Working with Your Spouse
I don't know the exact date that it happened but I remember the feeling that I had. It was back in 2007 after my husband had left his project management role for a university and decided that he was going it alone for good. He had set up a business before that had suffered at the hands of the massive slump in IT consultancy back in 2002, back then I was just on the fringes of his business as I did a bit of invoicing. He was mainly consulting so the whole sales, marketing, business development, finance management and operational side of things wasn't necessary, not in the same way it is now. This time, he'd started two businesses one to manage the gospel events that we were doing and another to manage his speaking engagements et al. Somehow I moved from being on the fringes to being slap bang in the middle and all of those things that we weren't really involved in before fell on my shoulders.
Working with your spouse is challenging for so many reasons especially when you run a business. Everything that you do or don't do has a knock-on effect on your personal life as your finances are all wrapped up in this business of yours. It's a very delicate balance so here are some of the ways which we and those in a similar position to us try and work it out:
- Don't always talk about business - Create no business zones, like your bedroom or before a certain time of the morning and after a certain time at night.
- Book in regular date nights - These are times that you are not allowed to talk about business but just able to be with each other. It's important that you both hold the boundaries that you create here and don't talk about business.
- Play to your strengths - The truth is one of you will be better in some areas than others. In the quest to be that all-encompassing entrepreneur, sometimes, you don't want to let go, however, you need to learn to submit to your spouse in the areas you know they excel at. Why fight it?
- Outsource - We often believe that can't afford to do this but our learning has been that you can't afford not to. You cannot do everything and you are not an expert in everything so relieve some of the stress and outsource.
- Plan meetings & then ring-fence them - It's really easy when you work with each other to let planning meetings slip. The impact of this is that you end up with drifting with your business as opposed to steering your business. Meetings are a great time to share insights, off-load and create kick-ass plans and show each other what you have been up to.
- Go on holiday - working for yourself can sometimes feel like you can't take a break. This is not true and you are not effective when you just keep going. For us, an all-inclusive holiday in the sun where business is banned is a great way to rejuvenate and come back ready to fly...again no business talk!
- Hang out with other people who are in the same position as you - This business ownership journey with your spouse can be lonely so hang out friends or colleagues who get you and what you are trying to do. We have a range of couples around us in the same position and we love hanging out with them because we can chew the proverbial fat and just be in their presence.
- Use a shared calendar - We use Google Calendar and it is a godsend for us, this is where all dates are booked in and we are able to see where each other is. It's also useful for our VA and other associates that we work with. Just remember tools like this are only as good as your use of them. So use them.
- Listen - I cannot stress this enough, too often assume we know what the other person is saying because of our intimate knowledge of them. Not so... truly listen within thinking on an answer before they've even finished talking.
- Consider what they tell you from their perspective, not yours - I had to really learn this lesson a few years back when I realised that I was putting my spin on what I thought my husband was saying. I found that when I, actually, thought about it from his perspective that what he was actually saying was not what I thought he was saying based on my perspective. This is important as it means that you remove a lot of drama out of the situation.
- Lastly and most importantly laugh, a lot - Laughter has a way of dispelling negative situations and bonding you together, it makes a massive difference to your relationship and your business.
Our journey has been incredible with breathtaking highs and lows and everything in between. We are still learning how best to work together and still learning to submit to the expertise of each other. It is a challenge and it's a journey of self-discovery as much as anything else. But when you have common goals and you work on working together you can truly create a business and a relationship that is successful in every way.
These ideas are by no means exhaustive but I hope that they help you and yours on your business journey to success.