How to run a business with your significant other

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As a husband-and-wife business team, Shane and Andrea very commonly get asked: “How can you possibly make it work without killing each other, the relationship, business (or all of the above)?” 

Shane and Andrea have been married for 24 years, and have been running businesses together for 18 of those years.  

We’ve combined their experience and wisdom with that of Kathy and Justin, married owners of Lux Design Group, to create some golden rules to follow when working with your significant other.  

Rule #1 – Have different, defined roles within the business. 

It is really important that both partners have their own separate, defined roles in the business. Within these roles, should also be clear areas of decision making responsibility, to avoid conflict over who gets to make “the final call” on different issues.  

You’re both probably going to have diverse strengths and weaknesses. It’s in the best interest of the business to play to your separate strengths, and in the best interest of your relationship to not be in a position where you constantly undermine each other’s authority. 

Kathy: “For us, we do not cross over at all. This works really well and helps our business to flow”. 

Andrea: “I’m not an accountant, and while I have a detailed understanding of the business I don’t know how to prepare workpaper files or complete a BAS, and I don’t get involved in any of the technical aspects of the business, that’s Shane’s area of expertise and I leave him to it!”. 

Rule #2 – Separate home and work life (easier said than done, we know)! 

When you live and work with your partner it is important to set boundaries that you both agree on. Make sure there is a clear divide between “at work” and “at home”, especially if one or both of you work in the same space.  

Create a system to minimise the amount of crossover of bringing home issues to work, and work assignments into the house.   

Kathy: “We make sure we never talk about the business on weekends. This is our time as a couple to focus on us and our family”. 

Shane: “It is hard for any business owner to separate home and work life, more so when you work from a space in your home, which I do, at times. It’s a fact of life for us, and believe me, it does cause frustration, but it also allows us the flexibility to really be there for our family and our children when we need to be”. 

Rule #3 – Make sure you give each other space.  

Similarly to Rule #1, this is to ensure that while you’re living and working together, you don’t end up spending every waking (and probably sleeping) hour of your life in each other’s pocket. Make sure your workspaces are separate, and your daily routine is slightly different to your partner. You’ll probably find you’re both more productive, and more inclined to spend time with each other outside of work hours.   

Andrea: “For the most part, Shane works in the office, and I work from home. We come together for meetings and events, but we usually keep our working days separate and communicate via phone or email. At home, my office is downstairs and Shane’s is upstairs, so even on days when we’re both working from home we’re still in separate spaces”.  

Rule #4 – Remember to communicate. 

Kathy: “The key to working with your partner is trust and communication”. 

This means both professionally and socially. Don’t assume things on behalf of your partner; just because so much of your lives intersect doesn’t make either of you telepathic! Remember to talk to each other about your day (even if you think you know everything that occurred, it’s nice to be asked how your day at work went).   

Kathy: “Working together has helped us to grow stronger as a couple as we are both working to achieve our common goals and make the most of the amazing life we have created for ourselves.” 

If you’d like more tips for a flourishing family business, click here!