Top Five Tips for Running a Business with a Loved One


Running a business as a sole owner can be a challenge in itself. Operating one with your loved one can present a whole new set of difficulties.

According to The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute, there are approximately 4 million family-owned businesses in the United States. A husband and wife team is operating more than 1.4 million of those businesses.

Since just 44 percent of all businesses make it past the first four years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, running a business with your loved one, can make the odds even more insurmountable.

So, how do you run a successful business with a spouse?

Mark Narus, a certified business consultant with the Florida SBDC at USF, has been down that road as an entrepreneur himself. Narus, who operated a business with a loved one for five years in the music education industry, offers five important tips for those who want to survive a business relationship with a loved one.

1. Set clear rules of operation and understand your spouse’s work style.

Communication is key in any business, but it is even more important when you are working with someone you live with as well. Make sure you know what you are getting into – both the pros and cons. This will help to alleviate some stress when starting out. In addition, there are multiple work styles in the work force, and being married does not mean you operate in the same manner. If your spouse is spontaneous in your daily life, chances are, that same operational style will carry over into their work life. Understand, accept and work around each other’s work styles.

2. Play to your different strengths.

Just as you each have different work styles, you will have different strengths and weaknesses. Narus said, “Everyone has different strengths. Capitalize on them and your business will grow and flourish.”

Divvy out the tasks at work, according to each of your strengths. This will not only make your business efficient, it will allow each of you the freedom to have your own responsibilities within the business.

3. Separate work life from married life by setting aside time for both.

It’s not always easy to hang up your work hat when you walk through the door at home, but you can create a healthy balance. Narus said couples in business together should, “Set up the work week ahead of time and schedule a time every day for personal interaction. If working from home, always have a set work area that you can close off and end your day away from the business.”

4. Have a trusted third party that you can go to, to help with disputes.

Business partners do not always agree on the direction a business should take – whether they are married or not. It’s always a good idea to enlist a trusted third party adviser who can look at situations objectively and offer sound advice as to what to do. As a certified business consultant, Narus recommends to a majority of his clients, that they seek outside advice in areas they are not familiar with. The same rule applies here.

5. Seek professional advice.

This is a good general rule for most small businesses. Business owners may be very equipped in their particular trade or industry, but that does not necessarily translate into excelling in all areas. When it comes to money matters, tasks an owner is not familiar with, can make or break the business.

“I tell new entrepreneurs to form relationships early with four key people,” Narus said. “These key people are an accountant, attorney, bookkeeper, and insurance agent. These four have the professional expertise to help save your business time, money and protect assets.”