Lucy and Desi. Melinda and Bill. Jay-Z and Beyonce. These famous business partner couples have made it look relatively easy. What you don’t see, though, is the hard work they likely had to go through to create a partnership that works for both their personal and business lives. If you’re considering taking your relationship into a business partnership, here are some practical considerations to help you keep both your romance and business alive and well:
Remember why you decided to go into business together in the first place.
Marriage therapists often advise couples to think back to what drew them together in the first place. This is a great exercise because it helps them remember the passion and excitement of their earlier time together, in hopes that it will motivate them to work on their current relationship. The same holds true of a business partnership. Remember why you thought this was a good idea. Was it to garner more time for togetherness? Was it because the thought of working together sounded fun since you already were having a great time together? Whatever the reason, hold onto that passion and drive and revisit it often.
Designate one of you as the final decision-maker.
Equal splits of responsibility and money aren’t easy in any business but finding a way to split responsibilities is key. As an example, one could be the final decision maker on sales and marketing and the other for everything else. Decisions are a normal part of running any size enterprise. Sometimes they’re simple, and sometimes they’re difficult or game changing, but regardless, the buck needs to stop somewhere. Before you start your business, talk this one through using best- and worst-case scenarios – make sure both of you agree who makes the last call and stick with that plan.
Be very aware of how you present yourselves in front of staff, customers and vendors.
Everyone knows you are married, but no one (and I mean NO ONE) wants to get in the middle of a heated discussion between you two. Nor do they want to appear to take sides, so it’s your job as owners to avoid confrontations that would put someone in that most uncomfortable position. Hash out your differences in private and always present a unified front.
Divide, conquer and stick to it.
If you and your spouse like to do the same things or have the same kind of skill set, this may be a challenge for you. There are many responsibilities in every business, and in most businesses, it starts with sales. Are one of you ready to become the salesperson/spokesperson? What about the bookkeeping/finances? Is this a skill one of you possesses, or do you need to hire it out? Long before becoming business partners, you probably knew each other’s strengths. Now is the time to master them where appropriate for your business.
Start with the end in mind.
Stephen Covey was right when he wrote this statement. You should have some very clear and specific goals in mind when starting any new venture. Do you both want the same outcome? What is your exit strategy? How will you share the profits? Will you get other family members involved? What if your kids want to work for you? Write these kinds of questions down and keep answering them on a regular basis. Stay on the same page.
Hire family carefully and treat them as you would any employee.
Many family businesses are truly that: businesses that employ children, parents, siblings, in-laws and friends. I’ve spoken with children of a family business and most have fond memories of growing up in an entrepreneurial atmosphere. And it’s no surprise that these children have grown up to be successful entrepreneurs themselves. I’ve also watched family businesses destroy even the closest of kin. Let’s face it, it can be very difficult to remain objective when loved ones are involved, but objectivity is critical to your future. As a general rule, follow the same process of hiring that you would use for a non-family member: hire the most qualified individual for the job. And be careful to treat family members just as you would non-family members, showing no favoritism or undue scrutiny.
Being in business with the person you love and trust can be the wisest decision you make as you enter the franchise industry. After all, the skills that make you great romantic partners are the very same that have the potential to make you wildly successful business owners.
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