Part of the America’s Entrepreneurs Special Report
If you’re transitioning from full-time employment to retirement but still want to bring in some income, why not consider starting a business with your spouse or life partner?
My wife Sharon and I launched a small service business in our mid-50s, ran it together for over six years and then sold it. For us, working side-by-side was a way to combine co-owning a business with spending time together. It was also a natural way to exit our professional careers in marketing and sales and move on to the next phase of our lives.
Here are five reasons why starting a business with your spouse or partner could work for you:
1. You Can Share a Passion
If you two like the same things, you might be able to translate them into a viable business idea.
In our case, a shared passion for helping animals turned into a mobile dog-grooming business. Sharon was already a certified groomer. In our business, she groomed dogs in a specially outfitted van we purchased; I ran the business operations and did the marketing.
Your business is likely to be more successful if you share a passion — as long as you’re sure it can be turned into a sustainable business.
Maybe you both share an interest in animals, a concern for the environment or something else. Or maybe the two of you like to serve clients to the best of your abilities. Your business is likely to be more successful if you share a passion — as long as you’re sure that what you want to do can be turned into a sustainable business.
2. You Can Complement Each Other
Sharon and I were fortunate because we’d worked together previously in two business settings. So we already knew each other’s working styles and our strengths and weaknesses.
We complemented each other well because one of us was detail-oriented, meticulous and pragmatic (Sharon), while the other was more conceptual, creative and free-wheeling (me). It would be easy for these contrasting qualities to cause friction, but we achieved work compatibility by accepting each other’s differences and collaborating.
If you can learn to compensate for each other’s weaknesses, leverage each other’s strengths and work together in a spirit of cooperation, your business will benefit — and so will your personal relationship.
3. You Can Work Toward Common Goals
Our goal was to run a business together that would help dog owners and their pets, and operate it at a high level of personalized service. We also started the business with an end goal in mind: to run it for five to seven years as a transition into retirement.
Sharon and I set more targeted goals as we went along, such as the number of clients we wanted to acquire and the amount of income we wanted to achieve each year. By setting both broad and specific goals for the business together, we always shared the same perspective. Our common goals helped us stay on track and visualize our success.
4. You Can Learn New Things
One of the really interesting challenges in operating a small service business is getting to do everything yourself. Some things you already know how to do, but others you have to learn.
In our case, Sharon was proficient at grooming, and my past experience running my own service business was invaluable on the operations side. Still, neither of us knew anything about maintaining all the equipment and systems in the grooming van we purchased. We sure learned about that in a hurry — sometimes by trial and error.
I also had to learn how to manage the financial details of the business. But we looked at everything as a learning experience and sought help from outside experts if we couldn’t solve problems ourselves.
5. You Can Deepen Your Relationship
Working as a team and growing a business together can have a very positive impact on both of you. Done right, it can actually contribute to growing and deepening your relationship.
Of course, you will face challenges, and you will be under business stresses that could add complexity to your daily lives. Now, both your livelihoods will depend on the success of a single business, and that may be too big a risk for some couples. It will become very important for both of you to maintain your perspective and stay grounded, so running a business does not detract from your personal lives.
A Final Thought
Obviously, co-owning a business is not for every couple. It requires blending your business and personal lives, equally sharing power and setting reasonable boundaries so you never let a business dispute become a personal one.
But Sharon and I found that for us at least, the positives outweighed the negatives. To help other couples who want to pursue working together, we wrote a book about our experience: Let’s Make Money, Honey: The Couple’s Guide to Starting a Service Business. Maybe it will help you and your husband or wife do what we’ve done and transition to the next great chapter of your lives.
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