The Ultimate Guide To Running A Business With Your Significant Other
When Mina and I first met, it was obvious we had a lot in common. We liked the same music. We had the same set of values. We both hated raisins. But there was one thing that clicked stronger than anything else:
We both wanted to make dope shit.
It was something that was ingrained in us, prior to ever getting together. She had a few ventures she started earlier in life, as did I (most of which failed miserably). We both were active dreamers. Idealists who wanted to create shit that made an impact. But we struggled to find the right people to help us actualize these ideas.
Until we met.
I really believe that for us, collaborating on entrepreneurial ventures was inevitable. Had we met as friends or other versions of humans that neither of us held attraction to, we still would have found a way to become business partners in some sense. It just so happen that she dug the cut of my jib and let me put a baby all up in that.
We’ve launched a few businesses now, all of which have been profitable (even the vegan taco biz we started that we closed up after our miscarriage). But it hasn’t all been roses. Partnering on business with your life partner is tricky as hell. Lines get blurred, emotions get involved, and every decision has a lot more at stake.
But we’ve made it work. Not without our bumps, of course.
If you have a business with your lover, or you’re thinking about starting one, you have to remember that it is work. And part of that work is having the hard conversations upfront before they become issues down the line. Rules and expectations are important so feelings don’t get hurt, tasks don’t get missed and you’re able to still keep your love life thriving along with your business.
Here are the things you need to discuss together before you launch:
1. Set out specific roles up front.
There’s a lot of things that go into starting a business. The first step is to list out all the things that need to get done and assign ownership to each person. For us, we have a lot of skills that overlap, but a few that compliment each other. It’s important to understand who likes doing what and who’s willing to do the shit that needs to get done. Once it’s assigned, it avoids confusion, which means tasks won’t get overlooked and you won’t step on each others toes. Mina is more tech savvy and has an incredible radio voice, so she leads the podcast and hosts guests when I’m not on. I oversee the writing and website content. We both do business development, but stay organized so we’re not attacking the same territories.
2. Have a reason for doing it that is important to both of you.
If one of you is passionate about sports but the other couldn’t care less, you won’t have much success launching a basketball media company together (trust me, I’ve tried). You need a business both of you care about with an underlying purpose that’s important to each of you. It doesn’t have to be the same purpose, it just has to be a purpose that each individual has connected to the business. Both of us are passionate about sharing stories and ending stigma around important issues, which is what Unapparenthood stands for. For Mina, it leans more into the world of feminism and pregnancy, while for me it leans into men’s mental health and entrepreneur lifestyle. Our individual visions may be different, but the Unapparenthood theme of "family lifestyle design" covers both and we’re stronger for it.
3. Learn how to separate working time from living time.
One of our bigger challenges is that both of us are extremists. That means we’re either locked into working or locked into living. Some days we’re up past midnight sending cold emails, while other days we might binge watch GLOW on Netflix all afternoon. What’s important is that you don’t let work creep into living and living creep into working. During a client meeting isn’t the best time to bring up the fight we had the night before about the dude who commented on her Instagram photo. The same goes for bringing your laptop to the dinner table. Set healthy boundaries and be present in the activities you’re doing. It’s the only way you can get the most productivity out of your work time and the most love out of your couple time. You’ll be better entrepreneurs and a stronger couple because of it.
4. Be your own person
When your co-founder is also your significant other it’s easy to lost a bit of your own identity. Everything is a we decision, even your business. While that can be sweet, there’s also a lot of issues with that. You might start to feel like you’re losing touch with yourself and things that you care about. It’s important to keep a few things for yourself that are just for you. For me, I have a group of dudes I play ball with every morning to start my day. For Mina, she’s super active in the mom community and for some reason they don’t want me to hang out with them. You need to have your stuff, too, or else you’ll go a little nuts - or even worse: build resentment. Resentment is awful for your relationship, but it can sink your business.
5. Leave ego out of it
One of the most important things I’ve learned is that it’s much more valuable to praise than take credit. I’ll be the first to admit that none of this would be possible without Mina. I have always been impressed with her work, before we even thought of becoming business partners. It’s way more valuable for the business to make sure she’s able to do the great work she does than for me to take credit. You need your partner. If you didn’t, you’d be doing it on your own. Don’t be petty. You can’t build a business on praise alone. Leave your ego at the door, pass the praise to your partner and get to work.
6. Be honest with each other
Look, in a relationship you might be able to get away with little fibs. What you do behind your partner’s back is your business. In business it’s not an option. You can’t lie about clients that don’t exist or work that hasn’t been done. The only things that matter are the results. This also means being honest when you need help. This goes back to the ego thing - if something is getting in the way of you getting shit done you need to be open and vulnerable with your partner. For us, starting a business together has brought us closer in a lot of ways, and that’s mostly because we’re forced to be honest. We’ve been forced to have those hard conversations about money and our insecurities. If you’re concerned about something, you need to speak up or your business will suffer.
7. Enjoy it
Don’t forget that this shit is fun. When you’re doing the thing you love with the person you love there might not be a better feeling in the world. From working in a kitchen together to tag-teaming business pitches, it’s a fucking riot. Seriously. Make sure you cherish it and enjoy it. The business we’ve built is all about the lifestyle we’re creating for our family. It’s designed to be the most fulfilling version of life we can imagine. It’d be a shame if we forgot to smile.
Need some more inspiration? Check out this list of awesome co-founder couples who are KILLING IT:
- Acro Buddhas: Miranda and Ryan share a passion for movement and they teach and perform acrobatic yoga worldwide.
- Dan & Alex: These two are both successful entrepreneurs on their own, but partner together on YouTube series that has over 100k subscribers.
- Lucy & Co: Ahmed and Ashley combined their passion for dogs and co-own this incredible quality dog goods retailer.
- Emmy's Organics: Samantha and Ian fell in love and then launched this beautifully designed organic snack company.
- Brooklenin: Vicky and Rich launched this quality bedding company that focuses on quality without charging an arm and a leg.
- Pique Tea: Amanda and Simon launched Pique Tea to provide a delicious tea with health benefits.
- Christy Dawn: Christy's partner Aras saw her design talent and went all in to help her launch this dope women's apparel company.
- Soko Glam: Both children of entrepreneurs Charlotte and David Cho launched their compnany to help people discover Korean skincare.
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