If you and your spouse have some basic business skills and you are leaving the traditional workplace, you might consider running a business together. Partners in life can be partners in business, although it does take a clear recognition of the differences.
My wife and I ran a small service business together after I left my professional career as an advertising executive. We used that business as a bridge from full-time work to part-time retirement. An unexpected bonus was that we were able to sell the business after seven years.
So what does it really take to start a business together? One of the most important things is setting boundaries. In our case, we tried to be as specific and detailed as possible in divvying up who did what, basing the decision on who was best suited to which area and tasks. We agreed early on that each of us would have responsibility for certain areas, but part of our mutual responsibility was keeping the other person informed about our respective areas.
It may seem mundane, but you and your partner should sit down and put on paper every single function of your business and assign one of your names to each. Both of you should keep copies of the list so there is never a misunderstanding. It is also important to determine which decisions can be made individually and which should be made together. For example, any decision about financing your business should be a joint decision; which bills to pay when, however, probably doesn’t require dual decision-making.
Another area where boundaries come into play is personal versus business time. Being in business together often makes it difficult to separate your business lives from your personal lives. It is a real comfort to know that you can talk about business matters with your partner after business hours, but that can cut both ways. Hard though it is, try to turn the business switch off when you leave the office for the day (especially if the office is your home). You both need some breathing room away from the business – time for yourselves to talk about other things, to spend time together having fun, and to re-connect as a non-business couple.
We were so invigorated by our experience being in business together that we wrote a book about it: Let's Make Money, Honey: The Couple's Guide to Starting a Service Business.
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