A business partnership is never so simple. Contracts, decisions, operations, finances – everything requires the input of two people rather than one. A business partnership is a unique relationship, but what if your business partner is also your spouse? The whole ball game can change. Here are some things the two of you need to discuss in order to have a successful partnership and lasting marriage.
What will each other’s official stake in the company be? Are you 50-50 partners? Or does the business “belong” to one of you more than the other? This decision is an important one. In the worst case scenario that your marriage doesn’t last, you don’t want to lose out on your fair share of the business, too. Most couples might go 50-50, and others might see a “fair share” as directly relating to what percentage of the actual work is done by each.
Management and Responsibilities
You must have clearly-defined roles in the business. It’s not good enough to say you’ll be equally responsible for things, because it rarely actually works out that way. Determine who will handle different aspects of the business, like daily operations, finances, and employees. While you may still work together on those things, it’s essential to know who is primarily responsible for making each area of the business run smoothly.
Family and Household Duties
You also need to clearly-define other responsibilities, such as family and household duties. Who is responsible for getting the kids ready in the morning, or taking them to activities? Who is responsible for cooking dinner? Doing laundry? Running errands? While these roles may have been clearly defined before, they can (and may have to) change when both of you are now putting effort into a business, too.
What happens when you disagree? Even the best of couples disagree, especially in business. It’s not enough to say that you’ll compromise on every decision. If you cannot come to agreement about something, how will the decision be made? Who will have the final say? When you’re working with your spouse, business disagreements have the unique possibility of spilling over into your personal life.
Talk about profits well before you’ve made any. How is the money going to be distributed? How much of it will go back into the business, and how much of it will be used for family expenses? What family expenses will the profits be used for? How much (if any) will each of you have to personally spend however you want to? Also discuss bank accounts and where the money will be kept. Will both of you have access to the business account? Will you create any new joint or personal accounts?
Core Values and Mission
It’s also important to make sure you agree on certain core values of your business and exactly what your mission is. In order for your marriage-partnership to work, you need to both be working toward the same goals. Since you’re married, you’re at a unique emotional advantage to support each other, especially when things get tough. Let your marriage benefit your business, not hurt it.
Valerie Burton is a marketing professional and freelance writer who herself is a married to her own business partner. She loves to write and blog about anything from tips on managing personal and professional lives to today’s top entrepreneurs.