One of the most challenging of lifestyles is working with your spouse in a thriving business. Most entrepreneurial couples love the opportunity to be independent, in charge of their own destinies, and to work along side the one they love and trust most.
What do successful entrepreneurial couples know about keeping a marriage and a business on track? It makes sense to find out what works for them. Out of these strategies, you may find a nugget that applies to you and your spouse.
100% – 100% Rule
Over the years I have had the opportunity to meet many entrepreneurial couples and there is a pattern among those who have long-term happy marriages interwoven with a prosperous business life. First and foremost they follow the 100% – 100% Rule. That is, each partner considers her or himself 100% responsible for the quality of her or his individual life as well as their joint ventures (i.e., parenting, household duties, managing a business).
While most couples follow a 50% – 50% Rule, meeting each other half way, by following the 100% – 100% Rule entrepreneurial couples meet each other all of the way.
They each put his or her whole self, talents, intuitions, and muscle into the relationship and business partnership, making each equally responsible for the outcome. Even though for efficiency’s sake they may divide up duties along the lines of who is most capable or available, they still consider themselves as responsible as their partner for the success of the goal.
Without question entrepreneurs are achievers and highly competitive. Without these qualities they could not create a successful business venture. Sometimes it is not always easy to admit that you are in competition with your spouse, but once the truth comes out you are in a much better position to work with the inevitable.
Instead of being embarrassed by your competitive nature, or suppressing it or even denying it, admit it and acknowledge the problem to your spouse. Then do what successful entrepreneurial couples do . . . they encourage it!
Believe it or not, successful entrepreneurial couples actually encourage competition in their partners but they do put their relationship off limits. That is, their love for each other and commitment to their marriage and family life come before business needs.
If they are working full time together in their joint venture, there are rewards and incentives built into the business for each partner to achieve. Instead of paying only the founder of the business, the supportive spouse is also paid what they are worth and not a penny less.
Each partner is encouraged by the other to achieve their dreams, to express their strengths, to utilize their talents. If this means besting your partner in a career or business move, it shouldn’t be threatening to your spouse, but viewed as a challenge to work toward his or her own excellence.
Worrying about ego or pride is a waste of precious energy that can better be used in pursuit of your dreams. Harness that competitive spirit and re-direct your achievement need toward the things you do best at the business or at home. That way not only do you succeed, but your spouse, family, business and community benefits too.
Make Love the Top Priority
With the pull of achievement needs and competitiveness in the business world, entrepreneurial couples have their work cut out for them to sustain balance in their personal lives. Making time for friendship, romance and family togetherness is difficult but imperative.
Again, successful entrepreneurial couples have figured out how to make love the top priority. They have abandoned the old methods that worked when they were younger and had free time. They realize that spontaneity or waiting for the “right moment” is not likely to happen today with their lives full of so many responsibilities.
Rather, they realize that they have to plan for love to happen and be sustained. And they build a structure they can count on to keep these priorities straight.
For example, they schedule once-a-week “dates” with each other. They make time in the morning or at the end of each day for uninterrupted discussions about everything that is necessary to keep the flow smooth. They go on frequent mini-vacations to pull themselves away from the demands of entrepreneurial life. They each volunteer their time to one community cause or child-related activity. All of these approaches help you remember why on earth you are working so hard anyway . . . to share your successes with the ones you love.
Renegotiate the Terms of the Partnership
By making love the top priority, entrepreneurial couples have a simple way to notice when they need to reorient their lives. If there is no time to give or receive love, from each other or the others in their lives, then it becomes time to renegotiate the terms of the partnership. If life isn’t meaningful or fun for either of you, it is time to re-evaluate the marriage or the business partnership or both.
In order to keep a business healthy, a business owner must not only be aware of market trends, but they must also be prepared to alter their business plan accordingly. Within your personal life, it is no different. A marriage agreement that worked when you were twenty, may be outdated for a couple in their forties. Or aspects of the marriage contract may be archaic while others are still solid. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath as the saying goes, but if some things need changing, do it now, or suffer the consequences of a loveless marriage.
I have met too many entrepreneurial couples where the only thing holding them together is the business. They have forgotten that the business is a function of their love for each other. By recognizing that the love is diminishing in your relationship and by being willing to renegotiate the terms of your marriage and partnership, you may be able to rekindle the romance and re-direct the business to new heights.
The Guidelines to Success
Although it is a lot work to maintain a healthy personal relationship among the busy-ness of entrepreneurial life, the methods of doing so are simple. Successful entrepreneurial couples already know these secrets. Now it’s your turn to cash in on what they know.
Follow the 100% – 100% Rule and you will have a trusted full-time partner at your side.
Encourage achievement and competition in your partner and you will share the fruits of his or her success along with your own.
When you make love the top priority, you always have a marker to guide your decisions and direction in life.
Finally, when you get off course, stop and renegotiate the terms of the contract, so that you can nurture and sustain business and marriage growth.