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Love and Money Tips From Married Business Partners

Here’s how seven men married to their business partner make it work

Husband and wife fish mongers
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Think working at home with your spouse has been stressful? Imagine if you actually ran a business together full-time. Here, coworking couples reveal their secrets of finding success without driving each other crazy. 

End each day by checking in 

Even if you see your partner all day, it’s a mistake to assume you know how their day was. Successful couples are good at those ‘How was your day, dear?’ conversations, says Don Cole, 65, clinical director at the Gottman Institute and counselor at Seattle's Center for Relationship Wellness, which he runs with his wife, Carrie. “Reconnection involves processing the good and the bad, but the stressful stuff is the most important part.” 

But don’t take it as an opportunity to critique your spouse's bookkeeping or chronic lateness. “Even if Carrie disagrees with me, it’s not the time to do that,” says Cole. “She can still ask, ‘How’d you handle that? I know it’s frustrating.’ She can reflect my feelings even though she might have some feelings about my management.”

Divide so you can conquer

Some couples who work together specifically establish which roles belong to whom, like Dave Karraker and Glenn Shope at San Francisco–based MX3 Fitness. They split operations and marketing. 

“By having a clear leader of each area of business, it established where the buck ended and who had the final decision,” says Karraker.

Do whatever is suitable for your relationship, Cole suggests, as long as you play to your strengths. We divide tasks according to who we really are, instead of having the duck climb trees and the monkey swim.” 

Realize your relationship is public, for better or worse

Rob Upham, 56, and Ken Schadegg, 70, own All Ashore Cottage Outfitters in Jamestown, Rhode Island. They display photos of themselves together in their shop, which many customers find a charming way to connect—some compare them to the couple who own Rose Apothecary on Schitt's Creek.

In contrast, Jack and Allyson Downey, Colorado cofounders of Stellar Reviews, found that some start-up investors were leery of a husband-and-wife team, even though they had worked together long before they got married. 

“A lot of VCs are old-fashioned about working relationships,” observes Jack, 41. “[They tell us], ‘I don’t want to bet on a marriage and a company.’ ”

“What about the two people who just met six months ago and started the company together?” says Allyson, 42. “We have a stake in getting this partnership to survive.”

Discuss a business-divorce prenup

“It seems a little counterintuitive, but I think there should be an exit strategy from the start," says Alex Tweedie, 42, who owns Roscoe Village Bikes with his school sweetheart wife, Lesley. 

They have amended their exit plan several times since they opened their Chicago shop in 2007. “There is a sense of relief to know what it will take to untangle you from your business,” says Tweedie. “I hope we never have to figure it out, but if she wanted to be done completely, that would be OK.”