Monday, April 23, 2007

Spouses in Business Together

There's been a lot written about the pro's and con's of starting a business together with your spouse. Sometimes the articles seem written by "professionals" with theory's, sometimes by actual participants in such a venture. Here's a few of my thoughts and experiences:
  • Who makes the decisions? This is probably the most important decision of all when starting a business with a spouse. Often you read something like "we talk about it then decide together". Well, of course, for many decisions this is true, but in real life it doesn't always work out so easily. Sometimes you just cannot agree on something. This may be due to a different point of view, different belief systems, or one spouse may have an appreciation for certain business aspects. For example, I handle the money and worry about making a profit, while my spouse is more concerned about the appeal of the house to potential buyers. My spouse also has a belief that if you are going to do a job "do it right" while I want to do it cheaply. So this often creates stress and one of us has to give in to the other. One thing I have learned is that she gets upset if I make a decision without consulting her.
  • How does work get split? This can create lots of stress if one spouse perceives that the other is not carrying their share of the load. We split our work based on who is more interested and skilled in the nature of the work. Sometimes it is not straight forward. My wife was an accountant in China and I thought she would do the accounting. I bought QuickBooks in December, but she has yet to enter our data. I don't have a clue when it comes to accounting and she does not want to pay to hire an accountant. Nagging doesn't work, so now I just have to wait to see how this plays out.
  • How do you deal with your relationship? If all you do is work together is that sufficient to ensure a good marriage? I don't think so, but time is a big problem (especially when one spouse is still working full time). Last night my wife wanted to take a long walk, but I felt so pressured to get more done that I stopped short and she felt upset that I was making her a low priority.
  • How do you deal with the stress and pressure of time and money? Sometimes I feel myself being very impatient about a particular task or with my wife. It may seem unrelated but inevitably boils down to a fear of loss - losing money or time to spend doing other things (for example, my kids spend only every other weekend with me and I end up spending all my time on the business and not with my kids). I find myself losing my temper more frequently than before we started the business (normally I am very mild mannered). We have been pouring out cash for 4 months now and have yet to see a cent of profit. I often find myself waking up at 4 am and being overwhelmed with anxiety about our finances and unable to sleep.

Starting a business is itself a very stressful undertaking. Starting a business with a spouse can add substantially to that. However, for many people, it is not an option due to the financial aspects of having to hire someone to replace your spouse. In the beginning my wife was thrilled to be working alongside me, I'm not so sure that thrill is still there. Is it worth it? Some say that the if you weather the storms together you will have a stronger marriage, some say you will end up divorced. For now, the final chapters have yet to be written


Diane Cipa, The Closing Specialists® said...

Well, my husband and I worked together for two years.

We split duties and agreed not to step on the other's toes. If we HAD to continue working that way, we would have been very unhappy but would have done what we had to do.

Given a choice, we decided to be spouses again and not co-workers.

I know two other couples who started businesses together and they also split duties. I think the only hope is to draw a line and not cross over it.

Anonymous said...

I certainly think you should over-ride your wife's decision not to get a CPA. It's a business and you have made mistakes in the past.Tax situations are different from China. Also, what about a local bank for financing instead of websites. My thoughts come from personal experience.My husband and I have been business partners since before marriage in 1971 and still are.