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Partners in life and in business: The pros and cons

Married couples have long established and run successful family businesses. According to the Small Business Administration, during the 1980s the number of businesses run by couples increased more than 90 percent. In 1995, one third of the fastest growing private companies on the Inc. 500 list were owned and operated by husband-and-wife teams.

The benefits are innumerable for those couples who can work closely together and share a passion for their business. In addition to having the opportunity to spend more time together, they also tend to enjoy peace and harmony in their personal lives as well.

This may not always be the case, however, for those who try to raise a family and run a business together. Both require a lot of tough decisions that ultimately might only highlight the differences between partners.

As a result, companies can be torn apart if the domestic relationship begins to fall apart. Misunderstandings at home can lead to trouble in the boardroom, eventually leading to a lack of harmony in the office, bad decisions, and a loss of business. Worst case scenario, because it's often the single greatest asset in the marriage, the business becomes a pawn in the divorce settlement. This doesn’t have to happen though. If you’ve been married or life partners for a while, you know that the relationship takes a lot of work and compromise. The same goes for good and prosperous business partnerships.

Following are a few suggestions to help ensure that both the business and the marriage continue to prosper.

Divvy up responsibilities
Separate your areas of responsibility and then let each other work without interfering. Much like at home or within a family, a division of labor in the office is key to maintaining good working relationships, as well achieving your business goals.

Leave the intimacy and issues at home
When you’re at home you wouldn’t expect your spouse or partner to talk with you as you would expect him or her to address others at a business meeting. The same goes for time spent in the office together. Public displays of affection, heated arguments or personal conversations can embarrass or alienate others. Worse, they can disrupt the smooth flow of business. That’s why it is important that you conduct yourselves in a professional manner anytime you’re on “company time.”

Keep business out of the bedroom
The same applies when you and your spouse or partner leave the office and return home. Although you may find that you are so busy all day long that you haven’t had much time to talk about business with your partner, it is important to set limits.

To make a smooth transition from business to domestic partners, you can limit the time you take each day to catch up to half an hour or so after you leave the office, after which you agree not talk business again until you’re both back in the office.

Get away with each other
A short break from work together can do wonders for both your relationship and the business. A getaway weekend can quickly remind you why you love being in business together.

Get away from each other
In addition to occasionally needing a break from the stress of the business; it can be just as healthy to take a break from each other. Couples who are not in business together are often separated everyday by the usual office hours and the extra time and distant of the commute. However, when you’re in business with your spouse or partner you can find yourselves together 24 hours a day for weeks on end. Give each other some space and breathing room by regularly engaging in personal interests and activities that belong only to you.

Reap the benefits of being in business together
Since you have the luxury of setting your own hours, take advantage of being the boss and create a flexible schedule that allows you to each accomplish what you need to do at home and work.

Protect your investment in each other
If one of you suddenly dies or becomes disabled, are you prepared for the business or your lifestyle to continue? Unlike other business owners, since you are partners with your spouse your needs will be unique. Develop a contingency plan with the help of your lawyer, accountant and/or insurance agent that protects both of you in the event of death, divorce or another unforeseen event.

This material is for informational purposes only.