Running a Business with Your Spouse: Good or Bad Idea?

February 12, 2020

Owning a business is a big enough risk on itself but running a business with your spouse can set all alarms off. But why is working with your spouse a bad idea? Or is it only a myth? 

Going into business with your spouse has been the reason for ruined marriages and companies many times before. It seems like it’s hard to find the right balance and to separate work from private issues. However, for some of them it has proven to be quite a success. 

Business certainly won’t get in the way of these romantic partners to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Clare & Sean from Untamed

My wife and I sold our house to set up our business Untamed. For over three years now we have been developing a styling tool designed to let you say goodbye to frizzy hair. Our Untamed hair dryer spritzes Argan oil into your tresses allowing you to dry, style and hydrate all at the same time. This moisture boost smoothes and defrizzes your hair. This is a UK, not to say world, first consumer concept.

The idea for the business came first and stemmed from Clare’s extensive experience in the personal care market, the product came later. It has taken approximately 36 months to deliver this project, more of a dream really, our company, was formed in March 2018. It always takes longer than you think to deliver

How is private life affected? We are a startup, everything revolves around our business. Private life needs to be put aside if it does not benefit our business. As a small business person you are involved in everything from warehousing to sales and marketing. There is no real time to switch off. This will come later when our dreams and goals are achieved.

Do we always agree on what to do? Yes, I do. As Clare tells me! In all seriousness there have been little or no arguments so far, we are both focused on delivering this business together. At the end of the day we make a good team as Clare focuses on product and I concentrate more on the operational side of the business. Who does what was very much dependent on our individual experiences. Clare’s is heavily focused on marketing, mine is focused on manufacturing, distribution and sales. 

Would we do it again? Of course, working on your own business is liberating, there is pride in building something from the ground up and hopefully making it a success.

Manley & Catherine from Manley Talks

My husband and I run a business called Manley Talks. He started the company in 1999 and I did not really become involved until 4 years ago.  I had my own career as a teacher and we have 2 children – now grown up.  

The biggest advantage of working together is that we can travel together and we have the flexibility to write our own timetable.  Together we have created a new venture The Compassionate Leadership Academy, which builds on my experience as a teacher and Manley’s experience as a leadership consultant and author. 

The downside – we are very different. Manley is creative, a dreamer, has very poor admin skills and does not think logically. I am the opposite – I like admin!!! Tidy and logical thought processes. 

However, after the initial blow ups we have come to recognise what we each bring to the company. I admire his talent – he is bloody brilliant at what he does and he admires mine.  He is a champion for equality in business and in the home, for sure we still have cross words and sometimes work talk will dominate – but we are in it together – working towards shared goals.

Kelly & Hester from Hudia

My husband Kelly and I have just set up our own consultancy and it’s the first time we’ve officially worked together. We’ve been together for 18 years and married for 12 years. We did work briefly together cleaning shoes at Melbourne Boat Show when we first got together and ever since then we’ve wanted to set up our own business! 

We love working together and find that it plays to both of our strengths as we are so different. 

I was already freelancing, when my husband decided he wanted to set up his own business. So I suggested we work together. I do PR and social media and my husband does web design, so it made sense to join forces and launch a consultancy together. 

It can be hard switching off in the evenings and it’s all too easy to grab the laptop on the sofa and get some work done. 

I’m super chatty and Kelly is more of a thinker so it’s great having such a balance between us. We both encourage each other to do our best and are really supportive, which I think you need when you are a team. Thankfully, we have never really argued and we don’t now, even though we work together, which surprises a lot of people. I think a lot of people think we are crazy being married and working together but launching Hudia is really exciting and I wouldn’t want to share this new adventure with anyone else.

Karen and Jools from Nowt Poncy

Jools and I run a small food business making healthy cooking sauces and we also import pasta from southern Italy. As small business owners, and it is just us two, we work very long hours. Our time away from the business is pretty non-existent. If we aren’t physically working at the commercial kitchen we built ourselves, we are at home either working on social media, eating or sleeping! The line between our business and our private lives (which I have taken to mean our time away from our business) is very blurred and switching off is almost impossible.

It was a joint decision really. We needed a new venture with me leaving the education sector and Jools wanting a new challenge. It took a while to bite the bullet, as it were, indeed it took about 7 months from the decision to the birth of Nowt Poncy so we didn’t go into it quickly or lightly as we were fully aware of the money pit it was going to be!

Jools is the brains of the outfit! Karen does as she’s told 😂. Jools has run his own businesses for 30 years so has the understanding of how a business works. Karen was in the education sector for 30 years. Our skills are complementary and we work well together. 

Having said that the food sector is a very difficult sector to work in and the learning curve was enormous. As it is just the two of us we do everything from sourcing and purchasing ingredients to cooking, labelling, boxing, taking orders, delivering, social media, marketing and sales… and that’s just the surface of the iceberg! Jools and I have been together for 32 years and married for 28. We never thought we would end up working together but we love it!

As we have grown we have wanted to give back to causes we believe in. We regularly donate to food banks and supply the occasional meal for our local fire brigades. We also sponsor the first all inclusive rugby team in Lancashire – The Typhoons – which we absolutely love! 

Starting a business in your 50s is exhausting! We’ve had to learn skills that come naturally to the younger generation, i.e. the use of social media, but on the up side the skills we have gained over the years have allowed us to approach the business with a more rounded experience and we have also been able to build our own commercial kitchen.

We have very little time for a social life but we have met so many wonderful people, customers as well as other business owners.

Leaving a well paid job to go to virtually no income is difficult. You have to have a backup plan for income, of course, as in the early days of a business you are going to be working with little or no income.

Key advice about running a business with your significant other

If someone wants to go into a business they need to know their sector, know the legislation for their sector and be VERY aware of they costs going in! If you are going to do it, do it well. Be the person who others look to as someone who has done their homework, be humble in your successes as not everyone is having the same experience as you.

Network well, find a confident person who can listen to you, just so you can get things off your chest. Be proactive in the support of startups. Use your experience to help others but not to the level where you are almost running their business too. Be generous in sharing your expertise but not to the detriment of your own business. And give back to the community that has helped you succeed.

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