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There is a saying “Be careful whose advice you buy”. Probably most of us would agree that advice from someone who has practiced and studied a certain matter would hold true more than from someone who has rather one or the other. For instance, an ideal university professor would be one who has the scientific knowledge but has also practiced business, instead of only studying how others have done it.
My partner in life is also my cofounder. I have been asked many times how does it feel to be working with the same person you are living with. I have also seen that judgemental look on many faces, followed by some comments on how that is not a good idea. Mostly the judgments came from people who have never been in business with their life partners. On the other hand, the couples cofounders would give you a different look, which is kind of “it’s complicated” Facebook relationship status. And indeed it is complicated, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a bad thing. Good things in life more often than not don’t come easy.
After going through an eight-year learning curve and after meeting and discussing with many couples cofounders I tend to focus on the positive sides as we should with everything in life—practice more positive psychology.
About six years ago when the team was very small and we were sharing the same office, even the same desk, my answer to the question “what is it like to work with your life-partner?” was without any doubt “it is super hard!”. But as there are stages in the business development the same applies to the relationship. It develops and grows along the way as the team grows and job positions and processes become clearer. However arguments in the relationship can affect the business, but the passion for the business growth takes your focus and instead of focusing on the emotions that energy is redirected towards “what’s the best for the business”. It is also probable that with time we become number–the things that used to make us jump out of our skin barely move us after dozens of repetitions, we learn and adapt and so on and so forth. Of course, there are certain challenges that remain as it is extremely difficult to leave the “work-disagreement-bags” in the office but for me, the pros outweigh the cons.
However, not everyone would agree. There are many investors who are less likely to invest in couples teams, but also there are many bright examples like Eventbrite and SlideShare cofounded by couples.
A coin has two sides and if we agree that each issue can have two aspects to it here are five things that can be perceived as positive or negative depending on which angle you will take.
1. “High-quality” disagreements replace the meaningless arguments.
I perceive this one as a positive thing. Our talks and debates are about whether that employee should get a promotion, or why this kind of reorganization is something the company needs etc. On the other hand, if you take the negative stand you can say that our private life comes down very often to our professional life as work issues are discussed over dinner at home.
2. Shared passion and focus!
Usually, startup founders have an all-consuming passion for their business. They think about it all the time and want to talk about it with someone who understands you and who will give them honest feedback–this is something couple cofounders have and enjoy. However, this shared passion leads to shared risk as well. They are risking both careers at the same time and if the business doesn’t go well it can affect the family.
3. Guilt-free late work hours.
When both partners are thriving for their business, they give each other support, help and understanding when one has to stay and work late instead of blame. On the negative note, this can lead to letting the work take over private life.
4. Trust and commitment.
In the first place, couples trust each other for every aspect in life and this applies to the business as well. They are two captains on the same ship and are committed to taking it on the “desired island” together. However, this almost unconditional trust sometimes can lead to lack of commitment to one of the partners as he/she knows that there is always someone who will take the best possible care for the business. On the other end if trust in private life is broken there is a high probability of business failure.
5. Handling conflict.
Depending on the personalities cofounders can disagree on all kinds of business aspects—from the strategic steps of the company and developmental priorities to the font used on your ads. The positive scenario would be that they know each other so well that they know how to handle conflict situations. Very often best solutions can be a result of disagreements. The negative scenario would be that professional conflict might easily turn into personal drama affecting the team spirit and the whole business.
If there is one thing for which both sides of the coin are to be considered as positive, for me it would be celebrating success. When your life partner is also your business partner sharing and celebrating success is at another level. You are in it together and you share the same adrenaline and joy of every achievement of your company. And what is even more important you have a partner to share the failures and celebrate the struggles together.
December 30, 2018 at 01:31PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs