We are often advised not to mix romance with work, but there is a way to make this work.
4 min read
The opinions expressed by collaborators are personal.
Many people often think that it is best to keep your personal life and your work separate. However, since partnerships in business can be similar to a marriage, it makes sense that many couples work together in the same company. A friend recently told me that they were curious about how this type of dynamic worked. My wife and I have somewhat similar careers and we both work from home, so in many ways we work side by side every day.
Of course, a professional relationship between a couple is reduced to the dynamics between two people. What works for one couple may not work for another because no two couples are the same. However, the following tips can help you if you are starting a business with your partner, or if they are starting to work together.
1. Don't expect all the time to both give 50 percent
While co-founders often divide responsibilities and work in half, especially in the beginning, time shows that this is not always fair. The same goes for marriage or for any relationship: at different times, one person will give more than the other.
This is also the case when building a business. Although it can be difficult to separate this from the relationship, realize that one of you will always care more or give more than the other, even if that changes in moments. At the beginning, the person who came up with the idea may be more excited and therefore willing to invest more time. But eventually, different responsibilities will come to light and efforts will be changed. Here it is essential to manage expectations.
2. Use sentences that start with “I” instead of “you”
The way they communicate also matters. I was recently with Anthony and Mary Hood, husbands and co-founders of the Hollywood Sensation jewelry company. They have been married for 10 years and have been co-founders for 8 years and share that the best advice is to use phrases with “I” during conversations, especially in the most difficult ones.
“Using 'I' phrases can help to better express the way you feel and promote a productive and positive conversation, rather than hurt your partner's ego or feelings,” they advise. “Instead of saying, 'You never do anything in the business,' try saying, 'I am overwhelmed with the business.'” These communication strategies can also be used outside of the employment relationship.
3. Understand each other's strengths and weaknesses
One of the advantages of starting a business with your partner is how well they know each other. You may not be so aware of your partner's strengths and weaknesses, but of your partner's. But being in a relationship is very different from being a partner, and you must prepare yourself for new strengths and weaknesses that will emerge. Talk about them openly and compassionately, so you can strategize about them.
4. Give yourself time
Finally, make sure you have time for yourself. Whether it's going to the gym alone or hanging out with your friends, take time apart. Everyone, even the most enviable couples in the world, need separate space. This space will not only help the business, but also the relationship.