20 Lessons from Couples Running a Business Together

Running a business is stressful enough – maybe even more so when trying to run a company alongside your spouse. Ahead of Valentine’s Day, real-life couples share their tips for juggling love and business. No. 1: “Figure out who has strengths to do which task. It’s like running a household – one person may be great at yard work and the other person may be great at cooking. You have to figure that out in the business as well,” says Arianne Bennett, who co-owns Washington, D.C.-based Amsterdam Falafelshop with her husband Scott. No. 2: “Understand each other’s work styles and take that into consideration for how to meet in the middle and compromise,” says Homezada co-founder Beth Dodson, who runs the San Francisco-based company with her husband John Bodrozic. No. 3: “Make sure you’re on the same page and acting as a team,” says Survival Strap co-founder Kurt Walchle, who started his Ponte Vedra, Florida-based company with his wife Melissa. Early on, he says he sat his wife down during a difficult period to make sure that she still believed in the vision for the company. No. 4: “Carry notebooks around. There are times when you can’t talk out a decision at the moment, like when training employees. If you jump in, it’s bad and doesn’t present a united front. So we write things down to discuss later,” says Bennett. No. 5: “Work hard to be kind to each other,” says Suzy Boerboom, co-founder of Welcyon with her husband Tom. No. 6: Embrace healthy conflict. “You need healthy conflict for a company to grow,” says Dodson. No. 7: Don’t make disagreements public. “Try not to disagree in front of employees. Sometimes it’s hard when decisions are made on the fly, but it looks like you’re not together in the business,” says Kim Peeples, who started Claremont, California-based VOM FASS with her partner Denise Solis. No. 8: “Be patient with each other and remember that it’s stressful,” says Mike Lohman, who co-owns Los Angeles-based Go Mini’s with his wife Christine Munro. No.  9: Schedule date nights. “We try and have a date night once every two weeks and we get a babysitter,” says Walchle. No. 10: Remember why you started the business. “Money is commonly fought about in any business, but keep in mind that the business is there to make your life overall better. You didn’t go into business to make your lives worse,” says Fred Skeppstrom, who co-owns a Wilmette, Illinois-based TapSnap franchise with his wife Victoria. No. 11: Don’t make disagreements personal. “It comes from our backgrounds in the corporate world. We know how to disagree on professional opinions without dragging personal feelings into it. Don’t ever take it into the home,” says Lenny Feldman, who co-owns Hackensack, New Jersey-based Executive Home Care with his wife Mila. No. 12: Be prepared for the long haul. “Don’t expect to see a reward the very next day,” says Skeppstrom. No. 13: “Try not to overstep the other’s boundaries. He has things he likes doing, and I do things I like doing,” says FlipFlop Dogs co-founder Taffy Miltz, who started the company with her husband Jack. No. 14: “We do not hold a grudge. Never say, ‘I told you so,’” says Miltz. No. 15: “Trust the other person to make sound choices that get you to the same goal,” says Bennett. No. 16: “Take at least one day a week and shut it down. Don’t talk about the business, and focus on the family,” says Lohman. No. 17: Appreciate the shared challenge. “One advantage is that both spouses understand the grind and the work needed to put into the startup,” says Bodrozic. No. 18: Decide who gets the ultimate say-so. [My husband] gets the final say-so, so my mission is to convince him. If you don’t decide, you can go around in circles,” says Bennett. No. 19: Define your values. “We recognize that even though we have different skill sets and strengths, we have the same value system, so we always come back to the core values that match,” says Boerboom. No. 20: Take vacation. “We try and take one time a year where she and I get away from the kids and the business and we have one rule: Don’t mention [the business],” says Walchle.

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