Couples in business: Should you do it?

Mixing business with pleasure…

Family businesses and working wiht your husband or boyfriend should you do it by Jane FranklandUp above, you’re in love…down below you’re too slow! When it comes to the subject of couples in business and working with your boyfriend or husband I was clearly too slow, but that’s for another post [dot, dot, dot].

They say for better or worse, for richer or poorer but no one ever mentions at the office AND at home, do they? Now whether you made those vows or not, I know the thought has crossed your mind…

So should you go into business or even work with yourΒ  boyfriend, or husband (aka your “beloved”) in an effort to gain financial freedom, and spend more time with your family?

Now before I give you my take on this, I want you to know that this has been a post I’ve been meaning to write for a long time. Those of you who know my story are probably thinking OMG what the ‘BLEEP’ is she going to write!

Have no fear – I’m a pro!

You see, I’ve first hand experience of building a business and working with my (ex) beloved! I worked with him for just over 13 years and we owned a company together for 16 years.

I have to be honest – it’s not a pretty story. There were both good and bad times. Owning a company and working together is not going to work out well for the vast majority of you. Very, very few can pull it off.

Sorry to burst your bubble!

The truth of the matter is few couples’ relationships are strong enough to weather the storm. It’s not an easy ride. So the question is….are you the exception to the rule?

Video break [I’m still being well behaved]

Disadvantages of couples in business

There’s an old saying, “you shouldn’t work with friends or family” and having done both, I can understand why! But, that’s my story, so the question is, can you survive working together? Let’s look at the challenges…

There’s no real separation between work and home life

They say you need to set boundaries and have a clear separation between your work and personal life, but that’s easier said than done. Take it from me, when you work and live together you never really switch off from work. There’s always an opportunity to talk about it. Whether you’re feeding the baby, out having dinner, on holiday or in bed making out!

I’m not joking…seriously! And, from a business perspective, it can actually be quite productive; there’s a lot you can achieve!

Yep you heard me right!

However, from a personal relationship perspective it can be so damaging. For example, I remember several times returning home from the office, annoyed with my partner for not fulfilling something during the day. It was hard to look him in the eye, when he got home, with love. He’d let me down on a job and I was the one who had to answer to our client the next day. There was no getting away from it. I had two choices – 1) to bury it and let it fester or 2) to communicate my feelings and work to resolve it that night. This leads me naturally on to my next point.

You need to be very conscious of each others feelings

This point is particularly relevant when expressing criticism. Remember you’re sharing your bed with this person and you don’t want to start a personal war. Effective communication is paramount if you’re going to be successful in business together so get good at it and resolve any disagreements immediately. Harbouring ill thoughts will kill your relationship.

You need to find ways to keep your relationship alive

If you’re working in close proximity it’s very easy to get bored of one another no matter how much you care for each other. In my opinion, the only way to deal with this is to have an active life outside of work (independently) and a good social life. When you don’t and your day consists of working on the business and then seeing to the kids, you end up being quite cut off from the world and living in a bubble.

You need to agree how to make decisions

You need to agree who’s the boss and if your business operates on 50-50 share split, who’s voice gets priority. If it’s 50-50 split, you need to decide what will happen in a stale-mate situation. This is vital. In my company we both owned 100% of the shares and although there was an MD we decided that if we both couldn’t agree on something, no action would be taken. Agreement was vital for the company to move forward.

You need to have legal agreements in place

No matter how much you trust one another, you need legal agreements in place. I CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH. No one has a crystal ball and when money is involved some people view things in a very different way. They get greedy.

You need to make sure they’re the most qualified for the job

This is a hard one as you’re going to have to take out all the emotion and communicate this in a diplomatic way. One of the best things you can do is to agree this rule upfront. In my business, this is what we did. If someone was more capable of doing the job then they would be employed. Neither my partner nor I maintained our positions by default. We either had to step up, learn the skills and perform for the sake of the business, or we stepped aside and let another take our place. In some cases, there was never a question of us doing the job. It was clear from the offset that we didn’t have the skills and didn’t want them either.

Advantages of couples in business

You’re more understanding of one another

Working together actually brings in a whole new level of understanding in a couple. You have a totally shared experience that brings you closer together. You’re both on the same page. You understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. You’re both working for the same end goal, pulling in the same direction and as a consequence you work with more understanding and gumption.

For example, I remember having to book my partner in for jobs over the weekend of Bank holidays, or even our children’s birthdays. Had he come home and told me someone at work had done this I’d have been quite resentful, but because I’d done it (as we were growing our business) it was OK.

You’ve got more flexibility

Having built a business along with raising a family I can honestly say it’s much easier when you can do this as a family unit. Again, you’re both on the same page and you can always find ways to deal with child care or take time out to be at their school for an event. You can also have lunch breaks together or agree who’s working late and with remote access and mobile communication anything is possible.

You’ll achieve more and build a successful business

Napoleon Hill wrote about this in a chapter of his book Think and Grow Rich. It was all about sex transmutation. He said that love, romance, and sex are all emotions that are capable of driving men to heights of super achievement. Love is the emotion which serves as a safety valve, and insures balance, poise, and constructive effort. When combined, these three emotions may lift one to an altitude of a genius. All I can say is that I know what we achieved! [Wink, wink]

Now I want to hear from you!

Ever mixed business with your boyfriend or husband? Tell me whether you found it to be a good experience or not. Leave your story in the box below.

With love and gratitude – as always,



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Jane Frankland is a successful cyber security entrepreneur, consultant and speaker who has had a diverse career encompassing art and design; business development; and operations. Having held directorships and senior executive positions within her own companies and at several large PLCs, she now provides agile, forward thinking organisations with strategic business development solutions. Right now she is writing a book on gender diversity in cyber security and is focused on increasing the numbers of women in the profession.

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  • it's definitely not an easy decision and it's not easy but it gets easier as you learn to work together. I have been working with my husband since 2005 and I can tell you that the first years were really hard and I was ready to throw the towel many times. What is important is that you know what you get yourself into and watch for signs that things are not doing right. I completely agree with you Jane with all that you said. It's even harder when you are starting a business and one is born entrepreneur and the other is absolutely not πŸ™ I think that the key is communication and make sure that we have the same goals and accept that we might have different ideas to get there and that's ok, we are not 50/50 so he gets the final decisions and I am absolutely fine with that. We complement each other, we know each others strengths and weaknesses and accept them as that makes us who we are. Now that are business starts to take off we are already talking about taking a much needed vacation (we haven't been in a family vacation in 7 years).

    I could write a whole book about it but I'll stop there, if you have questions I'll be happy to answer them πŸ™‚

    • My parents launched a business and were working together. I remember that their challenge was to "leave" their "work and work challenges" at the door when they were home. If you finally take holydays together (I wish you do), make sure you don't bring "your business" iwith you πŸ˜‰

    • Guillemette, thanks for that. I don't work with him anymore & gone are the days of having a business partner. Long story which no doubt I'll post at some point! πŸ˜‰

    • Nathalie I love it that you compliment one another & having worked with both of you, I can see why. You do such a good job. IMO when it works, it works & it can be so good. You do need to share the goal/dream though & agree who gets the final say, or at least what to do if there's stalemate. πŸ™‚

  • Have worked with my husband for around 10 years and we've travelled extensively with the business and I wouldn't want to do it any other way, it's great to share experiences and great to have company on the overseas trips

  • Joanne Lamb says:

    It didn't work for us…. I couldn't stand being told what to do by him πŸ™

  • Anonymous says:

    Hello Jane, just want to send my comments about working with your (beloved?) My husband and I own a restaurant together, which we have had for the past eight years. At first it WAS fun, but now, I cannot stand to be near my husband. I hate working with him (he is the chef) he is abusive at work (control freak) I have told him I no longer can or will work; but he insist there is nothing he can do about it, so I have to work. We are a small, mom and pop kind of venue. Too expensive to hire employees. I have to mention I have health issues that are getting worse as this time goes on.
    I am going to file for divorce; which he is not aware of – yet. Working together I feel in my opinion is just not a good idea. We were actually in love at one time.

  • Anonymous says:

    I need to have a little vent here…started helping my 'boyfriend' in his little trattoria 3 years ago. I thought it was a great idea at the time. I believe it's possible for a couple or family to work together – the key is communication. However, I have found myself overwhelmed at times, while he's in the kitchen; I welcome, take orders, deliver, often prepare sides, do drinks, make coffees and run the bar, do the bills, clean…and his attitude is often frustrating. He's angry when he doesn't get customers; he's angry when he does. He bitches when I don't get people to order things that are easy to make; he bitches when I bend over backwards to make sure their experience is positive. I tell him we need stuff; he has often replied that 'it canwait', leaving us – oh wait, me, as I'm the one who has to apologise – in dire situations without water, bread, wine, pasta. My contract is a joke; he can't afford to employ anyone who isn't in the 'family'. It's taken me months, but I am resigning, I leave next week. I tried telling him several times, he laughed; then talked me into staying; finally, I just handed him my letter of resignation. I'm scared of being unemployed, and of walking out on him like that, but I just can't stand him any more. What a user.

  • missmellows says:

    Sigh. Sigh sigh sigh. I think I first wanted to start working with my boyfriend, and him with me, when we both met a couple who owned a fitness supplement store together. They both looked so in sync and I felt like that was the dream, to be a team with my boyfriend. Countless fights and tears (on my part) later and we’ve both realised we can’t work together profesionally (both of us are music producers and musicians). I don’t like him telling me what to do, and vice versa. It’s sad because we’re both so talented and both think of each other highly, but I think we’re both competitive. So we’ve both talked about operating a studio together, but I think we’ll ultimately have clashes, so it’s not going to happen. It makes me sad as well because I feel like I’m ending up doing things on my own. I don’t have much other producer friends to go into business with that live here; meanwhile, he does. So it kind of feels like my dream of owning my own studio will take some more time to realise, while he has been making that dream happen faster. Other than that I figured the only way we could work together is helping each other musically, as in I can sing background vocals for his stuff, or play keyboards, and he can sing background vocals for my stuff or play guitar. But in terms of owning a business together, I think we both have different visions and both want to be the boss, so it’s not working. We aren’t also that good at communicating, and it definitely shows when we have a business-type disagreement. It sucks but I think ultimately, after watching your video and reading your article, I’m ready to start letting go of that ideal of being this kind of team with my boyfriend professionally, and just focus on the relationship and making it better.

  • I so needed to read this (: I have been contemplating so much about making this decision to work with my fiance. Its been an up and down decision. But, I am going to go with my gut on this one! Thanks for making me aware of what to think about.

    Isaly Holland

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