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Find balance when your business partner is your spouse

Spouse as business partner

Part 3 of a 3-part series on running a family business

Having similar goals and interests are key to many successful relationships. So it's no wonder that about one-third of family businesses are run by husband-and-wife teams, according to the Wall Street Journal. Running a business together requires the same qualities that create a successful marriage: trust, communication and commitment. Working hand-in-hand to build a partnership that's both professional and personal can be incredibly rewarding. Here are some tips to keep both relationships healthy:

Define roles. You each have different strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to work as a team and excel in different roles. By defining your roles clearly, you can divide and conquer the work that goes into your business, as well as agree who makes decisions for different business areas.

Be ready to compromise. Sometimes it's better to be happy than it is to be right. In marriage, as well as business, it's important to choose your battles. It's OK to let your partner have the deciding vote on some issues, or work to meet in the middle on others.

Minimize emotional crossovers. Seeing each other both at work and at home makes it easy for a disagreement to follow you to the office, or back home. Maintaining a line between work and home can provide a constructive work environment for employees and a healthy home environment for your relationship. This may mean putting in place rules about when business can be discussed at home or personal lives discussed at work.

Discuss risk tolerance. Having the same source of income for both spouses can introduce additional financial risk. If the business goes under, there could be no income to turn to. Discuss the risk of all financial moves for your business and family finances, and consider how you will handle bumps in the road. A substantial emergency fund can help.

Develop a contingency plan. Nobody likes to think about things like divorce or death. But when you're running a business with your spouse, there are some important points to consider:

  • Do we continue working together if we get divorced?
  • If someone wants to leave the business is there a buyout?
  • Can I continue running the business if my partner dies?

Find some space. Spending 24/7 with your spouse can strain your relationship. Finding some space from each other in your free time can keep the passion alive and allow you to continue learning from each other for years to come. Engage in separate hobbies and spend time with different friends. Make sure to schedule time apart so you'll have something new to talk about outside of work.

Remember to have fun. Running a business with your spouse shouldn't mean that you have to be serious all the time. Find humor in your day or take advantage of your flexible schedule to take time off together — or separately.

Your complementary characteristics, interests and view of the future are what helped bring you together in the first place. It's those same traits that can keep your partnership going for years to come.

For more insights and information on running a business, visit our Business Resource Center.

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The information contained herein may not represent the views and opinions of California Bank & Trust, a division of ZB, N.A. or its affiliates. It is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.
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