Opening a business with a partner who is a spouse or friend has benefits but it also can be really difficult. It is wonderful to be mutually invested and excited over your company wins. However, it can be stressful on the relationship when in a rough patch. There is no real separation of church and state… you still have to have dinner together and get the kids to bed even if you are angry or disappointed about something. It’s draining to be angry and it’s a bad feeling if you think you’ve let your partner down, this issue is worse when it is tied to your family.
We complement each other in a variety of ways, each having a different set of strengths. So when we decided to go into business together and were dividing out roles it was apparent who would be responsible for what. For instance Bill is good with numbers so he handle’s payroll and projections, I am stronger in sales so I set up our sales protocols. It’s great that one of us doesn’t have to do it all, however, once the doors are open tasks arise that might not be anticipated, then where does it fall? We think in our case a few of the items we missed may have been due to falling under the category of “no one really wants to deal with this.” An example in our current business is our membership program. Recurring membership programs require a lot of administration and when someone opts out of the program there is some paperwork that needs to be completed. It is a task that neither of us is very interested in doing, and unfortunately led to a miss in a month for one of our clients.
The client didn’t call us on it but when reviewing some reports we found it. Megan was angry and embarrassed. It was a task that from opening Megan felt like Bill generally lead, although begrudgingly, as one of the “no one wants to deal with this” category. After a long day of work and managing our home and kids, when we found this error. Megan was angry with Bill and let him know! Had this happened with someone we work with but weren’t married to we would have handle it very differently. We would have discussed it, rectified it and made sure we had a plan to double check that error from happening in the future. Instead it lead to an accusation that he wasn’t taking care of a part of his job. It was truly one in hundreds that was missed but when you are married to your business partner it can get all wrapped up in one bundle and unfortunately they get your best and worst. Of course, Bill immediately fixed the situation and checked to make sure we hadn’t repeated the error anywhere else.
Because we are human we will make mistakes, how quickly we forgive and move on affects our time and relationships. Most mistakes aren’t worth harboring resentment and wallowing in them certainly doesn’t move business or relationship. In our case, a brief time out where we just step away from the situation for a few minutes, walk around the block to re-center ourselves or a good night of sleep gives us the ability to have meaningful conversation and move forward in a productive way.
Most people’s plan when they start their business is that there will always be ample money, ample time and a great staff to help make it work. While that may happen in some circumstances, from our experiences there are more hiccups than that. More fell on our shoulders and new tasks popped up that we were not anticipating. If it falls under one of our strengths generally that person will run with it but on the “no one wants to deal with this” jobs we have to discuss how to divide it, ultimately take care of it and move on. While you can’t just give someone else a task that you don’t like, you can have intent when you hire and train staff to take care of items they are good at. In this case we were able to find someone on our team who is at managing clients opting in and out of our program!
The best piece for us about being in business together is that neither of us are worried about the other’s commitment to the business. We know that we are giving it the best we can, and ultimately can trust in each other effort level. Especially on the days when it isn’t roses and lollipops, and you feel like you are in the trenches, it is so much better to be with your partner than going it alone!