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Love and Business: 5 Tips for Working with Your Significant Other

Love and Business: 5 Tips for Working with Your Significant Other
Credit: lsantilli/Shutterstock

If you and your romantic partner have a great idea and share an entrepreneurial drive, you might think launching a startup together is the perfect way to merge your personal and professional lives. But lovebirds, be warned: Going into business with a significant other may not be exactly what you're expecting.

When serial entrepreneur Nicole Bandklayder co-founded jewelry e-commerce company Bijouxx Jewels with her partner, David Pomije, they already each had their own startups. So they were familiar with the world of entrepreneurship, but she admits they were a bit naïve about what it would be like to start a business together.

"I liked the prospect of spending more time together, but being together all the time while working is not the same as being together for date night or other romantic ventures," said Bandklayder, who serves as CMO of Bijouxx. "You really have to be in the right mind-set to work and always be on the same team."

Guy Oranim and Sharon Rechter, the husband-and-wife team that founded cable television channel BabyFirst in 2004, agreed that there's a learning curve when you live and work together every day. [6 Business Ideas for Couples]

"People are different at work and at home, so you need to lay out the rules before working with your husband or wife," Rechter told Business News Daily in a 2013 interview. "Talk openly and candidly about your expectations before you start, so if something doesn't work out, you can walk away [from the business] without damaging your personal relationship."

If you're starting (or already have started) a business with your spouse or partner, here are a few survival tips to keep your entrepreneurial venture — and your relationship — on track.

If you think you and your sweetheart are going to be working side by side and sharing responsibilities, you may want to think again. When Randy and Angie Stocklin, the husband-and-wife team behind e-commerce company One Click Ventures, started their business, Angie Stocklin thought she'd be working on common tasks with her husband, she said. She quickly learned that their very different strengths meant they were better suited to have separate responsibilities.

"At the end of the day, our varied strengths and divided responsibilities made us a stronger team, because it allowed us to become experts and excel at different areas of the business," Angie Stocklin said in a 2014 email interview. "We didn't have competing strengths and therefore quickly learned to rely on the other person to carry their portion of the responsibility."

Oranim and Rechter also take a "divide and conquer" approach to their business and have a clear understanding of who is in charge of certain things. Partners can consult with each other, but at the end of the day, one of them should be the decision-maker for each business issue, Rechter said.

There are going to be times when a business dilemma makes its way to your dinner table, or when a personal disagreement follows you to the office. These crossovers are hard to prevent completely, but you should both actively try to maintain a line between your work and home lives.

"Don't let your personal issues get in the way of business discussions," said Pomije, CEO of Bijouxx. "It is very important ... to be able to have a business meeting without getting overly emotional or off-topic."

Similarly, Rechter said she and her husband have agreed that their love and marriage come before anything in their business, so they try not to lose perspective when there's a heated disagreement in the office.

Any entrepreneur knows how time-consuming running a business can be. When you're working with your significant other, it can be even more challenging to find the time to devote to personal activities, such as side hobbies and spending time with other family members and friends. But doing so is important to the health of your personal relationship.

"When you are an entrepreneur, the business consumes a huge portion of your time and mindshare," Randy Stocklin said. "When you and your spouse are both working together on the same business on a full-time basis, your time and mindshare are squeezed even more than usual."

"Once the business day is over, always try to take off your [business] hat and spend quality time together," Pomije added. "A good balance is necessary to make your business grow and succeed."

The greatest advantage of working with your partner is the trust factor, Randy Stocklin said. There should never be a question of your individual motives, because your personal and professional interests should be aligned.

This is important to remember when you disagree about business issues. When your significant other makes a business decision that you don't understand, don't assume that it was a move against you. As your partner, he or she isn't competing for power or trying to get ahead of you. Believe that all decisions are made with each other's well-being in mind, Rechter said.

"It's a great privilege to work with your spouse," Oranim added. "When you work in different places, you don't understand what it's like to go through your spouse's day. Working together means you can share your personal and professional concerns, fears and hopes. It's very fulfilling."

Entrepreneurship isn't a 9-to-5 job — it's a lifestyle choice. A couple who wants to go into business together needs to realize what this entails and prepare to devote themselves to it.

"Both you and your [partner] need to know what you're getting into right from the very beginning," Angie Stocklin said. "You have to understand the business before you start, but if you wait until everything is perfect, you'll never do it. Take an educated leap of faith, believe in your abilities and continue working as hard as possible to iron out the details."

"If you have a strong relationship, complementary skills and shared goals, building a business together can be a very rewarding experience," Randy Stocklin added. "You have to be honest with each other on all three of these points. If you ... are prepared to face difficult situations together, you have a much better chance [of succeeding]."

This article was originally published in 2013 and was updated Nov. 24, 2015.

Nicole Fallon Taylor
Nicole Fallon Taylor

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the assistant editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.