You married or live with him or her because you love them. But could you spend your working days with them too? And sleep together at night? Here are 10 simple questions to ask before starting a home business with a partner or spouse.
1) Can you work side-by-side?
This seems like a basic question – you play well in the sandbox – so why can’t you work well together? There are many reasons from constant contact to settling personal and business differences. Ask yourself honestly if a working arrangement can be productive, successful, and not destroy the positive and personal side of your lives.
2) Do you each have common goals?
Is your vision the same as your partner? Does he or she support and agree with what you want to do and vice-versa? If one wants to make widgets and the other wants to make cogs, how will you reconcile that? What about the long-term? Do you both agree about a long-term vision for the business? Does it fit with your personal goals? And if you have children, how do they fit in the mix?
3) Define and agree on roles
Will you do bookkeeping or will the other? Determine who is responsible for producing the product (if appropriate) and who will handle customer service. Also, who will make the final decision if common agreement is impossible? You don’t want a business to cause friction in your personal life and the business needs are important too. Someone must be in charge.
4) Define the business plan
Sometimes an objective third party is a good choice for reviewing a business plan. An organization like SCORE will gladly assist entrepreneurs interested in starting a business – individuals or couples – with business plans and start-up businesses.
5) Talk. Talk. Talk.
Open and honest conversation is key to successful marriages and a successful business. Set aside time to talk specifically about business issues. When discussing, don’t be critical or dismiss the other’s ideas. You are not always right and the other is not always wrong. Relationships are a 50-50 proposition. A business partnership is too.
6) Draw a line between family and business
Maybe your business hours are 8 to 4 or one works that shift while another works a later time. Whatever the case, draw that line between family time and business time. If you promised to take the kids to the water park after school, make sure the business doesn’t interfere. The flip side is also true. Don’t allow your pillow talk to wander into the upcoming client meeting or quarterly taxes.
7) Create logical boundaries
Work is work. The office is the office, even if the office is at home. Design your work and living spaces to be separate from each other. This helps keep personal and professional lives from conflicting.
8) Present as a team
Be united as business partners. If you are parents, you don’t allow children to play one parent against another. Do the same with your business. Answer client questions the same way, each and every time.
9) Keep customers in the dark
Clients don’t need to know that your spouse is the other partner. Keep them out of the loop. Refer to your partner by name or as my partner, not as my husband or wife. The less a client knows, the better.
10) Contingency plans
With both spouses working on the same business, failure is a double whammy. Instead of losing one income, both incomes are gone. Have a sizable cash reserve and another way to make money, if needed. Assuming the worst outcome will make you plan more carefully and cautiously. Build those reserves – remember, you have a family to feed too. Further, draw up a partnership agreement that allows for one to get out, if they want to or must. A business attorney can assist with this endeavor.