Q: How can I run a business with my spouse without hurting our relationship?
A: We've worked together for more than 20 years. Here are some of the most important things we've discovered:
1. Adapt your communication style if necessary. If partners' communication styles differ, one or the other is going to have to change to accommodate. Recognizing how each partner deals with disagreements is the first step. To learn more about communication styles, read John Gottman's book The Mathematics of Marriage.
2. Don't interfere with each other's work. It's important to allow each person to take full responsibility and perform his or her work without interference. That means no unsolicited meddling, coaching, back-seat driving or peeking over each other's shoulders.
3. Learn how to handle thorny financial and legal affairs. When a couple disagrees about or doesn't know the full implications of choices like changing the form of business organization or seeking investors, one partner may be reluctant to act, and it can paralyze the business. Be ready to discuss major decisions with specialists like lawyers and accountants. If problems arise that involve your relationship, seek the help of a professional business or family counselor.
4. Give yourselves time for a private life. When family members work together, it's easy to allow your work to consume your entire relationship. For some, this means taking separate vacations; for others, it means just taking time out from work to do something different together, like taking a walk for half an hour at lunchtime.