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Should You Start a Small Business With Your Spouse?

Oh, the age-old question: Should you work with the people you love? The decision of whether or not to include your spouse in your small business is an extremely personal one, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Because while it may sound like a dream come true, it can quickly become a nightmare if you haven't set the right boundaries.

Here are some pros and cons to consider if you’re thinking of starting a small business with your spouse or inviting them into the one you’ve already created.

Should you start a small business with your spouse?

Most of the business owners I’ve met fall into one of two categories: they either dream of hiring their spouse full-time and getting them out of their 9-5, or they think working with their spouse would be a living nightmare. No in-between.

The decision of whether or not to start a small business with your spouse or invite them into the one you already run is entirely up to you. As you’re thinking about it, consider these questions:

  • Is there a natural space for your spouse in your business? Too often, I see business owners trying to fit their spouses into their businesses in ways that don’t make sense. If your partner is super analytical and data-driven, chances are they won’t excel in the creative role you want them to take on. But if you need support with project planning or research, they might fit more naturally into your team.

  • Does your spouse genuinely want to be part of your business? Just because you don’t want to work a 9-5 doesn’t mean your partner doesn’t, either. Make sure that your dreams for your spouse are aligned with their career goals, and don’t try to pressure them into a role they aren’t excited about.

  • Does it make sense financially? Many of the married business owners I know rely on the stability of their partner’s job during the slow months. And let’s not forget health insurance! For some couples, there are definitely benefits to keeping one spouse in the corporate world. It just depends on your needs.

No matter which way you’re leaning, be sure to take your time making the decision and communicate with your partner throughout the process.

Pros & Cons of Starting a Small Business With Your Spouse

As you’re deciding whether or not to start a small business with your spouse, make a pros and cons list. Here are some to get you started.

PRO: You’ll truly get to work together financially.

In most marriages, each partner pursues their own careers and goals, and they work together to make sure their individual paths are getting them closer to their joint goals. Plus, it can make filing taxes together a tad bit easier. (Of course, the easiest way to file is with the help of a finance pro!) For the most part, it's easier to manage your finances if you're both on the same page.

CON: You’ll rely on one another for your income.

When you run your business alone, you are solely responsible for your own income. But when you run it with a partner, you have to rely on each other to work hard and keep the money flowing. During the slow months, it’s easy to place the blame on the other party. He’s not working hard enough. She’s taking too much time off. They’re not as invested in this as I am. But remember, you’re both in this together. To make it work, you have to be able to trust your partner to care about your joint success as much as you do.

PRO: You’ll always have someone to talk to about work.

If there’s one thing I miss about my corporate job, it’s having people to commiserate with. When you run your own business, no one truly understands the ins and outs of your career like you do.

When you work with a partner, though, you both have a behind-the-scenes view of what’s happening in the business. You’ll always have someone to bounce ideas off of, gossip about troublesome clients with, and celebrate your wins with.

CON: You’ll end up talking about work… a lot.

You’ll talk about work on the weekends, over breakfast, in the car, in bed at night, all the time. After a while, it gets exhausting.

For some couples, it’s incredibly difficult to set firm boundaries around “work talk” with their partner. If you do want to invite your spouse into your business, have an open conversation about how often you want to talk about work outside of work. Then, hold regular check-ins to make sure you’re keeping to those boundaries.

PRO: You’ll be able to coordinate your schedules.

I love the flexibility my business allows me, and sometimes I wish my husband had as much control over his schedule as I do mine. When you own a business with your spouse, you can coordinate your schedules around holidays, family events, and vacations. Plus, you can make sure you always have the same weekends off. Score!

CON: You’ll end up blurring the lines between work and your personal life.

In all honesty, I’ve never met an entrepreneur couple who haven’t ever struggled with their work-life balance. When you start a small business with your spouse, it’s natural to blur the lines between your work relationship and your romantic one. And unfortunately, this can cause problems for both your business and your marriage.

If you do want to work together, be sure your communication skills are in tip-top shape. Be sure you’re both comfortable bringing your concerns to the other in a respectful, honest way. Also, don’t be afraid of couple’s counseling! It’s an amazing resource for any couple, but especially when your romantic partner is also your business partner.

Still on the fence?

If you and your partner aren’t ready to go all-in on a business together, start small! Hire your spouse on as a contractor to work a few hours a week, and involve them in business-related decisions and conversations. That way, they’ll get to try out a possible new career without quitting their current job, and you’ll get to see how well they fit into your business. Plus, if you find that you don’t work well together, it’s easier to part ways when they’re a casual contractor than when you’re full-on business partners.

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