Sometimes, people remark how great it must be to get to work with my husband on a daily basis. Others ask how on earth we can stand working together and still enjoy our marriage decades later. Simple: Working together allows us to play together.
You’ve all heard the statistics: Finances are the leading cause of stress in a relationship. But I don’t think it’s necessarily lack of money that leads to divorce—Robert and I were broke and living in a car early in our marriage, yet we managed to weather the storm and come out on top. I think incompatibility with finances is the real culprit. Sure, it starts with one person being a penny-pincher while the other is a spendthrift, but can quickly escalate into incongruity of financial goals and vision for your future.
Thankfully, Robert and I shared a common goal of financial freedom from the beginning, which allowed us to come together and build a successful business. And we aren’t alone—couple-owned businesses are on the rise. According to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, 43% of small businesses are family businesses (defined as two or more family members managing a venture that at least one family member owns). Of those businesses, 53% of managers identify a spouse as the family member who is sharing day-to-day management.
The Benefits to Partnering in Business
Now I’m not saying it was always easy, or that we always agreed on the approach or the details of our joint venture. And I have heard my fair share of the horror stories other “couple-preneurs” have endured in both the bedroom and boardroom as a result of failed businesses. But there are plenty of power couples who make it work, and their relationships flourish on numerous levels.
- Financially. It’s been found that starting a business together provided significant income gains for the couple. The research suggests that co-launching a business is often a sound investment of both partners’ human capital, and it has the added advantage of reducing income inequality within the household. It also suggests that co-entrepreneurial firms are likely to benefit from the cohesion that typifies successful spousal relationships—in short, partners with higher levels of affection, trust and satisfaction with each other bodes well on the bottom line.
- Emotionally. This same study also found that couple-preneurs are no more or less happy than other couples (as measured by usage of antidepressants or anxiety/insomnia medications). In fact, in a number of studies, co-entrepreneurs have reported that working together had enhanced their personal relationship. Co-entrepreneurs may also value the flexibility for managing work and home life, such as taking care of children, that is afforded by working with an understanding partner who shares the same non-work goals and concerns.
The Art of Making Money and Marriage Work
Not every couple is destined for starting a business together, because it takes more than just enjoying each other’s company to make it work. First and foremost, each half needs to bring a specific skill set that your business needs to the table. Sometimes, opposites attract and you find each other naturally taking the portion of the business more geared toward your wheelhouse—that also helps keep you from stepping on each other’s toes and focused on the areas in which you’re likely to make the greatest impact. For instance, Robert is more of the salesman and I’m the one who more closely examines the deals and negotiates accordingly. It’s been working out pretty well for us.
Other times, you might have similar skill sets and will need to learn how to do the other tasks that are necessary, hire or partner with someone else who has those skills, or outsource them. If you’re self-aware and/or trust your partner’s assessment of you, it should be fairly easy to divvy up the workload based on your strengths and weaknesses.
Either way, your roles need to be crystal clear, so seek the advice from mentors for assistance. Trust, communication, forgiveness and the freedom to make mistakes along the way are also imperative to building a business together.
The best part is, you end up with a spouse who truly understands the day you had at work, you respect and appreciate each other’s contributions, you learn and grow together, and you speak the same language. This is the type of rewarding marriage that will allow you to spend your golden years playing together while enjoying the financial freedom you earned.