Two entrepreneurs review data in their home office.
Just like a relationship, a business partnership with your partner brings its own unique challenges and hurdles to overcome together. Here's how to make it work. — Getty Images/izusek

A romantic relationship creates a team — so when it’s a match made in heaven, starting a business together might feel right. But, just like a relationship, a business partnership with your spouse brings its own unique challenges and hurdles to overcome together.

If you’re considering starting a business with your spouse or life partner, here are six important things you need to know.

Align on common business and relationship goals

Couples need to ensure they’re working with a shared vision when it comes to the trajectory of both their business and their relationship. Otherwise, they may put themselves at risk for unnecessary setbacks, derailment, and even failure.

For husband-and-wife team O.L. and Sway Buckley, self-described “marriedpreneur” strategists and creators of The Marriedpreneur Operating Systems, clarity and alignment on their vision for marriage and business are essential.

“Staying on the same page in business operations while protecting our marriage is always a priority,” Sway told CO–. “We handle this by having daily legacy meetings and safeguarding our date nights, which we like to call a ‘no-work zone.’”

By working with the same mission, vision, and values in mind, each person has the autonomy to propel the business forward in areas of expertise while also making collaborative contributions to the business as a whole.

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Establish boundaries and open communication

When first starting a business, spouses and partners need to communicate their needs to each other, especially when it comes to figuring out a work-life balance that feels comfortable for both of them.

However, said O.L., it can be a challenge to not wear your emotions on your sleeve with each interaction.

“As ‘marriedpreneurs,’ there’s the temptation to be hyper-sensitive,” O.L. explained. “We overcome [this] by remembering [we’re] on the same team. My top piece of advice would be to establish a framework and a system for regular communication.”

At the same time, it’s important to set clear boundaries between your business partnership and your relationship.

“[Ask yourselves], ‘what's going to be our boundaries … so that we can safeguard the [relationship] from the business?’” said O.L.

“Implement systems from day one that do the heavy lifting, save time, and grow the business, leaving you time to invest in one of your greatest assets: your marriage,” added Sway.

Implement systems from day one that do the heavy lifting, save time, and grow the business, leaving you time to invest in one of your greatest assets: your marriage.

Sway Buckley, co-creator of The Marriedpreneur Operating Systems

Focus on one thing at a time

When you and your partner have commitments outside of your relationship and your business, it can be difficult to devote sufficient time to each of those areas. For instance, Taylor Tankson and her partner Kareem Wallace run a luxury home goods brand Tribe & Oak on the side of full-time jobs. Her best advice? Make specific times to focus on different facets of your life together.

“We both … have full-time jobs [and] our families and all of those things to manage, plus we're in a relationship, so the best that we can do is just split off our time,” Tankson said in a CO– Start. Run. Grow event on starting a new business. “I work from home for some of the week, [so] on those days, I'm waking up at 6:30 [a.m.] and I'm handling Tribe + Oak business until I start my normal workday. When the workday is over … we'll have dinner and [then] … we're sending emails, running the social media … packaging orders – all of those things to keep the business running. We also prioritize date nights.”

Tankson emphasized the importance of understanding that you can't do everything at one time.

“When we are focused on a thing, we're giving that thing 100%, and then we try to make a plan to … make sure everything is done,” she said.

Identify strengths and weaknesses to define your roles

The best business partners can identify their combined weaknesses and strengths — and establish a system in which each uses their strengths to support the other’s weaknesses. Whether romantic partners have similar experience backgrounds or worked in entirely different industries, they’ll need to identify and balance their individual skill sets to successfully run a business together.

Anthony Rosemond, CEO, founder, and chef at Pastreez, said he and his wife balance their relationship and business by having clear, different missions in running their online macaron bakery.

“There is the kitchen part and the online part, [so] each of us takes one part of the business,” Rosemond told CO–. “Each of us has our own 'garden.' Then, communication is key to make sure both of these worlds connect to bring quality to our customers."

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Support each other

You entered a relationship with each other for a reason. You want to start a business together for a reason. You love each other and what you do so much that you decided to put the two together. The overarching mission of the business, coupled with the strength of your relationship, acts as the foundation on which to build a successful company.

“I have someone who can help keep my work effort in proportion to my priorities within [the relationship],” said O.L. “[Your partner is] there with you, going through it with you in real time, and they are directly impacted by it.”

“The number one perk of being in business with my husband is the gift of ‘doing’ life together, versus spending eight hours a day away from each other, giving the best of ourselves to someone else’s dream and the ‘leftovers’ to each other,” added Sway.

During your journey as entrepreneurs in a romantic relationship, you need to become each other’s most fervent supporters — at the best and worst times. Lean into each other for motivation, support, and knowledge as you navigate running a business and building your dreams together.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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CO— is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Published April 19, 2022