Small Business
February 8, 2023

How to run a business with a loved one

Are you in business with the one you love? Learn tips for mixing personal and entrepreneurial pursuits and meet one couple who have gone into business together — and survived to tell the tale.

Decorative image of couple learning how to run a business together

Key takeaways

  • Make sure you have a business plan featuring you and your partner’s specific responsibilities.
  • Get on the same page with your long-term business strategy, including an exit strategy should your business close.
  • Invest in solid communication to get through tough conversations when they arise. And, when possible, make time for yourself away from work.

Running a small business is a labor of love. But what if your business partner is also your life partner? Having a spouse or significant other by your side may not help with the usual headaches of growing a successful business — never clocking out, wearing countless hats, penny pinching — but it can add to why you started one in the first place. For many business owners, having a loved one to share their passion with more than justifies the challenges of mixing business and romance.

Luckily, there are ways to minimize the stress of owning a small business as a team. Here are four tips for couples already running or thinking about starting a business together to help ensure their entrepreneurial partnership is as successful as their romantic one.

1. Define your roles

Figuring out who does what is crucial in every partnership, but it’s particularly important for couples who collectively take on the responsibilities of a small business. Opposites may often attract, but not all couples will have skill sets or experiences that neatly fall into roles like customer service, human resources manager, or financial expert.

As you develop a business plan, set aside time to identify each person’s duties and divvy up the responsibilities necessary to operate the business. For example, if you’re highly organized and love crunching numbers, but your partner is more energized by working with people, then it may make sense for you to run the books while they manage customer relations and new business efforts.

Commit to regularly revisiting your business plan to ensure the structure is still working and you’re meeting your goals.

2. Create a long-term plan

Managing finances can be stressful in any relationship. In fact, two in three Americans report money as a significant source of stress, according to a recent American Psychological Association survey. But that can be even more severe when you’re running a business with a spouse or partner.

That’s why it’s important to be on the same page when it comes to financing a business and generating revenue. Make financial decisions early and strategically, including how much of your personal finances — if any — you might use to launch or operate the business, if you’ll tap into savings or family help, reduce living expenses, or work other jobs. Whatever you and your partner decide, a solid financial strategy will be the foundation of your business plan.

One often overlooked piece is the exit strategy. While it’s uncomfortable to think about the end of your business, an exit strategy will lay out a clear process to follow if it doesn’t work out, which will make an unfortunate situation easier to manage if it does happen.

This strategy should outline what to do if one partner decides to leave the business or if the business needs to close for other reasons. Whether you both decide to sell your business or liquidate it, a business banker or tax advisor can help you establish a plan.

3. Keep up communication

Once you’ve created defined roles, a business plan, and financial strategy, you’ll have plenty of practice in communication, but the dialogue is far from over. Partners who are in business together will need to ensure they trust and support each other, as well as keep lines of communication open for the life of their business — and their relationship, too.

Growing a business with your spouse or significant other will undoubtedly involve difficult conversations. Whether that’s addressing poor performance, managing conflicting views, or making major financial decisions, honest and ongoing communication will be key to keeping both you and your partner on the same page. Plus, effective communication won’t only benefit your business, but your relationship, too.

4. Separate work from life, when you can

Finally, couples who decide to go into business together should make time for themselves and each other outside of work. While it’s easier said than done, having every aspect of life involve your business — even one you are extremely passionate about — will make it that much harder to maintain both your romantic relationship and your own well-being.

It’s normal for entrepreneurs to have a blurred line between business and personal. That’s why dictating specific business hours and respecting that boundary will help you maintain a healthy work-life balance. And when you’re off the clock, carve out time to do things that you and your partner love.

Starting a business means following your passion, and it can be extremely rewarding to share that dream with a loved one. That doesn’t mean going into business is any less work. But by laying the proper foundation when you and your partner start your small business journey, you’ll have more energy to put toward what you love: your business and each other.

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