Keeping it Together in Marriage and Business…
They’re everywhere…Husband and wife teams running small businesses. It doesn’t matter what part of the country you look in, in all industries, couples are blending their marriage vows with business partnership agreements. I should know, my husband (Ryan Gilliam) and I started our own small business in early 2010 at the age of 25 with $10,000 and a lot of faith. Over the last six years, as a team we’ve created numerous jobs for our community and generated over six million dollars in revenue. While we’ve experienced a lot of success, it has not come without putting a tremendous amount of stress on our marriage and growing family.
The realities of being an entrepreneur are difficult enough without the added component of trying to preserve a marriage at the same time. “For better or worse” gets tested early and often when husband and wife teams own and operate small businesses together. Although it has not been easy, my husband and I are proof that married couples can successfully run a business together and have a fulfilling marriage at the same time.
Here is what I have identified as the keys to being successful in both marriage and business:
1. Your Marriage Comes First
Nothing can be more important than your marriage, not even your business. Even though you have become business partners with your spouse, they still need that same love, affection, time and attention. Most people understand the commitment and determination it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. However, at no time should either spouse put more energy and effort into the business than they put into the marriage. You can’t neglect your marriage and expect it to continue to be fruitful.
2. Determine the Goal & Purpose
Athletic teams need a goal or championship to play or strive for; husband and wife teams are no different. However, if each spouse is trying to reach a different objective it will slow the progress of the business and frustrate the other spouse. Communicate with each other about what you want to achieve from your business and agree on goals together.
3. Establish Boundaries & Responsibilities
In order for a small business to be successful, it must provide an effective product or service in the most efficient way. Effectiveness and efficiency are centered on time management. Husband and wife teams should not argue with each other about all the various functions of the business. Instead, decide which spouse will handle specific areas of the business. A huge benefit of being a husband and wife team is that you know each other very well. Utilize each other’s strengths to your advantage by focusing each other in those particular areas of strength. Once those responsibilities have been clearly defined, don’t infringe on the other’s area unless they seek help or advice.
4. Trust Each Other & Avoid “I Told You So”
No one likes to be second-guessed and everyone hates to hear “I told you so”. The reality is your spouse is going to make mistakes from time to time. Your job is to be patient and allow each other to learn from your mistakes. Failure is truly success in progress and most successful teams learn how to encourage each other when faced with disappointment. Trust and understanding are requirements of any marriage, especially if you are in business together. Without these key attributes, feedback will feel more like criticism and can lead to bitterness and resentment.
5. Leave Work at Work
From daybreak to sun down you are working side-by-side with your spouse building your business. You are wrestling with all the stresses that come along with being small business owners, like handling the concerns of dissatisfied customers or even disciplining an employee for unprofessional behavior. All day, every day you are putting our fires and being everything to everybody. At some point, the attitude and/or demeanor of your spouse and business partner will not resemble the one you fell in love with. You will likely offend each other or maybe even say something you should not have. The key to handling these situations is to handle them as soon as possible and not allow them to linger. Communicate with each other and address the issue before it becomes a problem. I’ve learned there is no need to allow activities from work to create extra difficulties in your marriage. If need be use the ride home from work to decompress and resolve any unresolved issues. But once you get home, it’s over, let it go and focus on enjoying the person you decided you wanted to spend the rest of your life with. After all, what’s the point of working so hard to have a better life if you can’t even enjoy your soul mate at the end of the day?
Over the course of 9 years of marriage and 6 years as business partners I’ve learned that the key to our success in everything we do is based upon our ability to work together as one unit (the team makes the dream work!). While I don’t have all the answers and our marriage and business are not perfect, I believe that couples who learn to work as a team can reach success and accomplish their goals, in business and in life (& love).
Until Next Time….
Hug, Kisses, & High Fives,