All in the Family: The Delicate Art of Mixing Marriage and Money

Married couples who balance business, babies and everything in between will tell you-working with your spouse ain’t easy. After working together for years, these couples have mastered a few tricks of the trade.  

Tip #1: Separate Your Jobs

Lakeisha and Nathaniel Johnson

Just because you’re working together doesn’t mean you have to be doing the same thing at all times.

“I’m strong on computers, he’s strong with talking to people. That’s how we make our business work,” says Lakeisha W. Johnson, co-owner of Absolute Property Solutions LLC, a property management firm in Richmond, Virginia she’s run with her husband, Nathaniel since 2008. “He’s also very good at putting infrastructure in place, getting the business set up. I bring more of the day to day.”

To fully utilize each partner’s strengths, Johnson says that both parties have to clearly outline what’s expected of the other, communicate about how easily tasks are getting accomplished, recognize each other’s weaknesses and understand that their separate duties each come with unique challenges.

“My husband is my business partner, but he’s also in the army, so he’s not always involved in the day to day,” she says. “We don’t always agree and we’re both really stubborn people…Sometimes it’s hard for him to realize the reality of whatever problems we’re facing.”

To avoid hassles later, couples should clearly define each other’s roles before launching the business, go over it with a third party business pro (the mentors over at SCORE can help) and create a back-up strategy in case one family member has to leave the business.

Tip #2: Test It Out First

Scott and Donyea Saari and Family

Scott Saari co-owns a Pillar to Post home inspection franchise in Salem, Oregon with his wife, Donyea. Before launching the franchise earlier this year, Saari worked with his wife on and off on previous businesses before deciding to start their own business endeavor together.

“That definitely gave me an idea of what working together would be like, so there are no surprises,” he says.

If taking a test drive at working with your spouse prior to launching a company isn’t possible, try tackling a lengthy home improvement project, volunteer job or fundraiser together to get an idea of how each party acts under pressure.

Saari adds that running together simply won’t work for all married couples. “Just make sure that you like being around each other all the time,” he advises. “Not all married couples like being together constantly.”

Tip #3: Set the Boundaries

Maintaining your marriage is just as important as maintaining the company says Johnson, which means that sometimes the business has to take a backseat.

“When we went on vacation a couple of months ago, I was working most of the time,” she says. “Right now, it’s very hard to separate business from pleasure time, but sometimes you just have to turn the phone off.”

Setting defined office hours and restrictions on when and where you can talk about the job can help families define where work ends and their personal lives begin.

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