Six Key Things to Think About Before You Go Into Business with Your Spouse

Mixing business with pleasure, they say, is never a good idea.  But millions of home-based and other small business owners who run successful businesses with their spouses would disagree.  Despite these success stories, the truth of the matter is that it just doesn’t make sense for everybody.

So before you take the “co-preneurial” plunge and put any kind of money into something like a business opportunity, distributorship, licensee opportunity or even a small franchise, you need to give careful thought to the risk you’re taking both emotionally and financially.

If owning a business with your spouse is something you’re seriously considering, here are six key things you should be thinking about as you make your decision:

  1. Do you share the same work ethic?  Are you both on the same page when it comes to level of effort at work, or is one of you a true workhorse while the other is content to get things done eventually?  If you’re not pretty well matched in this area, it could spell trouble.
  2. Are you both able to communicate openly, even when either of you doesn’t like what you’re hearing?  Keep in mind that if you’re not able to do this in your marriage and on a personal level already, owning a business together is only going to put more strain on an already complicated relationship.
  3. Do you respect each other enough that you can accept input about business affairs from one another just as if it was being offered by any other colleague?  Do you mutually respect one another such that you can act as co-decision makers when necessary, agreeing in advance what level of decision-making requires input from both of you and what does not?
  4. Have you taken the time to really hash through the ground rules for owning and operating a business together, including such things as the following:  how you will resolve heated disputes, if they arise; the roles each of you will play in day-to-day operations; any expectations you have for one another when it comes to performance; and your plans for keeping your professional and personal lives separate, including regular business meetings where personal stuff is off limits?
  5. Do you have a written and well-crafted business plan that articulates your agreed-upon vision and overall goals for the company and that will serve as a roadmap to guide you in a unified fashion toward what it is you both hope to achieve?
  6. Have you agreed to a contingency plan in writing should your jointly owned and operated business fail?  How about if your spouse is not a joint owner, but gives up a lucrative career elsewhere to join you, only to have your best laid plans go awry?  Then what happens?

If you don’t take the time to think carefully through these kinds of issues before you go into business with your significant other, you’re leaving far too much to chance and may be seriously jeopardizing your personal life in a way you could have never anticipated.

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