For Better or for Worse

Starting a business with your better half isn't like buying a couch together. Before you hang your shingle, make sure you've both got what it takes.

She shouts out the answers to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?; he changes the channel to the World's Strongest Man competition. She wants an SUV; he bought himself a truck. She's wrapped in terrycloth before her morning cup of coffee; he goes jogging at 5 a.m. Her politics stink; he leaves the toilet seat up. Ever wish you could fire your spouse?

Well, you can, if you go into business together. Of course, it's probably not a good idea to start a joint venture together if you can't even reconcile things like who takes the trash out on Wednesday mornings. But if you and your significant other have a strong relationship, you might be able to make it work at the office, too. "In our case, the relationship has benefited from the business," says Robert Cota, 43, co-founder of Inc., a Los Angeles-based developer of a peer-to-peer technology for the entertainment industry. "The relationship and the business have evolved in a parallel line. Both of us are creative, and we have the same goals. That's why we're together as a couple and why we went into business together."

According to Cota's partner, co-founder Kandice Cline, 29, the business also benefits from the relationship. "Being in the relationship first helps us keep perspective," she says. "We're working all the time, but because we enjoy being around each other, we can put more energy into the business without having it feel like work."

Cline and Cota are part of a growing number of young entrepreneurial couples sharing personal and professional lives. With more women in the work force and less time for both sexes to develop relationships outside of their jobs, men and women are spending more time together at the office.

The trend is partly a matter of numbers, but it's also generational. Gen X women expect to be business leaders, and Gen X men are less likely to think working with women is emasculating. Moreover, many young entrepreneurial couples aren't just interested in making a buck; they also want to make a difference. By turning shared ideals into successful businesses, these couples are erasing the taboo against workplace romance.

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This article was originally published in the June 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: For Better or for Worse.

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