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        A Home-Based Business Online
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        Keeping It In The Family : Challenges of Starting a Small Family Business

        © 2000-2017 Elena Fawkner

        I'm sure you've heard this dreaded statistic before: the failure
        rate of all start-up businesses is around the 90% mark.  Add
        to that the further distinctly unpleasant fact that roughly 50%
        of all marriages end in divorce and you can quickly see that
        the odds of your new small business succeeding, already
        slim, become positively anorexic if you run your business in
        partnership with your spouse.

        So, what are some of the key challenges faced by newly
        entrepreneurial couples and what can YOU do to reduce
        the chances of becoming a statistic?


        A structure is only as strong as the foundation upon which
        it's built.  If you're in business with your spouse, the
        foundation of your building is the relationship.  That needs
        to be like bedrock before you even *contemplate* starting
        a business together.

        Make sure you honestly assess your commitment to the
        business and to each other up front.  Do you share the same
        family values and desires?  Do you plan to have (more)
        children?  If so, how do you accommodate family
        responsibilities and build a business at the same time?

        Discuss these issues before they arise.  The last thing you,
        your business, your relationship or your family needs are
        nasty surprises.  If you simply assume your spouse will cut
        back on the business and assume the lion's share of the
        parenting responsibilities, think again.  Your spouse may
        be making the same assumption ... about you!

        Preserve and nurture what's led you to where you are
        today: your relationship with each other.  And that may not
        be as easy as it sounds.

        At least in the early days of the business, your relationship
        will need to thrive on a lack of quality 'couple' time or, indeed,
        any time at all!  It is by no means unusual for new business
        owners to be working 16 hours a day, 7 days a week to get
        their businesses off the ground.  That's one very important
        reason why your relationship needs to be in good shape
        before you go into business together.  You don't want to
        be subjecting a relationship in trouble to that sort of

        Look for ways to retain romantic intimacy.  When you're
        working 16/7 that won't happen by itself.  One good idea is
        to schedule 'dates' on a regular basis.  Even once a week
        can make all the difference.  Just make sure you don't
        use the time to talk shop.  This is supposed to be romantic
        time for the two of you as a couple.  Tomorrow's the time to
        discuss business and it will be here soon enough!

        You can, I'm sure, think of many other ways to keep romance
        alive.  Start little rituals, such as candlelight dinner breaks,
        for example.  The important thing is to always stay aware of
        this area of your relationship and don't let it slide, no matter
        how absorbed you both become in your new business.
        You'll probably find you take it in turns being vigilant in this


        It is absolutely crucial that each of you has your own clearly
        defined areas of sole responsibility.  Any business needs one
        and only one person to make a final decision.  This
        doesn't mean that one person makes all the decisions, it
        just means that one person makes the final decision in his
        or her area of sole responsibility.

        Start by allocating business responsibilities between you and
        having a very clear understanding that each of you has final
        decision-making authority in your respective areas.  Under no
        circumstances should you encroach on your partner's area
        of responsibility and/or override his or her decisions.  Start
        doing that and the cracks WILL begin to appear, I kid you not!
        Sure, consult each other when making decisions.  That's
        what business partners do, after all.  But the ultimate
        decision-making authority must rest with the one who has
        overall responsibility for the relevant area of the business.

        The business is not the only area where responsibility
        needs to be divided.  Don't forget to allocate responsibility
        for household chores and parenting responsibilities.  Who is
        to do the grocery shopping, the laundry, the cleaning and
        bill payment?


        Each of you should treat the other just as you would a
        respected colleague outside the business.  So show each
        other the same respect, courtesy, appreciation and
        gratitude that you would show any valued co-worker.

        No matter how well people get along, disagreements about
        certain aspects of the business are inevitable.  And just as
        in any other business, what is important is how those
        disagreements are resolved.

        A clear agreement on division of responsibility is a very good
        start and having already agreed that one of you has final
        decision-making authority in your respective areas means
        that there is always a means for resolution of the
        disagreement - a final decision.  Otherwise you'd find
        yourselves going around in circles, unable to agree, until
        finally one of you would take matters into your own hands
        out of frustration or you'd simply do nothing.  And that's
        bad for the business and bad for your relationship.

        A good way of communicating about business issues is
        to hold regular business meetings together.  Perhaps a
        Monday morning partners' meeting would work well for
        you, or lunch on Wednesdays, perhaps.  Although the
        idea of a meeting may seem a little formal at first given
        your relationship outside of the business, keep in mind
        that the disciplines you find in an external business are
        there for a reason.  They keep the business on track and
        keep everyone focused on the task at hand.  So take
        time on a regular basis to regroup, take stock, stay up
        to date with where the business is, where it's headed and
        what each of you is working on and planning.

        By holding meetings like this you also avoid 'spillover' of
        the business into your personal time of which there is
        precious little to begin with.  Which brings us to the
        next point.


        The ultimate success of your business depends upon both
        of you making decisions based on what's best for the
        business.  If you are not prepared to do this, then your
        business is doomed to failure.  Really think about what
        this means before you start out.  Do you - BOTH of you -
        have what it takes to do that?  When the time comes will
        you forego that vacation to Hawaii to plough the money
        back into the business?  Will you?  Are you sure?  What
        if the relationship's starting to get a bit shaky?  Will you
        still do it?

        It follows from what was said above that the business is
        something separate from the relationship/home.  This is
        necessary for the survival of the business.  Equally, it is
        necessary for the survival of your relationship.

        What are some of the things you can do to keep business
        and home separate?

        => Set Business Hours

        Set regular business hours and stick to them.  Except
        in an emergency, what doesn't get done in business
        hours doesn't get done until the next day.

        => Don't Let Business Intrude on Personal Time

        Personal time is all that time outside of regular
        business hours.  Jealously protect it from encroachment
        by the business.  If the business line rings at 7:30 pm
        and business hours ended at 6:30 pm, let the answering
        machine pick it up.  In other words, shut the door on
        the business at the end of the day.

        => Don't Let Home Intrude on Business

        Just as you must jealously guard your personal time,
        so too you must insulate the business from intrusions
        on the home front.  So, when friends who know you
        work from home suggest you play hookey to hang out
        with them during business hours, say no.   Schedule
        hanging out with friends for your personal time.

        If you're at odds with each other about something to do
        with your personal lives, don't let it affect how you work
        together in the business.  Focus on the task at hand,
        not your feelings about the personal issue.  If it's getting
        in the way, resolve it.  Don't let resentment undermine
        your working effectiveness.


        Finally, there's a myriad of issues that are deserving of
        whole articles in themselves.  They're listed here just as
        thought starters.

        => Family Demands

        If you have children, there may be times when family
        demands can shift the commitment to the business of
        one or either of you.  During such times, make sure it's
        only one of you whose commitment has shifted.  Plan for
        what you will do if, for example, a child gets sick.

        => Outside Interests

        To keep your relationship fresh and interesting, you should
        both pursue interests that are independent of the business
        and each other.

        => Separate Space

        You live and work together.  That's a LOT of togetherness.
        Everyone needs personal space.  If possible, have separate
        work areas so you're not under each other's feet ALL the

        => Capital Sufficiency

        Make sure you have sufficient capital to sustain you through
        the start-up phase of your business.

        => Where Did They Get the Money for That?

        Has your business capital come from family sources?  If so,
        beware scrutiny of your expenditure from family members.  It is
        common for entrepreneurial couples with family finance backing
        them to feel like they have to justify the necessity for a particular
        item of expenditure, particularly if unrelated to the business.

        => What if the Relationship Ends?

        Particularly if the business is your sole means of livelihood,
        think about having a plan for what happens to the business if
        the relationship ends.  While no-one likes contemplating such
        an eventuality, the fact that is half of all marriages end
        in divorce.  Those are pretty high odds.  You may agree
        that you will both continue with the business; one of you may
        buy the other out; or the business may be sold in toto with
        the profits being divided evenly between you.

        => Succession Planning

        If your business is successful, what will you do when you
        exit the business?

        => Business Failure

        Finally, consider your financial position if the business fails.
        Not only are you out of work but so is your partner.  This is
        a very different proposition from a business being run by
        only one spouse.  At least then the other spouse is still
        bringing a paycheck home.  Think about how quickly you
        will both be able to return to paid employment if the
        worst happens.

        The prospect of running a successful business with our mate
        is the dream of many of us.  It is natural to want to share as
        much as possible with our spouse.  But it is not for the faint-
        hearted and there are many issues to take into account.
        Don't make your decision based on visions of romantic
        togetherness.  The reality will be altogether very different.
        But if, with eyes wide open and having taken all of the above
        factors into account, you believe you can be successful in
        business together, by all means go for it!

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        Copyright 1998-2017, AHBBO.com. All rights are reserved. Tuesday, 26-Jan-2021 03:07:39 CST

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