Starting your own business is difficult enough, but starting it with someone else is a whole other ball game. And when that person is your significant other, things can get even more complicated.
There have been many successful businesses run by couples, and there have also been those that have failed dismally. What does it really take to make it work in this situation? Is it worth the risk?
Golden couple, Jay-Z and Beyoncé
This couple did their On the Run tour in 2014. Fans were sent into a frenzy of excitement. The collaboration of two of the generation’s biggest stars was heaven for many. Mr and Mrs Carter reportedly made more than $100 million in ticket sales alone, showing that working together has its rewards.
Local actors Shona and Connie Ferguson
Shona and Connie are a couple that prove that working together is possible. When they started their production company Ferguson Films in 2010, many weren’t sure if they would survive. Fast forward five years, and the couple have produced and starred in three seasons of popular Mzansi Magic drama Rockville, and are still going strong, both in marriage and business.
Joburg-based business and executive coach Penny Holburn says that couples who are successful “have lots of life experience and are mature, level-headed, and sure of themselves. They also have similar values, like similar things, and have the same goals in life and business.”
But like anything, there will be challenges. “Generally, if people are stressed at home, their work life is okay and provides some stress relief,” says Penny. “Or if work is stressful, then home is okay, so there is some time when they are not immersed in the stress. But if your personal and business life are intertwined, you may not get a break from stress – the home stresses come into the workplace and the work stresses affect your personal life,” she explains. “You need to be disciplined and create clear boundaries. There’s time for work and time for your personal life. ”
Life and business coach Janice Hanly deals with many couples who work together. She has also co-owned a business with her spouse. “We ran a successful advertising agency together. We each had a defined role to play. We respected each other’s boundaries, and developed respect and admiration for each other’s expertise. But we ended up becoming only business partners; the romance faded and we split up amicably.
THE CONSAlthough mixing her business and family life didn’t work well, she’s still optimistic about the idea. “We spend more time at work than we do with the one we love, so getting to be with each other full time is a huge bonus. You get to see first-hand what your loved one does best, and in doing so, you will develop new respect for your partner. Take advantage of this time to see how your loved one operates.”
LEARN FROM EACH OTHERJanice says: “A business partnership is totally different from a personal relationship. Know what your own strengths are and stick to your area of expertise. Know your boundaries, and never cross them. Do not ever chastise or correct each other in front of your staff. Be professional at all times. A disadvantage for the female in the relationship is that she is seen as working for her husband rather than with him, so she has to assert herself as a manager of the business in the eyes of the staff, customers and suppliers.”
So how do couples make it work? Janice says: “It depends on the business. Formulate a common goal, and each covers their own area of responsibility towards that goal. If you both do the same thing, you may compete with each other, which is not always healthy. On the one hand, statistics show that relationships are put under huge pressure when working together. But on the other hand, working together creates a better understanding of the work demands placed on your partner.”
BE ON THE SAME PAGE
She adds that personality plays a huge role in making this arrangement work. “One person may enjoy the limelight, while the other prefers working behind the scenes. As long as the staff understand and respect that you are both management, you won’t be played off against each other.”
After a long day’s work, you’re both exhausted and probably not feeling up to that date night you used to enjoy.
KEEP THE FIRE ALIVE
Janice says, “Focus on your leisure time together. Couples become too tired to make time for pleasure, thinking they see each other all the time anyway. Don’t be fooled: business talk needs to be avoided during leisure time. You need to switch to a different behaviour mode – romance is what brought you together in the first place, after all, so focus on that. If you forget about love, you just become business partners and nothing more.”