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Starting (Running) a Business With a Spouse/Partner: 12 Cons (Disadvantages)

co-workers using digital tablet while standing in modern cafe
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If you are thinking about starting up a new business with your partner, you might not be thinking about all that could go wrong. Couples that consider a new business together often get caught up in the excitement of it all. The most responsible thing you can do for your business and your relationship is to consider all of the possible disadvantages, before you commit. Today, we’ll explore the possible downsides to co-owning and running a business with a spouse or partner.

It’s one thing to daydream about working together, earning lots of money, and living happily ever after. It’s quite another to actually make it happen. Working with a partner comes with additional stresses and can put the relationship at risk. Let’s take a look at several of the disadvantages of co-owning a business with a spouse.

12 disadvantages of starting/running a business with your spouse (partner):

1. Increased pressure to succeed.

How much pressure will there be to succeed when working with your partner? The short answer is: a lot! When working with colleagues who you don’t know very well, there’s healthy competition, but when working with a partner, it’s quite different. Instead of being relaxed and at ease, you may feel mounting pressure to personally perform and succeed. This can be made worse if one of the partners is making highly successful decisions for the business and things start to feel a little unbalanced. 

2. Work stress and conflict can creep into the relationship.

If you have an argument or get annoyed with a work colleague, you get to go home and relax and forget about it. If you are running a business with a spouse and have an issue at work, that conflict will undoubtedly be taken home with you. Suddenly work conflicts can start having an impact on your marriage or relationship. It’s also more likely to fight with a spouse about work issues than it is to fight with a regular work colleague. 

3. The business could fail if the marriage fails.

What will happen to the business if your relationship doesn’t work out? If you have a different job from your partner, you have every peace of mind that if you get a divorce, your job is still safe. When you own and run a business with your spouse, divorce in your relationship could mean that the business fails in the end. 

4. Makes work-life balance difficult.

Work and home life balance is something that any successful business woman or man needs to think about. If you thought it was hard separating your work life and home life before, try starting a business with your partner. Now that you are both focused on the business, chances are that you will take work issues and discussions home with you all the time. Your weekends might even be filled with business planning and focus. This could be particularly damaging if you have kids. 

5. It could lead to a power struggle.

Who is in charge in your relationship? Will one of you need to wear the proverbial pants in the business, or will you just naturally assume your roles and be on an equal footing? This is a hard question to answer. Couples often find themselves in a power struggle in the relationship. Now, just imagine that power struggle filtering into the workplace. Both parties might want to have the upper hand or be in “control”, which can lead to a rather unhealthy working environment and home life. 

6. All of your finances depend on your joint success.

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Putting all your egg finances in one basket is a risky business. In a typical marriage where both husband and wife work for other people or have separate businesses, there’s the option of relying on one spouse for income, should anything happen to the other’s income. When running a business together, that is not an option. You and your partner must make a success of the business together because all of your finances depend on the business’s success. That’s a lot of pressure, right?

7. Employees may be uneasy working for a couple.

Are you the type of couple that would drag employees into arguments and make them pick sides? Employees often find it difficult to relax in the work environment when a couple owns the business and both work at the premises. Employees may fear that they have to take sides in disputes or may feel as if the couple owners are ‘ganging up’ against them at times. This can make the daily work environment feel awkward.

8. Your relationship becomes all about work. 

Imagine a relationship that’s all work and no play? Sounds pretty boring, right? You might find that you and your partner no longer have anything to talk about besides work. 

Imagine that on date night, all you talk about is customers, business deals and employee issues. Imagine holiday conversations all leading back to work-related topics. Imagine losing that spark with your partner only to have it replaced with endless thoughts and focus on the business. Doesn’t sound great, does it? You would have to take extra precautions to make sure this doesn’t happen to your relationship. 

9. Both parties may feel like they never get personal space.

Everyone wants to spend more time with their partner, but it’s a good idea to realize there is such a thing as too much time with someone. A lot of couples have healthier relationships because they don’t spend every waking moment together. They get home, chat about their days, cuddle up on the couch, share romantic moments, and have deep discussions about other things in life. If you work with your partner, chances are that you will start to feel the strain of never having a moment alone quite soon. 

10. Jealousy may spark in the workplace. 

Let’s talk about the sensitive topic of jealousy and how it can negatively impact on your life. If you or your spouse is jealous, it is probably not a good idea to start and run a business together. Ample opportunity exists for insecurities and jealousies to flair. This can be both embarrassing for you and damaging to the business image. 

11. Planning holidays and taking leave together can be tricky, if not impossible. 

Most couples get to go on holidays together because they work for different people and can manage to take time off work together. When starting and running a business with your spouse, you might find it hard to walk away from the business for any considerable amount of time as it would essentially then be “unattended”. Having a business together could make family holidays difficult. 

12. There’s no job security for both parties.

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Job security is something that a lot of people need in their lives. No job security can lead to mounting stress and anxiety. If you start a business with your spouse, keep in mind that both of your salaries will be uncertain; and if the business faces a downturn, both of you face financial issues at the same time. This can be particularly damaging to a couple with children or a lot of debt.

All Things Considered

If you weren’t aware of these disadvantages before, you are probably thinking long and hard about them now. Instead of getting wrapped up in the idea of just how convenient and awesome it would be to spend every waking moment together, take the time to get realistic about what owning and running a business together actually means (for now and in the future).

Simply put, starting and running a business with your partner may seem like an exciting venture to get into, but try to be realistic about what could go wrong. That being said, a lot of husband-wife business owners have seen their businesses soar to success because they just work together that well and have the same goals and aspirations. Good luck!