I love online business. I am not particularly outgoing but if there is one topic that can get me chatting it’s business. I love everything about it. From marketing to programming and everything in between. I am happily married with three children and adore every single member of my family. So now you know two things that I love.
Over the last five years I have built two businesses and no one has been more supportive of all of my endeavors then my wife. When we started our first company my wife was working as a lawyer to support us. Once the business was stable she shifted her attention to raising our children as a stay at home mom.
I have written about how badly she wanted to start a business. With her resolve to start a business and my experience in starting a business you would think that working together to launch her new business would be a cinch, right?
In this post I am going to share some of the successes and failures (mostly failures) that we have had in working together on her business while sharing a few tips that have helped correct course when things start going wrong. These tips should help when working with your spouse.
1. Allocate specific time when working with your spouse
Getting a new business or online store off of the ground takes a lot of hard work. Here is a checklist to help you get everything you need. In our case my wife was starting an online baby clothing store. I knew exactly what had to be done as I had set up stores for clients in the past.
We knew what had to be done to launch her store. All of this work was exciting for her as it was her first time doing it. Not as much for me, but it was still exciting as I would actually benefit from any success in the long term.
The launch process was additional work for both of us. All of the work that I was doing for her site was on top of my responsibilities in the office and at home. Same went for her. She was launching an online store in addition to raising three children under the age of 4.
What worked well for us was allocating a specific amount of time daily to work on her business.
During the launch phase I set aside an hour a day to work with her and get her comfortable with operating the store.
After I got home from work and we put the kids to sleep we would have dinner and then sit together for an hour and work on the business.
To clarify this is not the only time that my wife would work on the business. This hour was the only time that we would work together. So if she had a question about how to do something she would write it down and save it for our hour. Same went for me. If I thought of something during the day that I wanted to discuss with her I would write it down and share it with her later.
To commit to this practice I schedule a recurring appointment in my calendar. Here is how you can add a recurring appointment in your calendar if you are using gmail.
While this practice worked well for us in the beginning while launching the store I started slacking on my hourly commitment. I was tired, I wanted to work on my own thing at home, you get the point, I was not living up to my original commitment and it was causing problems.
Which brings us to my next tip, which would have helped me in this situation.
2. Up your communication skills
Communication is important in a marriage. It might be the most important thing. Same goes for parenting.
The same goes for working with your spouse. On top of all of your responsibilities to each other. Multiply those responsibilities exponentially if you have children. When starting a business together you are going to pile even more responsibilities on top of everything else.
All of these additional responsibilities add more potential for breakdowns in communication. Know in advance that you are adding additional stress to your relationship by starting to work together.
Whatever helps you communicate best now, prepare to make use of the tactic more than ever when starting to work together.
Similar to how I advocate scheduling a time to work together I also recommend scheduling a time to communicate with each other about what you are working on for the business.
You are not going to need an hour a day for this. Maybe set aside a day of the week where you can email each other your thoughts on how you are each doing working together on the business.
If something bothers you get it out and let your partner know. I have a tendency to be blunt. That is just my personality. I typically do not sugar coat my opinions when I am asked for them.
My wife is very different. While she might not need 100% sugar coating, she still needs about 67% sugar coating and that is fine. There is no right or wrong.
What is wrong is not communicating my feelings on a topic to my wife. If I disagree with something she is doing I have to let her know that I disagree.
Just because I disagree with something does not mean that she is doing something wrong. It is just that I disagree with it.
Which brings me to my next tip.
3. Define and redefine your roles
The importance of roles and defining roles when working with your spouse cannot be understated.
The first and most important role that must be defined is who is the boss. I know you are 50 / 50 partners in life and in business. BS. Someone needs to be the boss.
The boss will make the final decision and will have to live with that decision. Without a boss you leave too many openings for indecision.
In our situation my wife is the boss. This is her business and she will ultimately have to live with the decisions she makes when running it.
When she asks for my advice on a topic and then does the exact opposite thing, it’s fine. She ultimately is the boss.
Boss is not the only role that needs definition. Although, it is the most important. When starting out you should do your best to map out all of the roles that will be required to successfully run your business.
My wife is in charge of all creative decisions, she runs the shipping department and marketing. I am in charge of all technical decisions and online advertising.
As the business grows ultimately more roles will have to be defined and we will have to redefine our own roles within the company.
When working with your spouse your role definition does not end in your business. If your wife is transitioning from full time mom to full time mom + entrepreneur, you will have to discuss how roles are changing in your home as well.
The best resource I know of for defining roles in a business is E-myth. It is a great read if you have run a business for 10 years or if you are just starting your first business.
4. Have a plan for working with your spouse
I personally am not a huge fan of business plans. I equate it to writing a fiction novel about the business you would like to run. Having a plan is still extremely important.
Where do you want the business you are working on to be in a year?
How big do you want the business to be?
Will this be a part time or full time commitment?
Having a rudimentary plan will help both of you align your interests. If you know upfront that your spouse wants to build a huge world changing business you have to be prepared to reinvest every cent of profit back into the business.
If your spouse wants to build a business that will give her some extra spending cash you can optimize the business to do just that. Where the huge business will be more capital intensive and require lots of reinvestment. The business for extra spending cash will probably only require minimal reinvestment of profit.
Having a plan helps limit huge misunderstandings.
When starting out I thought my wife wanted to build a smaller part time and mostly passive online store. All of my advice and intentions were trying to help her build a small passive business. Turns out my wife wanted something very different. She wanted to grow a big business.
We could have avoided several disagreements if we were aligned on the larger vision she had for the business. Remember, my wife is the boss of her online store. What she says goes on how big of a business she wants to build.
5. Recognize your differences
I have said before that I am not overly chatty. My wife does not stop talking. I lean towards being pessimistic, my wife is an undying optimist. I have a terrible habit of not celebrating any success and only pursuing the next conquest. My wife is better at celebrating success and soaking in the moment.
I guess it’s true that opposites attract.
When your spouse is excited about getting her first sale you should stop and celebrate the moment. My natural inclination is to want to work on getting the next sale. In our relationship I had sold products online before, I do not get as excited about one sale as I used to. However, I should not let my experience and difference in perspective ruin her experience.
So not only does my wife celebrate everyday success better than me, but now I give a lukewarm reaction to her first sale. Ouch. Guess how that went over.
Not only is our online store experience different. How we celebrate and what we celebrate is different. When talking about your spouse’s’ new online store always try to get on the same page as them. Recognizing your differences makes getting on the same page much easier.
Make their first online sale your first online sale, even if you have sold millions of products in the past.
6. Be supportive
Above everything else support your spouse in everything business related. If you have ever run a business before you know how drastic the day to day up and downs are. If this is your spouses’ first time they are going through the ups and downs for the first time.
Let them know it is normal. Also, don’t let the highs get too high or the lows get too low.
In my case a simple “hang in there, you are doing everything right it just takes time.” Probably would have gone a long way for my wife. Of course, I would not say anything along those lines, which would cause my wife more anxiety.
Even though we are married and we work together on her ecommerce store I was not doing a good job of supporting her. Was I trying to help whenever possible, of course. Was I going out of my way to ask her how things were going with a specific item she was working on? Nope.
All of these tips apply to having a successful marriage. Just remember that when starting an online store with your spouse you are starting a new relationship. This new relationship will require a new dynamic between the two of you.
The biggest mistake I made was carrying over our existing dynamic into running an online store together. Save yourself some grief. Don’t make the same mistakes I made!
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