Yes, I stole that title. There is actually a book I read about 10 years ago called In Business and In Love written by Chuck and April Jones. They shared tips for successfully running a business with your spouse. I’m sure it has some relevant tips, but nothing compares to your own experience.
So, here are the top 5 things I’ve learned about growing a business with my love, my husband:
1. Communication: I’m sorry, Thank You and WTF (venting constructively)
Lets face it, without good communication any relationship can dissolve quickly, and this is especially true when you’re running a business with your spouse. So I’ve learned that a little investment in patience and communicating efficiently can start the day off right, mend a hurt ego, show appreciation, and save my own sanity.
We don’t have doors on our offices. My office is in the loft and my husband has a 10’x10’ area right inside the front door. With an open floor plan, it’s what we have to work with at the moment. This scenario makes it too easy to interrupt each other and barge right into each other’s space. To alleviate this challenge, I have a message that hang off my hutch right at the top of the stairs to announce when I need quiet time to finish a project or if I’m just answering emails. If I approach my husband and he looks buried in a thought or work, I quickly prioritize my need. If it’s urgent, I ask to interrupt or I’ll just email him or call him later without disturbing him that instant. Respect is reciprocal. If you are the first to show it, it will likely come back to you. Good, consistent communication is key.
2. Office Space: My office, Your space and Our Boundaries
A few years back we shared the loft of a previous house and made it our office. It was large and easily accommodated three work areas, a meeting table with chairs, a few musical instruments and a bar. Making/receiving simultaneous phone calls were among the hurdles, but we had cordless phones, kept each other in the loop of meetings, and tried our best to respect each other’s space just as we would a colleague.
Today, as I mentioned earlier, we each have our own space and I think because we had to share an office before, we find it easier to work without doors. Communicating what works and what doesn’t with your significant other makes working under the same roof not only enjoyable, but also minimizes tension. This approach may not work for everyone, but if you figure out what works best for you and your mate, the rest of your life will go a little smoother.
3. Syncing Calendars: Work Hours, Date Night, Down Time & Safe Words
With good communication and office space aligned, syncing your calendar with your love only makes sense. Whether you are a work horse and s/he is not or you just have different opinions on when the work day should start or end, a little compromise goes a long way. So, if you just talk it through together, respect the other’s needs, a good foundation for harmony can be achieved.
Don’t forget to schedule in a date night each week AND down time to catch your breath from the many projects that will surely go along with a healthy business. My husband can be productive all day long and often finds his peak creativity at the end of the day or evening. That is usually the time I am winding down and do mundane tasks, so I’ve come up with some cookie cutter responses when he wants to dive into a new ad campaign or design late in the day. I suggest you also devise some safe words to preserve the relationship from damage and expletives.
4. Building a Team: Getting help & Vendors
When your career or business takes off, you’ll invariably need help to meet the needs of your customers. When you’re running a business with your spouse, it is a good idea to include your significant other if they want to be a part of the hiring team or manage some of the work others will be doing for you or your clients. So talk about options, people, and vendors together. And make decisions together. Nothing is worse than making a decision to move forward with a supplier and finding out your husband or wife had a bad experience in the past with them or a client left because of the vendor relationship.
You can also brainstorm some great ideas for finding help when you put your heads and experience together. Trade associations, the yearly HOW Design Live conference (I’ll be on a panel at the next one May 12-16, 2014 in Boston), your local chamber and past colleagues are all great resources for helping build a team if you need too.
5. Money, Deadlines and Delegation
Figure out from the start which of you is better with money. Who is better at paying bills on time and watching cash flow? Then once that person is delegated to handle it all, make sure the other is kept in the loop weekly and follows any processes devised. I used to worry about accounts receivable and payable when I was in the dark. Now I get weekly updates from our Freshbooks account and from my husband. It frees up my mind to worry less about financials and be more creative and productive. It also sets you up to make some financial goals and start planning for future endeavors. If you are worrying about finances constantly, you have little brain power to service your customers and grow your business., which becomes a vicious cycle that no one deserves.
I could have written the top 50 things I’ve learned, but these are the 5 most important things that have helped my husband and me forge a strong working relationship (along with a very successful business) these past 5 years. This is the man I married and want to spend time with, so it was greatly important to me to make the 24/7 life work. I feel overwhelmingly fortunate to work side by side with him and if you’re running a business with your spouse, you deserve nothing less.
So, what did I forget? I want to hear from you. Are you in love and in business with your significant other? How is it working, what are your tips?
Damien Golden has worked in many different areas of advertising, marketing and graphic design over the past 15 years. She polished her advertising and marketing expertise while working at an east coast advertising agency before launching her own award-winning, boutique graphic design firm in 2006. With the expansion of consulting, marketing and advertising services, her company, iKANDE Advertising partners with creatives in the US and Canada. Damien and her Virtual Dream Team have clients throughout the United States and abroad in the new home building field and entertainment industry. Her portfolio includes design projects from print to websites. She also contributes to various blogs and speaks at design industry conferences and local chamber and professional groups. When she’s not working, Damien loves to travel with her best-friend (her husband), spoil her mom and discover new things.