Since Sarah and I began our business journey nearly five years ago by first setting up WE Private and now WE (and a number of other businesses), we’ve found that people frequently ask us how we manage to make our personal and professional lives mesh.
The idea is attractive to many – you love your spouse, and maybe you have compatible skills, so why not start a business together?
This can be either the greatest idea in the world, or the worst. And there’s no one “magic formula” that will make it work for you. But if you want to try, here are some of the things that we have discovered that might help in your situation.
The positives outweigh the negatives
In our situation, we’ve found there are far more advantages than disadvantages when it comes to working together:
1. We are very busy people and if we didn’t work together we might find that our time for each other was extremely limited. This way, we see each other all the time.
2. We don’t have to schedule meetings in order to discuss business. We can do it when we are together away from work – while we are working out together, or while we are driving, for example.
3. We both have the comfort and satisfaction of knowing that the most important person in our lives supports us fully, both personally and professionally.
4. We get the incredible opportunity to share amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experiences with each other. For example, we recently spent over a month in the United States while I attended the Entrepreneurial Masters Program , hosted by the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation (EO) and the MIT, in Boston and Sarah attended a conference in Arizona We were able to tour the United States, including a fantastic ski trip in Utah & Colorado. We also were lucky enough to recently be the lead delegates for the Australian delegation at the G20YEA summit in Sydney and last year we attended the summit in Russia.
Tips we can offer
So how do you make it work? Here are seven tips:
1. The number one rule is you must always exhibit respect toward each other. You may not be equals in this enterprise – one partner may be the leader and one may be a subordinate – but you still must respect each other as professionals. You should treat each other with the same courtesy and respect that you offer to all other members of your team.
2. Each partner’s role must be clearly defined and you must adhere to those roles. If you both do similar work, you should have separate projects or clients. There needs to be delineation between what one partner does and what the other does. Overlapping roles can lead to confusion and disagreement.
3. Expectations of each partner should be reasonable and goals should be set, just like for every other employee. Any analysis of success or failure should be made based on the same objective measures that are used for every project.
4. Your team must understand your roles, and know which partner should be approached in every situation.
5. Keep your work roles and your home roles separate. Don’t let your personal disagreements spill over into your professional life, and vice versa.
6. Try not to “talk shop” at home unless you both agree it’s a discussion you should be having. There are too many opportunities, when you work together, for your work life to completely take over your home life if you aren’t careful. Remember that you are a couple first, and business partners second.
7. Spend some time apart. There is definitely a point of too-much togetherness. You each need to spend time alone as well as with other people. Alone time helps you recharge and stimulate your creative thinking, and time with other people opens up the possibilities of new ideas and perspectives.
If you do decide to try working together, Sarah and I wish you the best of luck. It’s not going to be possible for every couple, that’s for sure, but if you can manage it, you may find that it was the best decision you ever make.
Finn Kelly is the CEO and co-founder of award-winning Gen Y financial advisory firm,Wealth Enhancers, along with the parent company, premier private wealth management firm WE Private.