Running a business with your spouse

I’ve noticed that more spouses are starting businesses together, especially baby boomers. My wife and I have started several businesses after our main careers were finished. Even though we both had successful business careers, nothing in those careers prepared us for working together. Here are a few things we’ve learned along the way.

Since we were both used to being in charge, we had to figure out ways to divide the work and stay out of each other sandboxes. We each had our own way of planning, so we had to make some compromises on how we were going to accomplish tasks and measure results. And we both had our own ideas on managing employees.

But in order to stay married, we needed to set some ground rules around the business. After work hours, we try very hard not to talk about the business – easier for me than my wife.  And we never talk about the business in the bedroom. We always have a united message when talking with staff. And we have regularly scheduled meetings – with an agenda – instead of at the breakfast or dinner table.

We hold each other accountable, just like we did our employees in our business careers. And we try not to get our feelings hurt when one or the other is being really honest. It’s also really important to have a mechanism for resolving conflict. And don’t bring conflict from the business into your personal time.  The one thing that makes working with each other easier is that there is no doubt about our commitment to the business. We have no agendas except to make the business a success.

I recommend that you NOT try to run the business jointly. One person needs to be in charge so when there is conflict and issues you can’t resolve – and there will be – the business won’t suffer from inaction.

–Barney Cohen

President, Business 360 Northwest


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