Peer-to-Peer: When life partners become business partners

Written by PROFIT Xtra

Last issue, the president of a London, Ont.-based startup wrote to ask PROFIT-Xtra readers: “My husband and I launched an online company six months ago. We’re finding it very tough to separate home and business life. It feels like we talk business 24/7, and our relationship is suffering as a result. I can’t remember the last time we talked about world events, or family, or just how we’re feeling that day! Is this just par for the course when life partners becomes business partners, or is work-life balance in this case possible?”
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Reader responses


I started living and working together with my ex-partner in 1992, when we both become self-employed with our own businesses. In theory, my sales and marketing skills would be a perfect match to his engineering big-picture brain. Yeah, right—oil and water do not mix.

Together we started a high-tech software company that is still going strong in its 17th year in business. One way of separating work and our personal lives was to say at the start of a new conversation, “I’m talking to you now as my spouse,” so we’d know to respond on a personal level rather than in our work role. Date nights become even more important to keep the personal relationship growing and nurtured. And having strict and very clear areas of control in the business that do not overlap are vital.

We separated personally after seven years together, and then the work relationship improved immensely. I retired from high tech in 2002 after 10 years of working together. My ex and I remain friends, and we’re both married to new partners.

Farah Perelmuter, Speakers’ Spotlight:
Having worked together successfully for more than 12 years, my husband Martin and I have some advice for those spouses who are trying to make it work. [Editor’s note: Speakers’ Spotlight, Canada’s largest speakers’ bureau, made the 2002 PROFIT 100 ranking as one of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies, and Farah Perelmuter has made the PROFIT W100 ranking of Canada’s Top Women Entrepreneurs for the past four years.

I believe that the most important thing to do is clearly define your roles, based on your strengths, and keep them as separate from each other’s as possible. It is important to discover, and concentrate on, what each partner does best. Once these roles are clearly outlined, it is crucial for each partner to believe in, and rely on, the other’s expertise. And most importantly, always remember that first and foremost comes your marriage—being business partners is secondary.

It’s easy to immerse yourself, and your relationship, into the business. Try to set limits on how much you talk about work at home or on the weekends. And no matter what, always treat each other with respect—especially in front of your employees!

For her answer, Farah Perelmuter will receive a copy of Advantage Play: The Manager’s Guide to Creative Problem Solving, by David Ben.

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Watch for another Peer-to-Peer Poll in the next PROFIT-Xtra.

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com