With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I’m reminded of just how much my Valentine (and business partner) means to me.
Over the past few years, we’ve been through a lot – failed businesses, war injuries, corrupt bureaucracy, grad school, more businesses, health issues, cross-country moves, death of loved ones, plus all the other normal “life” stuff. Entrepreneurship adds an exciting (and sometimes, terrifying) dynamic to our already unconventional arrangement as a very millennial, ex-military, over educated, super liberal , internationally traveled, very tattooed couple.
As we’ve routinely encountered over the past five plus years, running a business or side hustle with your significant other can create a multitude to challenges and opportunities specific to the “I sleep with my business partner” element.
Here are 5 do’s and don’ts about being partners – in both life and business:
Do: Structure boundaries between your business and personal relationships.
Don’t: Talk About business in bed – startup strategy is never, EVER acceptable pillow talk.
Running a business with your significant other tends to open the door to no boundaries, leaving even the most balanced of couples to blur the lines between personal and professional relationships, 24/7. Setting boundaries – like when it’s acceptable to talk shop, committing to detailed job descriptions, etc. – can be a great way to instill some much-needed structure into your dynamic entrepreneurial duo.
Do: Respect each other’s individual professional accomplishments and contributions.
Don’t: Lose objectivity about the many benefits and strengths your partner brings to the table.
When working side by side, day in and day out, it’s easy to begin to take one’s partner, and their professional skills, for granted. Be wary of falling into the trap of viewing your significant other as “free labor” for your business. Prioritize routine recognition of your partner’s accomplishments and contributions to your joint entrepreneurial dream.
Do: Routinely schedule structured discussions to assess business performance.
Don’t: Only discuss business issues in the heat of the moment during date night, over dinner, or when you’re both exhausted.
First year in business, my spouse/business partner and I quickly found ourselves converting date nights into startup strategy sessions – not cool. Be intentional with your activity planning – both on and off the clock. Schedule monthly assessments and meetings during normal work hours to discuss the business, while scheduling date night or chillax weekends to nurture your non-business relationship. While such structured activities may seem a little sterile at first, sticking to your calendar agreements can be a great way to head off would-be relational disasters.
Do: Separate business and personal financial goals, strategies, and management.
Don’t: Lump all money decisions (personal and professional) into the same process or category.
Identifying your business vs. personal financial goals (and keeping them separate) can be key in ensuring financial strategy healthy and viability. An example of a business related financial goal may be expanding into a new service location, while an example of a personal financial goal may be purchasing your first home. In case you haven’t noticed throughout this post, a common theme to any relationship health is health boundaries, and such extends into both your balance sheet and your wallet.
Do: Invest in the growth of both your personal and professional relationships.
Don’t: Count office time as quality relationship time and neglect to nurture the romantic aspects of your off-the-clock arrangement.
Just because you spend all day at the office together doesn’t mean you’ve logged an entire day of “quality” relationship time. Recognizing the differences between your professional and personal relationships – along with their unique sets of needs and requirements – can be relationship saver. Invest in your professional relationship with continuing education and industry conferences; invest in your personal relationship by trying a new couple’s hobby (ballroom dancing, anyone?) and weekend getaways.
Sleeping with your business partner can be a great thing or a freaking nightmare – it’s all in how you manage it.
Consider these five do’s and don’t’s when reflecting over your relationship with your business partner/significant other and brainstorm ways to turns your unique partnership into the ultimate entrepreneurial dream team.
Here’s to being partners in both life and business!