By Collaboration

The Entrepreneurial Couple – these are individuals that are married, significant others, life partners, etc. who have elected not only to spend their lives together but also create a business together. At first it makes sense – two smart people, a great idea, working with someone you trust to take charge of your destiny. But along with these benefits come unique challenges and even additional pressure on the relationship due to poor communication, unresolved conflicts, reliance on the business to financially support both individuals, and no separation between work and home.

While I have seen many couples make this transition successfully, I have seen a greater number fail. The individuals that succeed do so by clearly defining what they expect from one another in both the business and personal relationships, avoiding undue stress and creating a true partnership. The following are seven topics that I have noticed are most important for discussion and agreement.

1. Roles and Responsibilities. Identify clear roles, responsibilities, and expectations – just as you would with any employee. Without clear roles, individual duties get blurred. This can lead to each person thinking the other is handling an item, which can lead to tasks not being completed, which leads to the blame game.

2. Decisions. Determine a process for making decisions from the get-go. Focus particularly on how disagreements will be handled. What happens if one partner wants to go in a direction that the other partner vehemently opposes?

3. Needs and Values. Come to an understanding on what each person’s needs and values are in both the personal and business relationships. Often, the personal relationship is about security, connectedness, and equality; this relationship tends to be full of emotion. On the other hand, the business relationship is more about risk, equitability, and competition; this relationship leans more toward rationality. Each person needs to understand how the other views these differences, and then together you can come up with a game plan on how to honor these views.

4. Separation of Work from Home. Create parameters about topics that should stay at the office. Couples working together often see their home and work life blend together to the point where they feel they are always working and have lost aspects of their personal life and relationship. One couple that I’ve worked with uses the rule that from 6:00 PM until 8:00 AM the next morning they cannot talk about business.

5. Personal Independence. Identify and develop some independent activities, hobbies, or friendships. This allows each of you to maintain a sense of individual identity and to also bring new perspectives and insights into the relationship.

6. Finances. Establish clear budgets for both the business and your household. It is crucial that you manage both budgets well since you rely on one business to support a household of two (or more). Most importantly, business financial decisions that may impact your personal household finances should be made jointly.

7. Assistance. Get an outside advisor or coach. It is imperative to have someone you trust advising you on the dynamics that arise from sharing a business and personal relationship. Having an impartial third party can help prevent differing opinions from becoming major conflicts that can negatively impact your relationship.

Entrepreneurial couples can create an unstoppable team if they have a strong, trusting foundation, but without good communication skills and clear expectations or parameters these relationships may also hinder a business’s growth and prosperity.

Bottom Line

If you are an entrepreneurial couple, you probably desire business success, family harmony, and personal well-being. Unfortunately, entrepreneurial partnerships may have a hard time achieving these three things and may under-perform due to unresolved conflicts and ambiguity about roles. Together as partners, I encourage you to take time to evaluate how you are truly performing as a team. Create a game plan, write down your resolutions, and make a contract with one another using the above seven topics as a guideline.

Is there a topic that you would like Michael to discuss? If so, email him at [email protected] or call (805) 541-9040 to let him know.

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