Home Business - Keeping It In the Family
I'm sure you've heard this dreaded statistic before: the failure rate of all start-up
businesses is around the 90% mark. Add to that the further distinctly unpleasant
fact that roughly 50% of all marriages end in divorce and you can quickly see that
the odds of your new small business succeeding, already slim, become positively
anorexic if you run your business in partnership with your spouse.
So, what are some of the key challenges faced by newly entrepreneurial couples and
what can YOU do to reduce the chances of becoming a statistic?
A structure is only as strong as the foundation upon which it's built. If you're in
business with your spouse, the foundation of your structure is the relationship. That
needs to be like bedrock before you even contemplate starting a business together.
Make sure you honestly assess your commitment to the business and to each other up
front. Do you share the same family values and desires? Do you plan to have (more)
children? If so, how do you accommodate family responsibilities and build a business
at the same time?
Discuss these issues before they arise. The last thing you, your business, your
relationship or your family needs are nasty surprises. If you simply assume your spouse
will cut back on the business and assume the lion's share of the parenting responsibilities,
think again. Your spouse may be making the same assumption ... about you!
Preserve and nurture what's led you to where you are today: your relationship with
each other. And that may not be as easy as it sounds.
At least in the early days of the business, your relationship will need to thrive on
a lack of quality 'couple' time or, indeed, any time at all! It is by no means
unusual for new business owners to be working 16 hours a day, 7 days a week to get
their businesses off the ground. That's one very important reason why your
relationship needs to be in good shape before you go into business together. You
don't want to be subjecting a relationship in trouble to that sort of pressure.
Look for ways to retain romantic intimacy. When you're working 16/7 that won't
happen by itself. One good idea is to schedule 'dates' on a regular basis. Even once
a week can make all the difference. Just make sure you don't use the time to talk
shop. This is supposed to be romantic time for the two of you as a couple. Tomorrow's
the time to discuss business and it will be here soon enough!
You can, I'm sure, think of many other ways to keep romance alive. Start little
rituals, such as candlelight dinner breaks, for example. The important thing is to
always stay aware of this area of your relationship and don't let it slide, no matter
how absorbed you both become in your new business. You'll probably find you take it
in turns being vigilant in this area.
Division of Responsibility
It is absolutely crucial that each of you has your own clearly defined areas of sole
responsibility. Any business needs one and only one person to make a final decision.
This doesn't mean that one person makes all the decisions, it just means that one
person makes the final decision in his or her area of sole responsibility.
Start by allocating business responsibilities between you and having a very clear
understanding that each of you has final decision-making authority in your respective
areas. Under no circumstances should you encroach on your partner's area of
responsibility and/or override his or her decisions. Start doing that and the cracks
WILL begin to appear, I kid you not!
Sure, consult each other when making decisions. That's what business partners do,
after all. But the ultimate decision-making authority must rest with the one who has
overall responsibility for the relevant area of the business.
The business is not the only area where responsibility needs to be divided. Don't
forget to allocate responsibility for household chores and parenting responsibilities.
Who is to do the grocery shopping, the laundry, the cleaning and bill payments?