Going into business with your significant other


Lisa Lyons co-owns Plastic Box Shop, an online retailer of plastic storage solutions, with her husband Gary. Here she outlines the problems to anticipate when starting a business with your life partner, and how to overcome them.

While you may have a healthy, wholesome relationship with your partner, there is a huge difference between living with them and going into business with them. Starting an enterprise with your significant other requires you to spend both your days and nights together, and while your differences may not cause too much friction in your household, they could cause problems in a high-pressure environment.

Having said that, your unique relationship could encourage your business to flourish. You already trust each other and respect one another’s opinion, so the likelihood of any earth-shattering disagreements is unlikely — you are a couple, after all, so you should be used to having minor squabbles anyway.

Mutual goals and ambitions

My partner and I knew it was not going to be easy going self-employed, but we had always talked about creating a business together so were both focused on succeeding. It is extremely important to go into business with the same goals and ambitions in mind. Being on the same wavelength is crucial in preventing differences from taking you in different directions. You can always be open to hearing each other’s ideas, but it’s important that you are both working with the same end game in mind.

Know your roles within the business

You should also decide from the outset what each other’s role will be in the business as uncertainty could cause confusion going forward. Delegating tasks between the two of you will ensure that you both stay busy and feel that you are contributing to the business equally. Of course, you should always be on hand to support each other if difficulties arise, both professionally and personally. Remember that you went into business due to your personal relationship, so never allow anything to get in the way of that.

Balancing work and home life

Make sure that work talk is off limits in certain circumstances such as during dinner or at a social occasion, but at the same time, don’t restrict yourselves completely from talking about the business outside of work. The benefits of discussing plans over a glass of wine can be underestimated — sometimes you need to get into a more relaxed state to allow creative ideas to flow naturally.

It’s also important to be aware of each other’s work load. While my partner, Gary, tends to spend more hours physically at work than me, he recognises that while I’m at home dealing with the kids and the housework, I’m hardly relaxing! Looking after children is a job in itself, so spending more hours at your place of work than your partner doesn’t necessarily mean that you are working harder.

Keeping these things in mind will encourage a healthy professional and personal relationship with your life partner, so you can focus your energy on allowing your business to flourish.

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