“A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship”: John D Rockefeller.
This also, to a certain extent, holds true for relatives and immediate family, especially spouse. Though the thought of working or setting up a company with one’s spouse does have a certain romantic appeal, if not managed correctly, it can cause long term damage to both your personal and professional life.
This was also a topic on which we (my husband and I) discussed at length while planning to set up our maiden venture, it’spleazure.com, together. We were very certain that no matter what happens, and how busy we get, or problems we face, we will not let our business affect our relationship – which means the world to both of us.
Here are few things that we decided to NEVER or at least try not to do, before we started to work together as business partners.
Don’t cut down on personal ‘we’ time
When you’re operating a business together you’re bound to be together both at home and at work. In such a situation, it’s very normal to become lax of spending quality time with each other. This should never be the case. At work, you’re not husband and wife, you are business partners. So this time together does not qualify as ‘we’ time. If you’re finding it difficult to do it naturally, then schedule a ‘we’ time. During this time, avoid discussing work.
Don’t take work home
A continuation of the first point. It’s understandable that you’d want to talk or think 24/7 about your new venture. But, remember it’s work and it should be discussed at work with your work partner. Until and unless there’s a situation that’s threatening the very existence your business, don’t take work home.
Don’t take your personal problems to work
Vice-versa is also true. Keep your personal issues and home problems at home. When you leave the house for work, don’t take your problems along with you. Avoid showing any negativity towards your spouse at work, and especially never in front of your employees or other business partners. Definitely don’t discuss your spouse or their shortcomings with people at work. This creates a negative impression about both of you and will make it difficult for your employees and associates to take you seriously.
Don’t interfere in the other’s work
Do we interfere in our colleague’s work, unless he/she asks us to? We don’t. Similarly, before you start working together on your own venture set clear roles – divide the responsibilities according to your personal strengths and let the other do their work. Respect each other’s professional inputs and opinions, just like you would do with your colleagues in a corporate setup. Offer your opinion only when asked for.
Don’t indulge in embarrassing PDA-type behaviour at work
Yes, you’re in love, and yes this is your very own office where you make all the rules! To top it all, even the HR will not pull you up for indulging in a little office romance with your spouse, cause you’re the boss! No matter how romantic this sounds and how tempted you feel to indulge in some romantic behaviour, try to avoid it all costs. Remember you’re in office, and that your employees would be taking a cue from your behaviour. Startups generally have a less formal atmosphere, it can get completely out of hand if the co-founders don’t behave! Set some boundaries and follow them.
Clichéd as these points sound, some of these are difficult to follow, especially when the going gets tough or too good (no public display of affection or PDA at work). So, if you really want to ensure that your relationship with your spouse at work does not affect your relationship with your spouse in your personal space, you need to consciously work on keeping these two separate. It’s actually not easy to not discuss or react to certain difficult situations, but if we’re mindful and actively strive to do it, it can be done.
It’s very important to maintain a clear demarcation in our personal and professional lives, which can easily get meshed in this world where keeping boundaries is becoming increasingly difficult!
The article What not to do when you are married to the Co-founder of your startup first appeared on e27.
Divya Chauhan is Co-founder of it’spleaZure, an online store for adult products, which aims to help couples add spark to their relationship. She holds an MBA (Marketing) from ICFAI, Dehradhun, and prior to joining the entrepreneurial world, Divya has had stints in strategic research at global brands like Deloitte and Citi. In her free time, she pursues her interest in sports – swimming and follows basketball; if not sports, then her passion for photography keeps her occupied.