How to run a business with your partner and stay together

How to run a business with your partner and stay together

It’s not all long lunches and loving looks.

BY Liz Nable, 7 min READ

It’s impossible.

No, just kidding – there are tons of successful Australian entrepreneur teams who are killing it in business. Around 70% of Australian businesses are family-owned and operated and a large portion of these are couples.

But just because you make a great couple doesn’t mean you’re made for each other in making your first million.

Starting out in your own business is hard enough, but when you add in the most prominent and important relationship in your life, you’d better be sure this is the right move before making it.

I recently saw an old friend on the street and I asked her how her raw dessert business was going. Fabulous, as it turns out, she was already expanding into the international market and had grown enough to outsource the manufacturing of her products so she could concentrate on scaling the business.

However, her partner was her biggest headache. Soon after her business began to take off, he had been made redundant from his corporate job and in a moment of brilliance decided he should join her in the business to help it grow.

From the outset it was obvious to my friend that this was a recipe for disaster and, long story short, while it was a difficult conversation to have, she says it was one that saved her marriage.  Business and your betrothed is not always the best combination.

Of course I knew none of this when my husband, Adam and I opened our first Xtend Barre studio five years ago.

And it’s probably lucky we didn’t.

xtend barre

Lucky too, as it turns out, that his strengths are my weaknesses and vice-versa as this is probably the number one reason we’ve made it work.

His background was professional athlete turned investment banker so he took care of all the accounting, the books, staff pay, tax … all the details and numbers stuff.

I’d come from 15 years as a television news journalist so naturally I took on the role of marketing, public relations and social media and managing staff.  Our roles were very clear from the start.

With both of us working full-time in the business, our roles at home were also now 50/50 too, and ironically that was almost more important.

Living and working together is not all long lunches and loving looks.  It’s hard.  It’s super stressful and it’s lots of compromise. But if you’re both driven by the same ambitions and the same motivations to make it work, if your long term vision for your business is the same, then it can be the best, most rewarding kind of business partnership to be in.

5 tips for running a business with your spouse:

1. Divide the responsibilities.

Ideally your strengths should be his/her weaknesses.  One of you needs to be good at the details, the other at the bigger picture.  If you hate the financials side of business, you’d want to hope your partner is good at maths.

2. Get over stuff easily (a deal breaker for us).

If you like to hold a grudge, working with your life partner could be seriously detrimental to your business.  If you’re not speaking for days on end, the only thing that will suffer is your bottom-line (apart from your relationship of course!), if you’re going to disagree (which you will, ALL the time) be prepared to get over it and move on quickly.

3. Have some basic work/life boundaries.

Personally – we are terrible at this but I’m adding it in anyway.  You need to have a cut-off time each day or some sacred time each day where you don’t talk about work.  I find what works best for us is going out to dinner roughly once a week (even if it’s to the beach for a picnic), it takes us out of the house, away from the home office and distractions like laptops and phones. (This is a constant work in progress!)

4. Have time away from each other.

It’s healthy to want a bit of a break, try and set the business up so you’re not working in each other’s space (or face) 24/7 – after all you are practically joined at the hip at home and at work. Even if it’s a night out with your girlfriends, or an afternoon at the movies.  You’ll feel recharged, refreshed and ready to work together as a team again.

5. Share household duties 50/50 (or outsource them if your budget allows)

This is a big one in any relationship but particularly if you have your own business together. I see the housework as an extension of our business, I wouldn’t expect my partner to do all the work while I watch TV, a business can’t function like that. It’s exactly the same at home.


Images: iStock / supplied 

New to Xtend Barre? Find out more about classes here, and if you’re keen to give it a go, sign up for their $49 New Client Special Offer (that’s 14 Days of Unlimited Classes for $49). Just click on the studio closest to you to go to the offer.

Read more: Fitness entrepreneur Liz Nable on how to build a powerful brand


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