Going into business with your significant other is a brave decision, and one that is not made lightly. Whether you are married, engaged, or live-in partners, starting and running a business together adds another layer to the pressures of family life.
But it can also work amazingly well, and while many couples have tried, and failed, to combine business with pleasure, others, in spite of the inevitable ups and downs, have discovered the secrets of married business partnership success.
Have clearly defined roles
Azoomee a tablet-based app for keeping kids safe online, is the second business created by Douglas and Estelle Lloyd, their first having been sold in 2011. "It works for us because we have very complementary skills," says Douglas. "We can also bounce ideas off each other and trust each other's opinion. On the down side, running a business together can be intense, and if things get difficult, it is tough for both of us."
Key to their success as business partners is having their own defined roles. Estelle says: "We both work on very different parts of the business. Douglas leads partnerships and product development, while I head up the creative and content side. We agree on the important things, and while we have different approaches, we share a vision and passion for the brand we're building. We both know that we could do it alone, but we'd rather run our business together."
Love what you do
Behind the success of dog walking and boarding business Best Paw Forward is a shared love of dogs from owners Dave and Anna France. Launched four years ago, they now have over 100 canine clients on their books. Being around hounds all day may sound like a dog lover’s paradise, but for the Frances it also means spending most of their time together, which can be the undoing of business partnerships between spouses.
Dave says: "They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but we don’t feel that way at all. This isn’t a typical job, and we’re not sitting in the same office together all day. The thing is, we both love what we do; we share the highs, enjoy being out with the dogs, and just get on really well."
There are occasional differences of opinion on business strategy, for example, when Dave [right] wanted to keep growing customers and Anna didn’t.
She says: "There is a limit to our time and space and we don’t want to take on staff. I felt we needed to focus on our existing regular customers and on providing the quality of care for their dogs that brings repeat business. We discussed it and in the end both agreed it was the right thing to do."
Turn complementary personal qualities into business strengths
Running a dental practice takes clinical expertise and business acumen, and for dentists David and Rashmi Hickey, owners of Southport Road Dental, a way of making it work together. Their biggest 'ups' as married business partners are sharing a common goal, celebrating achievements, and having a mutual understanding of the stresses of the job. But there are some downs.
"Because your income is based on the same business, a downward turn in business can have a double negative effect on income and mood," says Rashmi. "It’s also easy for it all to become all-consuming, as we do tend to talk about business when we are at home."
According to David, one reason why their partnership works so well is down to having different personalities that complement each other. He says: "I’m more direct, while Rashmi softens the edges. My strength lies in pushing the business to keep growing. She is a better communicator and is much more level when considering options." The result is that he focuses more on the finance side of things, and Rashmi leans towards staff management.
Stay focused on the big picture
David Moritz and Gabrielle Rein are the husband and wife team behind New York-based creative, design and marketing agency Viceroy Creative.
Their biggest 'up' is being able to spend more time together than most couples. "It’s also super efficient for developing strategy and brainstorming," says David. "The downs are when your colleague says something so rude to you that you want to fire them but you can’t, because you’re married to them, which is probably why they said it."
Their working partnership is built on dedication and loyalty, but as Gabrielle [right] points out, when business partners spend all their time together they also need to respect boundaries. She says: "When you’re in the kitchen in the morning, and before you’ve even had coffee, your husband comes in and asks if you like an idea, you have to reschedule."
When disagreements occur, compromise is always an option. "Part of the reason why this works is that we are aligned in overall goals," says David. "You can disagree about the tactics or smaller decisions on how to get there, as long as you keep in mind the big picture."
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