by Margot Zaher
About 15 years ago, I used to co-run a business with my ex-husband. Working professionally with my partner was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. We faced many challenges co-running a business, which negatively impacted all aspects of our lives, and most profoundly our personal relationship.
We had trouble deciding who was really in charge of making which decisions, and because of that we would get into arguments about which course of action we should follow. We would waste countless hours arguing, and worst of all we often felt misunderstood and unappreciated by one other.
I felt like my “great” ideas were simply dismissed without a true vetting process, and that all of my hard work was not appreciated. I became more and more resentful of the business and how I was being treated, and he became more and more angry at how hard it was to get anything done. Eventually, our personal relationship could no longer withstand the pressure of our unhealthy business relationship and we called it quits. Part of what caused our divorce was undoubtedly the frustrating and fight-filled experiences of running a business together.
After my marriage ended, I embarked on a journey to learn how to have successful relationships, even if both partners are co-running a business together. While I believe that this remains one of the trickiest undertakings for couples, I’ve discovered over time (through working with couples as a relationship and life coach) that implementing the following strategies can help you successfully co-run your business with your partner, and at the same time ensure the health and longevity of your personal relationship.
Clearly Define Your Roles
When your roles are not clearly defined, misunderstandings and arguments can easily arise. Defining your roles goes beyond determining what specific tasks each of you are responsible for. It includes determining who has the final say in what areas of the business.
One of the biggest pitfalls is believing that you can easily arrive at a consensus. It’s important for each person to feel empowered in their specific area of the business – be the ruler of their fiefdom so to speak. This will give each of you a sense of ownership, which will increase motivation and inspiration and propel you to greater levels of productivity.
Also, clearly defining roles ensures that tasks will not fall through the cracks because they were not allocated to a specific person – it will also keep you and your partner from arguing about why something fell through the cracks.
Create Daily No-Business Zones
Your relationship needs space and time to flourish. If you don’t set boundaries with your business, working on your business will encroach on your relationship, and pretty soon all you will be talking about at the dinner table is that day’s business problem that needs solving. Create no-business zones in your life so that you can nourish your relationship with your partner and your family. For instance, make dinner a no-business zone where you only talk about personal and family things, and take time to truly connect with your partner and hear how they are doing.
Do Weekly Check-Ins
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when co-running a business with your partner is assuming that everything is going great, and that they are happy because they are not complaining. I recommend creating weekly fifteen minute check-ins with your partner to talk about how both of you are feeling about working together. This will keep resentments from developing and festering, resulting in arguing or unnecessary drama. Here are three questions to ask each other about your working relationship:
- What is working well?
- What is frustrating you?
- What do you think we need to improve?
Some weeks you may have a lot to say to each other, and other weeks you may have very little to say. I recommend that you continue to do the weekly check-ins, even if you feel tempted to skip them. It’s important to make space for feelings and concerns to be expressed, and if you skip a week, you may easily overlook something important that happened that can start to fester in the absence of a heart-to-heart discussion.
Praise Your Partner
How often do you acknowledge what your partner has done for the business, or the contributions they’ve made in other areas of your life? Many of us lead hectic lives, especially as business owners, and it is often difficult to remember to take time out to show appreciation and thank our partners for all that they do for us, for the business, for the children, or for the household.
Taking a few minutes a couple times a week to acknowledge your partner with simple kind words will nurture the very fabric of your relationship. This will help keep the “I’m being taken for granted” feelings at bay. Words of praise go a long way towards making your partner feel good about themselves, and will also motivate them to do even more for the business and for the collective household.
When it comes to praise, it’s important that the praise be specific. General praise is not as impactful and may make your partner feel that it’s part of a routine. So, be sure to cite examples of what they have done, and be specific about why they did such a good job. Also, speak from your heart with genuine gratitude so that they can truly feel how much you appreciate them.
Prioritize Connection Rituals
When you are running a business with your partner, there are many occasions where it may seem natural to prioritize the businesses success over your connection with your partner. For instance, you may be behind on an important project, so you skip dinner to ensure that the project gets done on time. While this might be necessary from time to time, be careful to not make this a habit.
It’s important to remember that your relationship with your spouse has the potential to fuel your success, and it needs to be nurtured. Prioritizing connecting with your spouse and spending quality time together outside of the business arena will ensure that your relationship remains strong and fulfilling. A relationship will wither away without intentional regular connection routines.
Implementing these strategies are well-worth the small amount of time and effort they require. It’s better to spend time setting up a structure that supports healthy connection and communication with your partner versus wasting time fighting, or worse, allowing your relationship to deteriorate until you have a red alert situation on your hands.
If you need support implementing these strategies or are facing relationship challenges, I would be happy to help. Get practical tools and proven solutions by using this link to book a no-cost no-obligation 60-minute relationship coaching intro call with me: https://go.oncehub.com/MargotZaher. You can also learn more about me at http://www.Margotzaher.com.
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