couples may never want to work with their spouse, we consider ourselves fortunate to be able to do so

Establishing a routine that separates work from home life is essential. We have developed a habit of switching our phones off and placing them in a box on the hall table when we come home.

We have also created a game with our children where, should my wife or I bring up work at meal times, they have one less chore to do. Admittedly they do try to catch us out by asking ‘how was your day?’.

Weekend family trips can offer temptation to slip up when something business related is on your mind. On weekends we use a credit system whereby we can discuss business in a series of short bursts, in the style of an elevator pitch, that require only yes and no answers. We usually permit ourselves two credits each over the course of the weekend, but only at certain times of day – and not in earshot of our children.

Role with it

For a couple in business together, titles and job descriptions are very important. It is imperative to establish who is doing what and what department each person manages or oversees. This fosters a degree of independence for each spouse in the workplace.

The same approach comes into play at home with the ‘I’ll wash, you dry’ scenario. In a situation where one spouse’s job title carries greater authority than the other, one must be mindful that boardroom behaviour does not influence the husband/wife dynamic when at home.

Respect is the mainstay of any relationship. This is also paramount in business. For married couples in business, how you treat one another in the workplace is often in full view of your co-workers. Naturally, this can be testing if you have had a difference of opinion at work or at home. The best way to deal with this is to leave any relationship issues where they began, and not take them to work or home. Compromise is a key to the spousal business set up.

United we stand

It’s essential to find time to spend alone together outside of work and away from home. We have a ‘no work, no kids’ rule when we are spending time alone together. During this time, we carry a phone with a number only available to close family or the babysitter, which is void of Wi-Fi, emails or the internet. On a Monday morning, we also have a tradition of escaping from the office together and grabbing a coffee.

We are each other’s best friend, and while many other couples may never want to work together, we consider ourselves fortunate to be able to do so. At the same time, we also recognise the importance of having time to ourselves, be it through a hobby, sport or spending time with friends.

Couples in business have plenty to lose; both parties have committed to making the business a success and, in the event of things not working out, neither party can fall back on a stable job for income. As a married couple, particularly with a family, it’s important that you take all possible steps to make your working and personal relationship a success.

Finally, be proud of one another, ensuring that wherever the road takes you, you take it together.