Power couples in business are not uncommon. Look at Bill and Melinda Gates. After meeting at Microsoft in 1987, they married and went on to create the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Over the last 20 years, the couple’s philanthropic organization has invested billions of dollars worldwide to enhance healthcare and reduce poverty.
The fact that couples go into business together is not surprising. After all, starting a business is like having a baby. You nurture it, care for it and help it grow. And a business partnership is like a marriage. It requires trust, passion, communication and hard work. Not only that, but Covid-19 has driven many employees to rethink their priorities and leave Corporate America to launch their own companies.
So, what’s the best way to turn a life partnership into a business partnership? Here’s advice from successful entrepreneurs who started a business with their other half and made it work.
Plan quality time
Daina Trout, co-founder and CEO of Health-Ade, one of the top three brands in the projected billion-dollar Kombucha category, suggests that making time for each other is vital. “Recognize the marriage is just as important as the business and commit to feeding it. Have your date nights and don’t talk about work at them, no matter what. A tip for this if you have kids is to get your babysitter booked out for the full year, so you don’t have to plan so much because it’s already on the books.”
When starting a business with your other half, consider setting healthy boundaries. Staci Brinkman, co-founder and CEO of Sips by, a personalized tea subscription service, has a specific strategy for defining work hours with her partner and co-founder Øivind Loe. “Øivind and I have an 8pm cut-off rule on weekdays. On weekends we cut off at 5pm. We plan out activities we like doing together and also take time to make sure we’re feeling connected by sitting on the couch, talking, and watching sunsets.” Brinkman and Loe also take time for themselves. One thing they don’t do is drive to work together. “Øivind leaves much earlier than I do, and it gives me mornings to myself. Going home separately also gives us time to decompress after a workday and get back into home mode.”
Commit to the same goals
Lauryn Evarts Bosstick, the founder of The Skinny Confidential and co-host of HIM & HER podcast, offers this advice: buckle up! Her number one tip for starting a business with your other half is understanding that it’s about give and take. She adds, “For us, we define our roles. We sit down and strategize who’s working in what area, and that’s been very helpful. Without having your goals defined, you can’t be committed to the same objective. You want to make sure you’re both pushing the same boulder up the same hill. Working together has been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done and one of the most rewarding.”
Adapt to the situation
Another important tip is to be flexible. Devan Kline, the co-founder of Burn Boot Camp with his wife Morgan, wears many different hats. He’s a husband, dad, CEO and trainer all in one. Kline describes his strength as being able to adapt depending on the circumstances: “The temperament of the CEO is a lot less patient than my dad personality. I’m a very patient father, which is the opposite of my competitive spirit to win in the gym and in business. When Morgan talks to me as COO, I know what to expect: objectivity and straight-shooting. When we talk as husband and wife, we have permission to be relaxed about life.”
Keep your ego in check
Starting a business with your life partner requires a great deal of faith, so ensure that trust is there at the outset. Jason Griffin Reidel, co-founder and CEO of Gorjana, the jewelry brand known for its simple, timeless styles, says this: “Always remind yourself that you’re never more than half the equation and two is always twice as much as one.” He adds that there’s even been a silver lining to working together during a pandemic, “We’ve had way more synergy. The pandemic has returned us back to our early entrepreneurial roots when we started the business on our apartment floor, which is exactly what the last eight months have been like—eleven-hour days in the same room, in your sweatpants. Quick decisions on the fly with no plan—just vision and trust in the process!”
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