Rules of the Road When You're Partners in Life and Business

Talking business over morning coffee, finances over lunch and operations at dinner. If you’re not careful, this is what happens when you’re married to your business partner. To some, this might seem exciting, others terrifying. Long term, I’d suggest that a constant integration of the two worlds isn’t optimal.

Walking the marriage/business partner line requires a different awareness level than working with a business partner who leaves at the end of the day. Here, our goal is to have both a successful business and a fulfilling marriage, and avoid having the business become all-consuming. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially when you’re both passionate about the business and like to work.

The single most important change we made to separate work and personal, was to get back to a regularly scheduled business meeting. No missing it for our favorite TV show, or because I need to practice yoga, or he wants to get to the gym. Nope, our meeting time is sacred.

Consider these points, and the value of a set partner meeting where business issues get addressed on a predicable schedule. By absorbing most of the casual discussion around business issues, this meeting leaves more personal time for enjoyable conversation (or naps!).

Make note of the topics you need to discuss. I admit, I’m normally the guilty one when it comes to bringing up business issues randomly. With a set meeting now, I document the things that pop into my mind on our white board. They’re all in one place and the majority don’t require an instant answer. The spontaneous peppering of questions, however innocent it may seem, isn’t a great way to set the mood at home. Plus, it’s important to have a focused conversation and not be addressing business issues while you’re trying to cook dinner or do the laundry.

Consistent data points. Create a set of data points so both people are informed of key metrics. For example, when one person is doing the finances, the other person needs to be updated consistently. Data eliminates gray areas of question. If both partners are buying products, in our case wood vs ceramics, we both need to know the current status of the income statement. Other data points include social media and email marketing metrics, and web analytics. My partner is the “maker” in the business, however, he’s also a co-founder. He has good, objective business insights even though he prefers the maker space.

Regular communication. Talking about issues such as the timing of shipments, the hand-off of projects, the arrival of items, is necessary. In our case, I need to know when the gift boxes will be in the studio and ready for fulfillment. I can’t get gift boxes the day they ship and he can’t be expected to hand-craft a gift box overnight. Surprises aren’t good, discussing timelines is critical to a streamlined process and lower blood pressure.

Plan time off for the year. We looked at calendars during our December meeting and set time off throughout the coming year. Now we don’t have to pry open a long weekend, in the midst of projects, which is way more stressful. We have some flexibility built in, however, it’s marked on our calendars.

I won’t kid you and say it’s a perfect plan. There’s still overlap. However, the scheduled meeting has cleared the way for more relaxing personal time together. Namaste!