Working with your Partner – our top 10 tips!

Management & Growth,

Over the years, this has been one of the most divisive subjects we’ve come across! There is no mid-point, people either met their other half through work and would be happy to work with them again, or adamant that they would end up in the divorce courts if they tried it! So how do you make it work when you’re working with your Partner?

Having done so since 2002, read on for our top 10 tips …

1. Have really clear goals for the business

Know where you are taking your business, as it’s then easier to make decisions and pull in the same direction.

When we bought our first business, we’d borrowed a lot of money and all our eggs were in one basket; we knew it had to work!

2. Give each other space

Living and working with your Partner puts a lot of pressure on a couple, which should be your primary focus. By giving yourselves some space, you’ll find other things to talk about than work!

We spent the first three months of working together traveling to the office from home in separate cars as it gave us some space to have our own music on and get some distance from the working day before we got home.

3. Have really clear roles and responsibilities

The danger of working with your Partner is that you step on each other’s toes and overlap, but it works much better if you make sure you don’t!

If each of you have your own areas of responsibility, it’s easier to respect those divisions and give your partner the space to do their job, while you do yours. It also gives you the benefit of a different perspective from someone with the good of the business at heart, but with a degree of objectivity. For us it was simple, Chris was the qualified accountant so had responsibility for everything technical, while anything else fell to me.

4. Make sure someone has right to a final decision

This is essential to avoid a stand-off when you inevitably disagree!

It may be that you set things up so that one of you has the final say in different areas, playing to your strengths or areas of responsibility. For us, certainly in the early days, we went on the basis that the name on the door was Chris’s, and he could run the business without me, so had the final veto. It didn’t always work, but we’ve not often had major clashes anyway!

5. Ensure you both have a relationship with your key contacts

The key here is protection of your business, so you need to be thinking about worst case scenarios. For us, when Chris’s back went on a Saturday morning, taking him out of the business entirely for an extended period, it was a stressful time.

It was made considerably easier though as I knew who to speak to and they knew me, so trusted my opinions and understood my role in and knowledge of the business.

6. Always be professional

We all have times when we have cross words, and then walk into the office.

It’s hard to leave that domestic disagreement at the door, but you have to, particularly if you have a team of people around you. You cannot expect them to referee, or to work well in an environment where your domestic tiffs come with you in the mornings. By all means, pick it back up once you walk out of the office in the evening, but the business will suffer if you don’t learn to have that distance.

Similarly, you need to be professional about your relationship when things are going well too! Keep a professional distance when you’re at work.

7. Have a way to communicate between yourselves that no-one else is aware of

You have chosen to work with your best friend, so, as long as you don’t let it affect your work, you should be able to chat, vent or just say hello when you want to. Following on from the last point though, it’s a good idea to do this when other people aren’t aware of it.

If you have conversations behind closed doors, your team may wonder what’s going on, even if you’re just discussing what to have for dinner!

It also gives you the chance to keep each other up to date on small things that happen throughout the day from a work perspective. This could be via Slack, messenger or WhatsApp, but it’s best to use a method that ensures it stays entirely confidential.

8. Have clear and honest communication between you

This is a really important point. The conversations don’t have to be every day, but you need to makes sure that you take the time to check in with each other about your entirely honest feelings around how things are working for you. You need to check how each of you feel about things like the structure that you have, the focus that you have, the goals that you have, the hours that you’re working.

Are you still aligned as a couple, are your personal goals still aligned with the business goals? When we decided to sell our first business, it was because we’d kept up to date with each other and knew that things needed to change. We realized that neither of us was actually happy, which meant our goal became working out how to extricate ourselves.

9. Remember you ALWAYS have a choice

As business owners you should be in control. You are the one who decides what your business looks like and where it’s going, so you have the power to change it.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe, but regardless of where you are, it CAN be done. If you need to make a change but can’t see how, the first step is finding the right support. If someone had asked me just 12 months before we sold our first business whether it was likely, I would have laughed, but we did it and have honestly never looked back.

10. Have some fun!

You’re working in your own business, making your own choices, and are working with your Partner, someone who’s supposed to be your best friend! You should be able to have some fun and enjoy what you’re doing. You don’t need to be laughing the whole time, but you should feel happy to get to work every day that you do, and if you don’t, then you need to make some changes.

 

I hope these tips for working with your Partner are useful. They’re just our thoughts, collated after a lot of years of working together, but they’ve served us well and have been useful for other couples we have worked with in the past. Remember that most of these tips are useful not just when working with your Partner but can work equally well when applied to working with other family members too!

If you’d like to chat through any of the above, please do get in touch. Similarly, if you have any other tips, please let us know, as it’s always helpful to get other people’s suggestions too!