Navigating a marriage with its seismic energy can be stressful enough, so just imagine your future if you are in business with your spouse. If something happens to your business, not only are your finances in jeopardy; your marriage may be on the rocks.
When my husband and I went into business together, we knew we were putting a lot at risk. Five years later, we’ve grown our profits at an average of 20 percent a year, have more than 20 employees, and have won multiple awards in our industry.
But it isn’t all trophies — challenges are everywhere.
We spend too much time talking about work and not enough time having fun. When one of us gets stressed, we both get stressed. Take venting about work, for example. Since we both run the business, we think a rant requires a solution, reorganization or some other major step. Sometimes, all that is required is a sympathetic, listening ear.
Despite these challenges, being in business together really works for us. We’re both well suited for the entrepreneurial approach. We both have strong drives, mile-wide competitive streaks and are people pleasers. Yet, working together so closely adds a layer of complexity to our marriage. To muddy things further, our entire organization works remotely. That means we work out of our home.
So what does it take to run a successful business while staying happily married? I’m not a therapist or relationship expert, but I am a happily married CEO of a growing company working closely with my husband in very close quarters. Here are our five key ingredients for success:
- Conviction. We believe strongly in the work we do for our clients. This drives all of our decisions and provides our purpose. Without this, it would be easy to give up when the going gets tough.
- Respect. Having mutual respect — on top of love — means we aren’t threatened by one another. We listen and recognize strengths rather than criticizing or taking each other for granted. All successful working relationships require respect, whether they be professional relationships or personal.
- Trust. Any successful marriage needs trust. When running a business together, the desire for trust is magnified beyond normal marital issues. We both have to believe we have the best intentions for the business and toward one another.
- Roles. From the beginning, we established a division of labor. We both recognize one another’s expertise. I’m the accountant and software expert. Rob is the marketing and technology guru. We admit what we don’t know and we don’t meddle in each other’s business.
- Flexibility. We aren’t control freaks. The larger our company grows, the more important it is for us to develop the ability to delegate and not to be involved in every element of the business.
One of the biggest keys to success in working with my husband is that we know each other very well. For example, I love creating opportunities, while my husband is more creative. I know he hates budgeting, but I like working with numbers. It probably simplifies things that we don’t have children, yet. I guess you could say our company is our child; we’re certainly spending enough time raising it!
Marjorie Adams is president/CEO of Fourlane, a firm that improves the efficiency of client accounting departments through bookkeeping, tax, software consulting and business process training. The firm specializes in showing customers that they can continue in higher level QuickBooks products as they grow. In her spare time, Marjorie catches up with one of her six sisters, sweats through a morning run, reads a business book or watches the latest AMC show.
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