Entrepreneurial Britain has seen a boom in family firms over recent years, with a fair share being husband and wife duos. For some, the decision to go into business with a spouse is a logical one. For others, it’s a recipe for disaster. So how do you survive managing a business with your significant other?
We founded PR agency PHA Media ten years ago, and will be celebrating our birthday in October. The business is growing, and we haven’t murdered each other – yet. Here are our tips for making it work.
SEPARATE YOUR ROLES
It’s so important to clearly define your roles at the outset. If your responsibilities overlap, there is more opportunity for friction.
By identifying and playing to your individual strengths and attributes, you can easily assign each other distinct roles. This will help distinguish areas of leadership within the business.
We both manage separate areas of the company: Phil is chairman and remains client facing because of the amount of contacts he’s accrued through his career in journalism, and I, as a former chartered and European patent attorney, am finance and legal director.
Having other partners, such as our managing director Mark Gregory, also makes things less intense.
BOARDROOM NOT BEDROOM
Strategic decisions and discussions should always be debated in the boardroom.
Discussing important matters in advance at home might be difficult to resist, but it can take things out of context, and it means you may pre-empt your partner’s thoughts when it comes to making a decision.
If others sit on the board, it’s essential to ensure that each partner has an equal voice and no individual has an unfair advantage.
BOUNDARIES AT HOME
Owning a business means it’s inevitable that your working life will eat into your time at home, and of course it’s very difficult to avoid this.
However, when you are in business with your partner, you need to set time aside when work is officially off limits.
It’ll be difficult to maintain a healthy family life – especially if there are children involved.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
But it’s also important to remember that your other half is not a mind-reader. You always need to keep a partner in the loop, and the same goes for married partners.
It may be easy to assume what your partner is thinking – or think they must know what you’re thinking – but you can’t afford to take risks like that in business.
After all, communication is part of mutually respecting one another, a key element of any partnership.
The great thing about working with your spouse is that you both understand the pressures that the other might be experiencing.
It might be tough for both for you at the same time, but you will be able to support each other.
When you first set up the business, outlining both of your goals is crucial. More often than not, your ambitions for the business will be very similar, but if not, refining goal posts with realistic measures can aid the company’s growth.
That way, you will both know what you are working towards and can enjoy the success of achieving your original objectives.
As the business develops, this vision may change, but as long as you continue to communicate with one another, you can accomplish a shared vision.