Business Partner, Spouse or Both: Making the Couple Dynamic Work at Work
It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to run businesses with a partner or co-founder. The dynamics, energy, combined strengths, and accountability to one another are often vital to getting a business off the ground. However, there’s a commonly held concern that going into business with a husband, wife, or domestic partner could ultimately put the business itself at risk. I, however, believe and have experienced the opposite. In fact, I actually believe that this dynamic, and balance, thrive under the healthy leadership of a couple who make the business and marriage dynamic work.
Why? Couples naturally learn how to work together and overcome the challenges of life, marriage, and family, over time. I know firsthand that overcoming such challenges can equip couples with the skills to handle anything that comes their way in business, without tearing them apart. Here are a few reasons why:
Happy Marriage First Can Lead to a Healthy Business Second
Your well-run business is often an indication of a well-maintained marriage. I’ll be the first to tell anyone not to go into business with your spouse or partner if the relationship isn’t stable. It sounds like common sense, but it’s a vital point.
It’s often harder to get out of a business partnership than a marriage. If couples can’t handle the day-to-day stress of marriage, they won’t be able to handle the day-to-day stress of business. As a result, ultimately, the company will fail.
I’m often asked, “What if the marriage goes sour?” and my response is that you know your spouse better than any other person, and therefore trust your gut. You know if your marriage is stable or not.
Don’t Over Analyze Yourself or Your Business
My wife, Dr. Renee Dua, is a renowned nephrologist and, given her medical background, is the one who came up with the idea for Heal. She is the Chief Medical Officer of the Company and more than qualified for the role. We had an initial conversation about the idea, we flushed it out, created mock-ups for the app we created, lined up a few investors, and said "Let's go do this!" There was no over-analysis. We agreed on the concept and when it came to the business side of things, my wife believed in me and had my back.
Most importantly: "Don't think of yourself as a “power couple” or “power” anything! We're a normal husband and wife raising our kids, paying our mortgage, and trying to do something meaningful with our lives. The main thing is that whether it’s at home or work, we’re always by each other’s side, fully supporting one another.
Taking the mental position of being a ‘power couple’ is just added stress. Ego can easily be the death of a company with real potential. Remain humble and look at the business partnership as another adventure you are embarking on together. Doing more together means couples get to know each other from new perspectives, and to trust each other more. That is a recipe for success.
Know Your Roles & Skillsets
While some may consider working with your spouse a hindrance, I consider it a strength.
It works for our company, and we wouldn't be here today without acknowledging that our success is the result of the merging of our two very different skill sets.
Both at home and at work, when it comes to a task at hand, you need to know when to dig in and when the other person is best suited to take the lead. If you both have the best interests of our family and our business at heart, you’re in great shape.
Use Arguments to Strengthen Your Company & Know When to Spend Family Time
No one likes to disagree or get into a dispute, but an argument doesn’t always have to be a negative thing. You shouldn’t be afraid to argue or disagree with your business partner, especially if they’re also your spouse. In fact, because I work with my wife, I will argue with her more passionately about work and vice versa. We won’t just sit on something that’s bothering us because we are afraid the other person will be offended. We know how to separate the two and know that we’re both striving toward a common goal.
What’s equally important is that couples spend time as a family, without discussing anything that has to do with their business. We dedicate time to being husband and wife, and parents to our kids. We’re not business partners when we go on a date or take our kids to Disneyland. Couples have to be able to switch in and out of the business and their lives.
Life is not always easy. Sometimes your child wakes up sick at 3 a.m. and you have to take care of them, or there’s an emergency at work that’s stresses you both out. During tough times, your spouse or domestic partner is the one by your side. There are no comparisons to the highs and lows that married couples go through. Once couples have been through life’s ups and downs together, there is nothing that can happen at work that they will not be prepared to handle together.
Nick Desai is an accomplished and visionary entrepreneur who has started and led four venture funded start-ups over the last 18 years. Nick is the Co-Founder and CEO of Heal, an on-demand doctor house call app available in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco and San Diego. For Nick, Heal is more than a company – it’s a mission to fix the broken $3 trillion healthcare system.
Nick’s previous start-ups have been innovative leaders in technology-enabled fitness and weight loss, social media and mobile applications, and the web’s first self-updating address book.
Nick earned his BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering from UC Irvine, where he is in the Engineering Hall of Fame, and an MS in Electrical Engineering from UCLA. Nick is on the board of the UC Irvine Alumni Association and the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Heart Association.