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The Secrets to Organizational Success

Becoming an Entrepreneur with your Spouse

Best tips/toughest lessons learned while starting a business with your spouse.

I can remember like it was yesterday, more than thirteen years ago, when my beautiful wife was full of joy and happiness to see me after a long days work. I knew the very moment that I walked into the house that my wife had been thinking about something because of the large smile that was on her face. I privately thought to myself, "What is she about to ask me?" Immediately, I knew that I should brace myself for a conversation that I absolutely had no idea about.

If you've been married or in a relationship for any extended period of time, you become an expert in reading the mind and body language of your spouse! So I knew that I should prepare myself for a conversation that my wife would want to discuss. My wife is a dreamer, a visionary, and is unafraid to move quickly on her ideas. Whereas, I am a logical and conservative thinker needing to evaluate every angle before making a decision.  And lo and behold, before I could get comfortable, she wanted to become an entrepreneur and start a business. That was the day that our life would radically change!

Now thirteen years later, we have developed a number of successful businesses with the goal of transforming lives and our community. If you were like me, you've probably encountered some doubt and trepidation about working with your spouse. Feelings of doubt, fear, anxiety, and asking yourself how you and your significant other will function working together as entrepreneurs. No need to fear, below are five takeaways that both my wife and I have learned working together in business:

1. Developing an organizational philosophy which is firmly rooted in a shared vision. If there is no shared vision, there will be division! It is important that both people have an idea of the end-state of a business and what you want to accomplish. You won't always agree on how to get there, but you must learn to agree on the destination. This is where compromise becomes important!

2. Both individuals must demonstrate unconditional love towards one another relationally and professionally which will be transferrable to their business relationship. There will be times of challenge, disagreement, and frustration when working together. If you don't have the proper techniques or tools to handle conflict in your marital relationship, it will be impossible to know how to handle conflict that arises when doing business together. LOVE must be the catalyst and the glue to handling the peaks and valleys of entrepreneurship.

3. Paramount to any business is the development of values by which you, your spouse, and organization will live by. Values of: integrity, accountability, responsibility, respect, compassion, faith, self-determination, personal growth, and leadership which have a profound impact on the goods and services you provide. Customers don't care what you sell, they care how you serve! For nearly 20 years in our relationship, the greatest lesson learned is to how to serve one another! If you know how to serve one another, it will be easy to serve your customer!

4. Treat the business as if you were parenting your child beginning from conception through maturation. Most parents takes great care in nurturing, training, teaching, and developing their children to be successful. It is no different when being business partners; the goal should be to nurture your organization so that it is sustainable and successful.

5. Develop a workspace and home space DMZ (demilitarized zone), and determine how to separate your functional roles in your marriage from your functional roles in business. Being able to differentiate functional roles was the toughest lesson that we learned. In our marriage, the roles are clearly defined when dealing with matters of the home e.g. children, finances, parenting, discipline, domestic responsibilities. Through trial, difficulty, and wrestling for decision-making power, we discovered that there must be a separation of our home life if we were going to build a sustainable organization/business. We discovered that we could not operate our business the way we operated our home. It required us to make behavioral changes now that we understood these functional roles were independent of each other. Best advice for any couple working together is: learn to respect each others professional training and expertise, remember that you are partners and not enemies, and allow the professional expert to take the lead when it requires a decision that can only be made by the one who’s considered to be the subject matter expert. In the end, what's most important is that both individuals have a reverent respect for the gifts and talents they each bring to their business!
Remember, the two of you are more powerful together than you are separated! Enjoy the journey and appreciate what unfolds for both you and your spouse. Working together can yield great reward if you allow each other to develop and grow.

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