1. Working Together Is a Magnifier
Dave Ramsey brought up this point when I asked him about family businesses, “Here’s the thing. Your family business is going to be no more functional or dysfunctional than your family is. So if your family is a bunch of screwed-up, crazy people and you bring them into business, it’s going to be a bunch of screwed-up, crazy people. Duh. It’s only going to be as functional as you all are.”
Whatever issues you have now, working together will be like sticking yourselves, and those issues, into a pressure cooker. Before you take the leap, talk about and think through, together, how you can plan for possible problems ahead of time. Consider waiting to launch your business or project until you have reached a peaceful state in your relationship
2. Know Your Lanes
Upcoming guest Melanie Duncan, multimillionaire entrepreneur who runs multiple businesses with her husband, explained this clearly. She told me, “The worse thing you could have in a business or in any situation is a diffusion of responsibility. So the same thing goes, if you’re working in a business with your partner and you’re kind of working on everything together, you’re working on nothing."
Make sure you know yourself and know eachother. Who will best handle each part of the business? Which parts will you hate, how will you divy them up? Note that there WILL be things neither of you want to do, and there WILL be things that you may want to do but your partner is just flat out better at it. You also need to realize that you’re in different lanes but on the same highway.
Chalene Johnson explained how she had to stop using “I” and “My” when her husband quit his job to join her business, instead saying we, ours, our business, etc.
“I had to learn new terminology, we had to learn that what’s interesting and what he’s good at—didn’t matter whether he knew anything about fitness. He’s good with numbers, he’s good at negotiating contracts, he’s good at strategizing, and all of those things benefitted the business, and so it was the two of us figuring out how to honor each other and just stay in our lanes but to really celebrate each other and say, ‘You do this beautifully and I do this beautifully’ and not to correct each other.”
3. Stay in Your Lanes
As Johnson just said, once you establish your lanes, stay the course. This basically comes down to trust. Trust that they will do their parts to the best of their ability. Trust that they will meet the deadline, even if there’s only 24 hours to go and they decide to take a nap and your hair is falling out from the anxiety. That’s your problem, because you’re not trusting them. Remember trust is earned, so do your best in your lane so that they trust you in return. As Natalie Jill put it, “We both know what our strengths are, and we have to stay out of each other’s way. That’s the only way we can do it.
4. Clarify Your Priorities
There are many reasons to launch your business or project, are you sure your reason for doing this and your spouse’s reason are the same? Is flexibility the number one goal or is paying off debt? What does your ideal life look like if this idea is a massive success? If disaster strikes and there’s a toddler poopapocalypse and a website crash and an older kid recital and a client deadline, what is your game plan? Talk through various scenarios together, making sure you both see the same visions. Consider writing a mission and vision statement for yourself as a couple, your family, AND your business (separately or together.) You will need a lighthouse when the storms come along!
Again Dave Ramsey gave a good example of this, explaining that at family dinner, he and his family respond to eachother differently than at the office. They go into Business Mode when they walk through the door.
“Another thing we found in the data,” Ramsey told me, “Is it’s very, very important, as we studied the ones that are successful, we’re looking for best practices, for people to stay in their lane. And that means that if a husband and wife are working together, they can’t have a husband and wife fight at work. It’s off-limits. You can’t do it. And she can’t come down there and he can’t come down there and go: “I’m the husband.” Or “I’m the wife.” When you’re at work, you’re not. You’re the thing you are. You’re the director of marketing, or you’re the CEO, or whatever.”
It can be hard to do this if you’re both working from home on building a business, but imagine working together on spreadsheets after a huge fight. Imagine going on date night after one of you misses an important deadline. In order to work well and enjoy time together, you will have to find a way to push one aside for the other, both ways, often.
6. Get Outside Help
Chalene Johnson recommends having relationships in your life that you look up to and try to model. This couple could also serve as mentors to you. Go on double dates with them and ask them how they got through tough times or what you should do because you’re wading into new territory for your business and relationship. You can also go to counseling or find a community of other co-founder couples.
This will be hard. I repeat, building a dream together will be hard, so find some outside help when (or before) you need it. Remember, nothing great comes easily, but it also means the two of you are working on something great. When you look around years from now and have achieved your dream life, it will be worth it!