Tips for Working With Your Significant Other (& Other Difficult People), Part 1

by Lauren Schneidewind on December 8, 2015

Working with your significant other or family can be such a rewarding experience. When my husband and I were debating whether to start our own business, one of the best features was having a trusted partner to bounce ideas off of. When you go into business with someone, it can be hard to identify his or her strengths, weaknesses, and personality quirks. When it’s someone you’ve known for years, it’s a lot easier to know whom you are partnering with since you already know them. This can be incredibly reassuring and it can also provide some much-needed confidence. When I decided to leave the safe comforts of my day job, having a partner at home and at the office can make this transition less terrifying because you are in this together. However, without a doubt the hardest thing I do every single day is not running a Tech Business as a female, driving in 1.5 hours of Atlanta Traffic everyday or even raising a wonderful 8 month old that is teething and getting monthly ear infections; it is working with my significant other. That said, working with my significant other can be very rewarding, it can also be very difficult; however, by following a few ground rules, we can make it a bit easier.

Set and Agree on Boundaries

Boundaries are a great place to start with any relationship, both professional and personal. When hiring or starting a new job, there is typically a job description. This is an excellent first step in creating boundaries or expectations. Now it is a little different when you are working with your spouse but its very important for both partners to agree, whether in writing or just verbally; who will manage what? Who manages the company finances? Who pays payroll tax? Who does business development? Who is the account manager? I recommend the roles should center on each partners’ strengths and background. In my case, I have a background in new business development and marketing – therefore I handle the overall business strategy, finance, website, social media and marketing. My husband primarily has a sales and an engineering background – so he gets to work with new and existing clients – both in a pre-sales and delivery. In the same way that some marriages begin with a pre-nuptial agreement – your business partnership should begin with the same “discovery” process. Only by being open and starting off with clear responsibilities and boundaries can you avoid stepping on each other’s toes later.

Its Not Personal, Its Business

My husband and I have a rule: what happens at the office stays at the office. When running a business and working with your spouse, it’s pretty easy to allow differences of opinion or business strategy to divide you. Despite the temptation to take any disagreements home, I have learned its best to let issues slide the moment the office door is locked for the day. This might be the hardest boundary we have set for each other. This one also takes the most skill and discipline. We work tirelessly to keep our personal lives and emotions out of the office and we have to do the same with office issues as well. Most Atlantans despite their daily commute, but in my case I use it as a handy way to transition from home to office. In the morning, I have 30 minutes to think about the day ahead. On the way home, I can think about what needs to be done at home. If I have to work from home, I’ll take a 30 minute walk in the morning and the evening so that I get the same 30 minute “transition time.” For me, doing this helps build a mental boundary so that I’m not allowing work to interfere with the responsibilities that arise when being a parent. That said, I have to roll with the punches since I never know when life will throw me a curveball.

Overall, working with family (or other difficult people), boundaries are a great resource to fall back on to retain your sanity. I know they have worked for me, especially when I have been diligent to keep up with them.

Tips for Working With Your Significant Other (& Other Difficult People), Part 1 is going to be a blog series, I hope to build upon my experiences working with my significant other as well as several family members to create a plethora of stories about what not to do and how to redirect toward the positive.

What do you think? Would you work with your family? Am I just jaded and ungrateful and should be more thankful about having the opportunity to spend so much time with my family? Let’s start a conversation!

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