Are you in business with your life partner and can’t tell the difference between your bedroom and the boardroom? Welcome to the world of Couplepreneurs!
What are “Couplepreneurs”? This term describes any two persons living together in a committed relationship and also owning and managing a business together. Couplepreneurship is a growing phenomenon for several reasons, including: corporate downsizing; more women entering the workforce; early retirees looking for another venture; and technology that allows a small business to become a viable option for earning a family income.
Statistics are not specifically kept on the number of small businesses jointly owned by couples. However, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA), the number of “jointly owned sole proprietorships” is increasing steadily at greater than 5% a year. Since “jointly owned sole proprietorship” is a tax term for a business where two individuals share ownership, this information could indicate a rise in Couplepreneurship. The actual increase in businesses owned by couples may be higher, as the SBA does not keep statistics on corporations or partnerships run by couples.
Being partners at home and in business is not only doubly challenging, but exponentially more complicated than being partners in only one of these endeavors. I congratulate all of those brave and adventurous souls who are doing both successfully. The following tips have been gleaned from my own experiences living and owning businesses with my entrepreneurial husband over the past twenty years; extensive reading; and interviews with several other successful Couplepreneurs.
So, for couples encountering some bumps while traveling the Couplepreneur road; Couplepreneurs who want more from either their personal or business partnership; and those considering embarking on the Couplepreneur adventure, I offer the following success secrets.
1. A shared, clear vision of your ideal business and relationship, with an integrated plan to enjoy both.
To be successful as Couplepreneurs requires planning a life-with a vision that includes personal and relationship goals as well as business goals. If both partners are not moving in the same direction toward common goals, they will grow apart. Ideally, partners will always be in synch. Realistically, they may start out with different goals and desires regarding the business, and/or as the business and family circumstances change, their dreams may diverge, or even change. Successful Couplepreneurs look for creative options that embrace both partners’ visions.
2. Respect for each other’s values.
Since values are the principles and beliefs that guide decisions, attitudes and behaviors; each partner’s values must be acceptable to the other. If partners are forced to act contrary to their core values, frustration and struggle will result. Assumedly, partners have similar values since they are a couple sharing a life. However, when partners team up in business, they may become aware of some aspects of their partner’s value system of which they were previously unaware. Values related to money, commitment, work ethic, integrity, authority, and responsibility may become much more important when a couple shares both personal and business lives. Successful Couplepreneurs honor each other’s values at home and in business.
3. Effective communication system to resolve conflicts.
Perfect communication between any two human beings is not realistic. However, when partners learn to manage their preferred communication styles, their relationship and business will both benefit. When they embrace each other’s usual problem-solving process, conflicts are resolved more quickly. Through experience, they have learned what works for each partner i.e., whether one person needs to retreat, be reassured, blow off steam, etc. They know that it is important not to judge each other for reacting differently to problems, and it is most important to not take their partner’s reactions personally. They deliberately focus the anger and frustration on the problem, and not on each other. Successful Couplepreneurs solve conflicts together by creatively implementing a joint solution.
4. Agreements on levels of financial risk.
This relates to respecting each other’s values, as one’s perception of money is integral to a person’s value system. Risk tolerance is based on beliefs about money. Successful Couplepreneurs have examined their money beliefs, including the following:
o Is each partner basically optimistic or pessimistic when it comes to his or her relationship to money?
o Do they have the abundance mentality, believing that there is enough for everyone?
o Do they have the scarcity mentality, believing their gain means someone else’s loss?
o What is each partner willing to risk to make the business grow?
o What is the line each will not cross? (For example: not losing the house, keeping medical insurance, etc.)
For success, the more risk-tolerant partner must agree not to exceed the level of risk acceptable to the more conservative partner. When the less risk-tolerant partner feels that his or her boundary is being respected, they will likely then become more flexible regarding accepting greater risks.
The bottom line is that who you are as individuals and as a team, and how you relate to each other and the outside world, will largely determine how successful you are as Couplepreneurs.