Running a business can be a challenge in the best of circumstances. Add in trying to run a business with your spouse, and a whole new set of challenges can come into play. It can be done, though. If you go into it with your eyes wide open, knowing there will be specific challenges you’ll face, you have a much better chance of having both a successful business and a successful marriage. Here are a few tips based on what I’ve learned from my own experience running a business with my husband.
Set expectations up front.
It’s important to decide who will take on what responsibilities ahead of time. Each of you has strengths and passions. Sit down, make a list of what you enjoy doing and divide up what each of you will manage based on your strengths. This keeps your work more fun and is less likely to cause burn out. Tasks might need to be alternated every few months to keep things fresh.
Schedule family priorities first and work around those.
With small children, I always felt it was important to have my children’s needs managed first and work around their schedules with my business responsibilities. I plug in important dates, projects, practices, and vacations into our calendar and fit my work into the hours that I’m not being a mom first, like when they’re at school for the day or if my husband has taken the day off to be with the kids. Both Josh and I really embrace putting family first. For that reason, we make sure that our employees get to do the same by providing generous maternity and paternity leave as well as helping pay to care for a family member, like a child or elderly parent.
Prioritize time with your spouse.
It can be difficult to make a relationship work under the best of circumstances, but when you run a business together, you do run the risk of not carving out time to just be alone together to nurture your relationship. Many people confuse time together with quality time together. Working together day in and day out is not a replacement for quality time. Instead, make sure to set aside time for having a nice quiet dinner somewhere or a special date night.
Have clear business goals and measure your progress.
One way to help ease the stress of your growing business is to put measurable and clear business goals in place. Plan to meet monthly to review benchmarks. Are you on track to meet the goals you’ve set? Do you need to revise some goals or revise workflow and processes? By evaluating these monthly, you’re doing the important job of communicating and avoiding the stress that can happen when you’re suddenly surprised by not meeting a deadline or an important benchmark.
Establish clear boundaries.
When you work for yourself, it’s easy to let work consume all of your time, but it’s important to set some time every day that work is just off-limits. We have a “no screen time from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm” rule at our house. Setting clear boundaries, such as keeping office hours, keeps us present with our kids, and we can return to the tasks at hand feeling refreshed after a short break.
Respect the other person and always treat them with kindness.
It may sound simple, but it goes a long way. Kindness and respect should be first and foremost in any relationship, especially in your marriage, as well as your relationships with your co-workers. If people treat each other with mutual respect and kindness when a challenging situation arises, you’ve built a basis of trust and can count on each other to help move through the challenging time.
These guidelines have served me well growing a business and a family together. Remembering that my family always comes first and having clear expectations for my role and my husband’s role in the business works as a sort of roadmap keeping us all on track.
Sally Strebel is the COO and Co-Founder of Pagely, where she guides the company by the Golden Rule and a dedication to the people she works with and for.