Business Partners & Marital Partners, Will the Marriage Survive?
With today’s economy, and the layoffs occurring as a result of these economic conditions, more and more people are opting to start their own business. Due to the low start up costs, the prevalence of home-based businesses is on the rise, many of these started by husband and wife teams.
With the move from the corporate world to the home-based, couples are finding that a new set of problems are occurring. In the corporate arena, two major areas of importance are profits and communication with employees. This is done through evaluations, reviews, meetings, or a company newsletter outlining company policies and news. All administrators realize that a happy and informed employee is more efficient and productive; in effect, increasing their profits.
Research on martial separation and divorce indicates two of the main causes of separation and divorce are communication and money, very much like corporate concerns. In the past, spouses worked in their respective jobs, and came home to discuss what was going on in the work place. In effect, they were sounding boards for one another. With the move to the home front, especially with starting up businesses together, the sounding boards are gone.
In effect, placing couples in a start-up business can cause a myriad of problems, previously seen only in the corporate world, in addition to the normal stumbling blocks of starting up a business. Too many couples working together are not practicing good communication skills. Lack of communication, can cause one spouse to feel that he or she is carrying all the business and monetary responsibility.
Keep Your Marriage Solid
If you and your spouse have decided to run a business together, be sure to discuss and outline the following:
1. Delineate responsibility. Decide who is going to handle what business matters. In addition, be sure you both know how to accomplish these functions. Unfortunately, illness occurs – you need to be able to back up each other in all aspects of the business. For example, if one of you does all the bank statements, be sure your spouse understands how this is accomplished, so if necessary, they can also handle this responsibility. If you have a set procedure you follow and a way you want it done, make up an outline, so it is accomplished in the manner you want.
2. Marketing, return calls, daily correspondence, invoicing, weekly and/or monthly expenses, supplies, calendaring, appointments, deposits, bank statements, implementation of the business plan, attendance at meetings (e.g. Chamber mixers, National groups, User groups, etc.) all need to be taken care of. You will have to split these responsibilities between you. Again, be sure you know how each is implemented, so in an emergency, you can back each other up.
3. Delineate responsibilities according to likes and dislikes and who will do the best job. We all have our little niches, and if it is something we like and do well, we can accomplish it better and more efficiently. Once the responsibilities have been delineated, make up a schedule for each item you both need to deal with. Again, you must be able to act as each others back up.
4. Marketing is a major obstacle. Most individuals do not like to use cold calling as a medium to promote their business. Be sure both of you are involved. Do not let one person handle this. In addition, develop a marketing strategy. Will you market daily, weekly, monthly? What kind of marketing will you do-advertising, cold calls, direct mail, etc. Again, be sure you both are involved. This is important because money and marketing are tied together. The more you market, the more aware the marketplace will be of the services you offer. If only one individual is marketing and monies are fluctuating, there is more tension between the partners to make the business successful. No one individual should have to carry this on their shoulders, or perceive that they do. In addition, with both spouses marketing, one person cannot blame the other for the success or failure of the business.
The Most Important Tool
Remember, the most important tool you both have is communication. Don’t expect your spouse to read your mind. Keep the marriage and business separate. It’s difficult, especially if you are home-based, but it can be done. If you have a problem with the way your spouse is accomplishing a task in the business environment, discuss it immediately. Do not wait. Do not let this build into anger that is transferred to your personal relationship. Remember that keeping your business and personal relationships separate is very important to the survival of both your business and your marriage.
One of the most important ways to accomplish this is to set up distinct business hours, and when they are over, don’t discuss business, concentrate on your relationship. It is difficult, but make a concentrated effort at it. Confine your business discussions to business hours or set aside a specific time to discuss the business.
For example, take the last half hour of the day, and discuss the business day; any suggestions you have, what was accomplished, what needs to be done tomorrow, during the week, how are the monthly goals you set at the beginning of the month progressing. Remember to couch any criticisms or suggestions in a positive vein. Think of how you felt in the work situation and how supervisors dealt with you when making suggestions. Negatives only cause resentment. They do in the corporate arena, and even more so, when dealing with a spouse you must live with 24 hours a day. Be sure to set aside time for each other-go for walks, out to dinner, or just for a drive with your spouse. Do not discuss business.
You should have outside activities that are not business related. If not, join a group that interests you. It will allow you to meet with others who are not connected to your business. Running a home-based business can be very lonely; getting away from the home, and having outside interests is imperative.
In addition to the problems inherent to couples running a business, starting a home-based business presents its own set of problems and questions. Before you start be sure to ask yourself the following:
1. Are you self-motivated? Organized? Able to prioritize your work? You will no longer have a supervisor or a boss to tell you what to do. You will be the decision maker. You will have to motivate yourself. One way to accomplish this is to use a To Do List and stick to it. In addition, set definitive business hours, and stick to them.
2. Will you be able to deal with the isolation? You will no longer meet people in the halls, congregate around the coffee pot, or take a break to talk with your co-workers. To combat the loneliness and isolation be sure to join groups that meet outside the home, or schedule luncheons with friends and associates.
3. Write up a business plan. Be sure the business is something that interests you. You might want to start on a part-time basis, and grow from there. Research the business carefully, make sure there is a market, and the competition is not overwhelming.
4. Be sure you have at least six months living expenses set aside. This will give you the time to work through the marketing strategy outlined in your business plan, and avoid bad marketing practices. In addition, if changes need to be made, you can do so, without monetary concerns becoming an issue.
5. Be sure your office space is located in a separate room or area of your home that offers the least distractions. A separate office is best, especially if you are meeting with clients. Remember to always present a professional appearance.
6. When will you do your regular household chores? Make up a schedule of when you will deal with them. Some individuals find getting chores done before the start of the work day is best. At the end of the day, close your office door and then deal with the remaining household items that need to be handled. Time management will be a very important factor in running a home-based business.
7. For husband and wife teams, it becomes imperative to have some form of disability insurance for each other. Remember, even though your partner may be your husband or wife, he or she is still your business partner. An accident or illness to one of you can severely impact the operation of the business.
A business is only as good as you and your partner make it. It takes a lot of dedication, time and energy to run a business, whether it is home-based or not. It can be a very rewarding experience. Think carefully, and ask yourself a lot of self-searching questions before you begin.
Article by Chuck & Sue DeFiore of Home Business Solutions, helping folks start successful home based businesses for over 17 years. Visit http://www.homebusinesssolutions.com for the latest FREE tips in creative real estate investing and home based businesses. Or, Subscribe to the FREE Home Business Solutions Digest, subscribeHBS@homebusinesssolutions.com