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5 Tips for Successfully (and Peacefully) Tackling Entrepreneurship With Your Spouse

Starting a business with a loved one can be hard; fortunately, it doesn't have to be ...

It’s no big secret that many people want to start their own business so they can live out their entrepreneurial dreams. Surveys have found that 63 percent of those in their 20s want to start their own business, and it is estimated that in the United States, over 550,000 people enter into an entrepreneurial venture each month.

Not everyone is going at it alone, however. In fact, many entrepreneurs are chasing these dreams alongside their spouse. While there are several potential advantages to this approach, there is no denying that entrepreneurship is stressful. You don’t want that stress to spill over into your marriage.

Thankfully, you can have both a successful business and a successful marriage. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Colby and McKenzie Bauer, the husband and wife co-founders of lifestyle brand Thread Wallets — here are their tips for making marriage and entrepreneurship work:

1) Start With a Shared Passion

“McKenzie and I knew from the get-go that we didn’t want to live a conventional life, because we’d always talk about business ideas on our dates,” Colby recalls. “The fact that we were on the same page right from the start about wanting to be entrepreneurs made it a lot easier to be supportive of each other and avoid second-guessing ourselves when we started Thread.”

Finding the balance between business and passion is often cited as one of the most important ingredients for a successful startup, and this is especially true when working with your spouse. When both of you share enthusiasm for your project, you will both give your best effort and be able to keep the business from fostering contention.

You and your spouse should work together to establish the vision and goals for your business early on. This will allow you to work more effectively and avoid miscommunications.

2) Keep It Positive

“Running a business can be super stressful, but you can’t afford to let that spill over into your relationship,” McKenzie says. “When you’re working together, you need to remember that you’re working with your best friend, the person you love. Having a sense of humor and trying to keep things light — even when dealing with something stressful — will help keep things in perspective so you can work well together.”

In this working relationship, it can be helpful to utilize the same principles encouraged for a successful romantic relationship — that of having at least five positive interactions for every negative interaction or conflict. 

For all intents and purposes, workplace interactions are also relationship interactions, so try to keep things positive at all times. Be quick to forgive and move on when necessary.

3) Build On Strengths

“One of the great things about being co-founders is that it becomes easier to manage our individual strengths and weaknesses,” Colby explains. “I don’t have to worry about juggling as many responsibilities because I know McKenzie can handle the areas where I’m not as strong, and vice versa.”

Successful entrepreneurs are always honest about their strengths and weaknesses.

With your spouse, be willing to know which responsibilities each of you can handle. Try to avoid getting defensive as you discuss each others’ strengths and weaknesses. If a particular area isn’t a strength for either of you, consider taking a learning course or outsourcing to someone with more experience, if possible.

4) Make Time for Free Time

“You can’t spend all your time focused on the business,” McKenzie notes.

“As exciting as growing your brand is, you still have to make time for each other. Go on dates where you can get away from work and just be together and have fun. Schedule this into your calendar if you have to so your startup doesn’t keep you from strengthening your relationship.”

Learning to use your working hours more effectively by eliminating distractions or outsourcing select time-consuming tasks will make it much easier to keep entrepreneurship from completely consuming your life. Spending time together away from your startup will reduce stress and help you have fun — vital ingredients for any lasting relationship.

Of course, celebrating a recent business success is a great way to spend a date night!

5) Have a Backup Plan

Startups don’t always work out …

In fact, over half of all small businesses fail in less than four years. Both you and your spouse need to be prepared for the possibility of failure and have backup plans in place if things don’t work out quite like you’d hope. This will save you a lot of stress and worry.

“When we first started Thread Wallets, we decided we would give it six months,” McKenzie says. “During that time, we hoped to successfully fund a Kickstarter and make enough money through our online store to justify doing more with the company. But if that didn’t pan out, we were prepared to pivot to something else. We were emotionally ready for whatever outcome occurred.”

By facing forward and planning for the future, you and your spouse can ensure that business setbacks won’t add stress to other parts of your life. Both entrepreneurship and marriage have their fair share of challenges — but few things can be more rewarding in the long run.

As you and your spouse learn to work together in managing business and your relationship, you will be able to get through any obstacle on your way to success.

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