Like many HGTV fans, I’ve fallen in love with Chip and Joanna Gaines while watching their incredibly popular show “Fixer Upper.” Her style is comfy-chic, his humor is over-the-top and their kids just couldn’t be cuter. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if my husband and I could work together like that to create our own empire. If you’re wondering whether you should start a business with your spouse or partner, here are some things you should think about first.
Questions to Ask Before Starting a Husband and Wife Business
There are many pros and cons when you work with your spouse, and it’s critical to put your relationship first. Setting guidelines and preparing for challenging situations ahead of time can diffuse stress and protect your family. Hopefully these questions can help you to determine if this would be a healthy option for both your relationship and your business goals.
Can I Compartmentalize Home and Work Life?
This comes as no surprise: men and women think differently. Men have a better chance at keeping work problems at work, while women tend to carry their emotions with them wherever they are. For example, my husband who is a nurse can have the worst day, but once he gets home and changes out of his scrubs, he puts any work drama behind him.
On the other hand, I usually can’t let things go so easily. If something goes wrong, I’ll review the events over in my mind a hundred times, toss and turn all night trying to figure out what went wrong and still need to talk things over the next day. If my husband and I were to work together, I’m afraid I would drive him crazy since I would be in work mode all the time!
Have We Created a Detailed List of Responsibilities?
If you have been together any length of time, you undoubtedly know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Many times the saying “opposites attract” is also true. Maybe one of you is better at finances while the other is more imaginative with marketing strategies and product development. Or perhaps you are great at back-office tasks, and your partner is outgoing and can instantly connect with customers and vendors. Writing out what jobs need to get done and assigning responsibility can help to determine who takes ownership of specific tasks and how you can complement one another.
Do Your Working Styles Complement Each Other?
I had a friend who was an office manager, and her husband was a contractor. They bought a house to flip. While he did the labor, she kept track of the expenses and made sure that the plumbers, electricians and other outside contractors were on schedule. They worked so well together that they started their own business a year later.
Instead of starting a business together right out of the gate, it’s smart to do a test drive to see how well you work together, how you solve disagreements and what the project outcome would look like.
Have We Worked on Past Projects Together Well?
You may be the type of person who gets things done in advance to avoid deadline stress, but your partner may like to wait until the last minute because he feels like he has plenty of time. Or your work style may include getting up early to accomplish the day’s tasks in the quiet morning hours, while your spouse is a night owl who’s most productive in the evening.
If you and your significant other have opposite work styles, figure out ahead of time how to manage these potential frustrations. You might want to use a spreadsheet or app to ensure the to-do list is being completed, or create ways to compromise (like setting deadlines earlier so your spouse doesn’t wait to pay the bills on the day they are due.)
Have We Looked Into Creating Legal Documents to Protect Both of Our Rights?
No one gets married thinking that they’ll ultimately get divorced, and no one starts a business believing it will ultimately fail. However, life is full of unknowns — the best route is to prepare for the unexpected.
When you start your business, the first thing to consider is what type of entity you should form. LLCs (Limited Liability Companies) are usually the best option, because they are simple to start but offer protection for your personal assets from possible debt or lawsuits that may arise.
Secondly, you’ll need to determine what professional roles you and your partner will officially be taking in your business. Is one member going to work full-time and the other part-time? Are you both equal members, or will one work as a paid employee of the company? If you get a divorce or one partner dies, what will happen to the company? These are all important questions to answer because they will affect your tax returns, payment options and how the company is divided should difficult circumstances arise.
Fortunately, Incfile has legal experts who are ready to help guide you through these complex decisions. Feel free to contact us today to find out what options are best for your unique situation, and learn more about how we can assist with managing your company.