How to lead a company with your spouse -- 3 partners weigh in

Starting a company with your spouse is both convenient and rewarding. Not only is it easy to manage communications with both of you living in the same home, but a win for one of you is a win for both of you -- and the business -- making each success that much sweeter.

When it comes to growing the company, however, you need to know how to lead together. You need to be able to communicate with one another and your team, while also presenting a strong and unified front in times of success and struggle.

These three partners share their best tips for leading a company successfully with a spouse. Learn from their experience to become better business owners and set yourself up for many more successful years.

Make communication a priority

The communication between leaders dictates how the rest of the company runs, how effective and productive employees are and ultimately, how successful the business is. When running a business with your spouse, this is just as important to avoid disagreements and ensure that no one is making assumptions or decisions without all the facts.

This is one of the pillars for a solid partnership for Tony Wallace and his wife, Heather Wallace, who run Diverse Automation. Tony explains how they prioritize communication: “We have a weekly meeting to review the major issues, production and financials of the company. This is a no brainer and can’t be neglected.”

The communication, however, is only productive if both parties are open and honest and come from a place of facts, not emotion. Tony says, “If there are disagreements we step back and look at the facts; dissect the emotion from the facts—always a good piece of advice which leads us to a smoother operating system.”

Perfect your communication as a team and your ability to lead effectively will improve as well.

Lead from a foundation of similar core values

Great communication needs more than just regular meetings. At its foundation, successful communication comes down to sharing core values as leaders within the organization. Tay & Val, co-founders of M Meditation, suggest: “Have a set of core values for your relationship AND the business -- they can be the same, or different. Ours are the same because of the nature of our personality-driven business.”

These core values will dictate how you interact with one another, and therefore the team, along with how you show support and stay aligned in times of change and evolution. If you’re not sure what your core values are, or should be, Tay & Val have a few ideas based on their experiences. The following “have been really helpful (especially in navigating challenging situations):”

  • Unwavering trust and nourishing support: Tay & Val suggest always forgiving one another and giving one another the benefit of the doubt. “Fully understanding that at all points in time, we've got each other's back and our actions were intended to reflect that. And to arrive at forgiveness for any harm done.”
  • Radical kindness and open communication: Stay open and transparent with one another at all times, with all of your actions and words based in kindness.
  • Alignment with our (souls') purpose: Tay & Val explain: “Knowing the purpose of our union and co-leadership and serves a bigger purpose beyond the two of us as individuals.”

Determine the core values that will be the foundation for how you communication and therefore, lead. Like goals or a mission statement, these allow you to be intentional about how you work together and ensure that you’re always working with one another, not against.

Draw on each other's strengths

As partners, you have much in common. As business leaders, the strengths you bring to the table may vary a lot—and that’s a good thing, if you know how to use it to your advantage.

This is the case for Emma McKinstry and her husband, Coley McKinstry, who run 418 Communications. Emma says, “[My husband is] much more organized and focused on the business aspects of our company, while I’m much more of a creative thinker.”

Instead of letting that divide them as leaders, they use it to their benefit. “We’ve learned how to divide up our joint responsibilities in a way that draws on our individual strengths to make sure we’re performing as best as we possibly can across all aspects of our business,” says Emma.

This may also be the case with working styles, which can greatly affect the way both partners lead. The key is both understanding, and respecting those styles to create a balanced leadership team, suggests Emma: “Now that we’ve developed a better understanding of, and respect for, each other’s work environment needs, organizational methods, systems, etc., we’re able to collaborate much more effectively and to get more done as a solid team.”

Lead a company with your spouse

Leading a company with your spouse is both fun and rewarding, but it only works if you lead from a place of respect, honesty and communication. Use these tips to improve your partnership and set your business up for long-term success.

 

Jessica Thiefels is an entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications, including Forbes, Entrepreneur and Fast Company. She also writes for Business Insider, Virgin, Glassdoor and more. Follow her on Twitter @JThiefels and connect on LinkedIn.

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