Now that we have successfully navigated the shoals of another Valentine’s Day, and have not foundered on the rocks of elevated expectation nor sunk into the whirlpool of lassitude and avoidance, we might want to consider the special relationships that exist between couples who live and work together.
A recent article in the Globe and Mail cites the pros and cons of the live/work relationship—and certainly both should be considered when the decision is made to start or purchase a business together.
The balance between the advantages of having a life partner who is involved in the day-to-day running of a business (shared concerns, understanding, convenience), with some of the disadvantages that come from life being a 24-hour-a-day business meeting, is something that should be planned for and considered carefully.
At the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba, we recommend that couples develop a partnership agreement in addition to any formal Shareholder’s Agreement required for a corporate structure. It should spell out the roles each person will play and the decision-making authority that is relevant to each role. Don’t assume that all decisions will be made in tandem. Each person has expertise which should be reflected in the agreement. Expectations and deliverables should be cited: for example, the books will be brought up to date at the end of the month; the marketing plan must be complete by March 1; the merchandising must be freshened every week; the bills will be paid as due; the cash flow will be projected for each quarter, etc.
Some of the points we made in our August blog, Partnerships, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly are certainly pertinent to live/work partnerships as well. We recognize that this special kind of partnership can be a joy (building an enterprise together) or a terrible hardship (watching your relationship disintegrate as the demands of your business grow). The key is to think ahead, plan for all contingencies and, above all, know when to end the business meeting and just be a loving couple.