My wife, Laurene, has been my business partner for twenty-eight years. We learned how to keep our marriage separate from our business interactions. (Mostly through trial and error!)
Many self-funded entrepreneurs work with their spouses. Our story is somewhat different from most husband-and-wife partnerships, however.
We actually cofounded our company, PurchasingNet Inc. first, and got married three years later. So we started as business partners and then became husband and wife. Most husband-and-wife business partnerships happen after getting married, not before.
Nonetheless, we have learned a great deal about how a husband and wife can work together effectively and stay married. Most people I know simply say, “I could never work with my husband [or wife]. We’d probably kill each other!”
Here is what works for us.
First and foremost, we established roles and responsibilities at home. The responsibilities changed over the years as the needs of our daughter, Erika, changed. They weren’t always split evenly, but they were clear, and there was minimal overlap.
So, for example, I was responsible for food shopping and preparing dinner Monday through Friday. When Erika was high-school age, I was responsible for taking her to school and picking her up.
Laurene was primarily responsible for Erika when our daughter was young and for doing the laundry, paying the bills, and maintaining the house. She also helped Erika with her hobbies and activities and prepared meals on the weekends.
The responsibility assignments were dynamic and negotiable, but always clear.
We agreed that using a housekeeper one day a week would be a big help (once we could afford one).
Once you have established responsibilities on the home front, you’re ready to think about business roles and responsibilities.
It is important to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each spouse, maximize the strengths, and minimize the weaknesses. It is also important to recognize you may use different styles to get things done.
Laurene and I have very different ways of doing things. That is part of the reason we make a great team. Our skill sets complement one another.
More about this in Part 2 next week.