On this Valentine’s Day, it is of course important to remember the ones who make our hearts go aflutter. Flowers, chocolates, a honey-do list – it all goes a long way toward letting our partners know we love and appreciate them.
I would suggest that this is even more important when your Valentine is also your business partner.
This is true for many reasons. One key issue is that when you work with your spouse or significant other, lines can get blurred. Business and love are not the same thing; the way you treat or think about your business associates is not (or should not be!) the same as how you treat your mate. So it’s important that you use Valentine’s Day to reaffirm the romantic side of your multi-faceted relationship.
This then begs the question – what is the best way to run a business and a relationship at the same time?
Here are a few tips I have compiled – from my own experience, from that of couples I know in the trenches, and from some experts:
1. Keep work and home separate (to the extent possible): Look, we all know that there is no way that these two worlds can be completely separate. However, partners that make it work know that one’s role at work is not the same as their role at home. They keep these worlds (somewhat) separate.
Some couples accomplish this by having “office hours.” Work is about work at these times, and later, home is about home. I know one couple whose rule is that they are not allowed to speak about work after 8 p.m.
And, by the same token, it is important to set ground rules, whereby, just as work needs to stay at work, so too does your personal life need to stay out of the office (again, to the extent possible).
2. Have a division of labor at work: Along the same lines, having a division of labor is key at work. At home, roles and responsibilities may tend to intersect or bleed over. At work, it is important to know who is responsible for what and to accept and appreciate the chain of command.
3. Have your own space: Just because you are working together does not mean that you must spend all day together. You probably don’t want to in any case. That means at work you not only need your own space – you also need to give your partner space.
4. Remember that playing the game is different from watching the game: Running a business is like being on a team together. When working with a spouse, he or she is going to be playing the game on the field with you every day. You will not have someone rooting you on from the sidelines. Remember your partner is your teammate more than your cheerleader when you work together.
5. Make time for your relationship: As you well know, owning and running a business can be time-consuming. Finding time for yourself can be challenging, let alone finding time to nurture your relationship. But that’s why it’s more important when you run a business with your partner. It is simply vital that, just as you need to not let your personal relationship negatively interfere with your business, you also need to make sure your business does not overwhelm your relationship.
Taking time helps ensure that.
6. Heed these words of wisdom: Let me end by giving you the best piece of advice given to me on my wedding day, 27 years ago, by a family elder who had been happily married for over 50 years:
“Treat her like a queen and she will treat you like a king.” (I’m not always successful, but my Valentine knows I try!)
Happy Valentine’s Day, entrepreneurs.
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success.© Steven D. Strauss.
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