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Starting and running a business with your significant other has its perks. The shared vision and mutual sense of accomplishment can strengthen your bond. But there are downsides and unique challenges, too.

I know this first-hand from working side by side with my husband Phil for the past 20 years. We launched our first business when we were right out of law school, and after eventually selling that company, we started CorpNet.

Being partners in business as well as life has enriched our relationship, but it is not always easy. Between managing the business and raising our four children, we’ve experience trials along with the tribulations.

We have learned a lot of valuable lessons through the years about how to make it work.

1. Define Your Roles.

I must admit, when we started our first business, Phil and I hadn't defined our roles and responsibilities in running our company. That got messy as both of us had our heads and hands into everything. Fortunately by the time we started CorpNet, we had learned from that mistake and recognized the value of identifying our individual and collective strengths (as well as our weaknesses). As a result, Phil oversees web development, product development and advertising. Meanwhile, I'm in charge of general operations, customer service and inside sales.

I highly recommend you and your spouse sit down to write objective S.W.O.T. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analyses to identify to what areas of your company you can each bring the most expertise and value.

2. Don’t Step On Each Other’s Toes.

After you've decided what each of you are responsible for, you'll need to give each other the respect and room to do your jobs. Earlier in our business, Phil and I occasionally found ourselves drifting into each other's lanes. We realized that had to stop, though, because it was unproductive as well as disrespectful.

You may find it difficult not to get involved with the day-to-day operations of your partner's departments, but do your best to mind your own responsibilities. This will enable you both to accomplish more.

3. Honor and Respect Each Other Under All Circumstances.

Phil and I don’t agree on everything, but we respect each other’s opinions and find common ground when we don’t see eye to eye.

When you’re running a company with your spouse, that’s essential. You are setting an example for those who work with you. Always take the high road by listening to one another and logically working through your on-the-job differences.

4. Keep Your Ego Out of It.

In our first company, Phil held the title of CEO. At CorpNet, I’m the CEO.

Titles can serve as a source of division if you let your ego get in the way. Rather than getting caught up in the perceived prestige of a job position, instead recognize and focus on the professional contributions you’re individually and together making to propel your company to success.

5. Put Family First.

Phil and I have always made it a point to put our roles as parents first. We’ve found that’s especially essential now as our four children (two of whom are driving) work through the tumultuous teen years. And we carve out time for each other as a couple, too. Despite our busy schedules, we plan date nights when we can enjoy each other’s company without interruption.

Don’t lose sight of why you started your business in the first place. You may find it daunting to juggle it all, but don’t neglect the people that are your reason—your purpose—for pursuing your entrepreneurial dream.

Navigating the tricky territory of being husband and wife as well as business partners will bring its share of ups and downs. Fortunately, you're in it together. You'll remain on course if you stay true to your roles, maintain respect for one another and keep your priorities in order.

About the Author(s)

Nellie Akalp

Nellie Akalp is a serial entrepreneur, small business advocate, speaker and author. Nellie has been named a Top 100 Small Business Influencer by Small Business Trends the last five years and CorpNet.com has been recognized on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing privately-held companies in America in 2015 and 2016. 

CEO, CorpNet
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