I'm thinking about going into business with my spouse and want to come up with a checklist to make sure that it is a good decision. What yes/no questions should I include in my checklist?
-- Morry G., South Beach, FL
The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to unemployment and underemployment and provides entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of their business's development and growth.
Are we prepared for major changes in our marriage?
No matter how well-delineated your roles are, no matter how well you get along, no matter how often you do "date night," the fact is that when you run a business together, your marriage changes. When the business is going well, this can be deeply satisfying; when things crash and burn, your relationship takes a hit too. You'll never see your spouse the same way again-can you handle that?
Is our marriage more important than business?
If yes, then you need to make sure you both completely understand your roles and responsibilities in the office and in the home. Men may have a tendency to 'be the boss' in the office but that kind of attitude in the kitchen may result in a skillet to the forehead. To avoid misery, keep love at the top of your priority list, keep "work talk" in the office, and keep "pillow talk" in the bedroom.
Can we afford it?
Without one person holding down a stable day job, your family may not have the money to finance a startup. You don't want to jeopardize your livelihood and dig a hole that will be difficult to emerge from.
Do we share the same business values?
Chances are that if you're married, you have similar values when it comes to life choices. Do your values also line up when it comes to business? For example, in my relationship, we approach making changes from two complete different angles. However, we have the same end goal and values in mind, so both methods would lead us to our goals.
Do we manage business-like life decisions well?
Behavioral based checklists are helpful but they rarely paint an accurate depiction when stress, lack of sleep, pressure, power and money enter the picture. Look to your existing library of life-experiences that have involved these things mentioned here and analyze-as objectively as you can-how you both behave when encountering these elements in a business setting.
Can we come to agreements peacefully and sensibly?
Whether it's with a mediator or some complicated set of rules and criteria, it is important that decisions can be made and that the business can move on. At the end of the day, if there are two people in a power struggle, you cannot let your egos get in the way, and must do what is best for the business.
Can you leave business at the office?
Too many times, spouses or families that work together bring their business home with them. As an entrepreneur, you will do work around the clock but you also need to know when to separate work from home. Talking business 24/7 may lead to burn out, fights and tension. Make sure you can both agree to not drag business home and take time for each other outside the business.
Can we afford to work outside of the home?
My husband and I have run our business together for two years. We had a home office in our first year, and the second year we moved into an office outside of our home. I highly recommend the latter to create a better separation between work and life. If you're bootstrapping, you may not have the luxury of an outside office right away, but consider where it falls in the roadmap.
Will we continue to work on our personal relationship?
I've have the pleasure of working with my wife for the last 3 years at my startup. We have a great relationship, both personally and professionally. One of the most important things we've done was to make sure that when we're not working, we don't discuss work issues. Try to take your mind of work, and don't devolve your marriage into a business partnership only.
Can we commit to occasional separation?
Business partners who are romantically involved with one another need to have a life outside of each other. Being in a relationship with someone doesn't mean you have to spend every waking hour with each other, especially in stressful situations. Make sure you set guidelines and have some time away from one another to let your relationship recharge.
Should I really be sleeping with my business partner?
Pick up the book "Sleeping With Your Business Partner: A Communications Toolkit for Couples in Business Together" by Dr. Mike Gross and Dr. Becky Stewart-Gross. Work through the exercises together and gain some clarity so you feel 100 percent confident with whatever decision you both make.
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