Best Strategies To Run A Business As A Couple

Gail Nott was a marketing consultant and her husband, Cory, a tech consultant, when they joined forces in 2018 to help other consulting and coaching businesses expand. Married since 2005, Gail, 46, and Cory, 53, of Nicasio, Calif., found it tough going at first. “I would have all these initiatives in mind, how we were going to market and expand our business, and it didn’t feel like he agreed with me,” she says. “We weren’t getting anything done.”

Six months in, a friend suggested the obvious solution — a business coach to help them work together as spouses. They invested a few weekends working with the coach and followed up with monthly calls for the next year. Now, almost four years later, their online company, Take Wing Coaching, is going strong.

Starting an enterprise with a spouse requires balancing two partnerships, the marriage and the business. All that togetherness can be exhilarating and exhausting, with the financial stakes never higher. There are about 5 million family-owned businesses in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau. In a 2019 Census Bureau survey with a roughly 50% response rate, 22% were jointly owned and operated by spouses, almost 8% jointly owned but mostly operated by the husband, and 3% jointly owned but mostly operated by the wife.

Anecdotally, financial planners and wealth advisers say they are seeing more couples choosing to work together, something the pandemic may have spurred. “People have spent a lot of time thinking about what they want to do. They’re looking for an escape from the old responsibilities of putting on a suit or going on an airplane,” says Brian Parker, co-founder and managing director of EP Wealth Advisors in Torrance, Calif. In addition, he says, the pandemic heightened everyone’s awareness that life is short.

A Shared Vision

No business, especially one with a marriage at stake, should be launched without hammering out the financial and legal details first with a CPA or attorney. At a minimum, you’ll want to discuss how to set up the business (see “4 Ways to Structure Your Company” below), but couples also should consider their long-term vision for the business. One of the first things Parker looks for when advising couples starting a business is if they have the same expectations. How do they envision the business growing? Do they want to attract investors, hire employees or start a franchise? “One couple I work with, who are still fine-tuning their roles, realized they were willing to scale back so they didn’t have to hire people,” he says. “They said, ‘We’re OK making less money and just doing it ourselves.'”

Gregory Cole, 58, and Michael Perris, 60, of Bernardsville, N.J., who have been together since 1995, for 20 years ran a successful marketing firm for luxury goods before the pandemic shuttered the business. Last year, they started a perfume business, The Bubble Collection, building on lessons learned from working together on their first startup. They recognized they needed separate hobbies and time away from each other. “We really had to cultivate our personalities outside of our role as business partners,” Perris says.

Culled from kiplinger.com by Alina Tugend 

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