I am a big fan of Baremetrics’ blog, so when Josh Pigford wrote his latest post ‘Being a solo founder: Pros, Cons, Tips & Tricks‘ it gave me the idea to share my views on being a co-founding couple in the same format.
Not only did we – my wife Nat and I – found CookiesHQ together, in the past five years we have also worked with at least three startups where husband and wife were co-founders.
Let’s take a look at what the last six (and a bit) years have taught us.
The cons of being a co-founding couple
Let’s get them out of the way first. There are drawbacks to running the ship with your loved one.
You need to learn how to set boundaries
Growing a company requires you to make many decisions. And it’s often too easy to let family life be consumed by these decisions. For the sake of your marriage and family, you’ll have to learn to set boundaries pretty soon.
We, for example, do not talk business at all on Sundays. It’s a rule that we created a while ago when I was freelancing, and we still respect it today, because we find that it works well, especially since having children.
You need to know your space
Same as setting up boundaries, you’ll learn you need your space. If you’ve chosen to work together it’s probably because you have complementary skills and strengths. In our case, I’m the technical brain, the extrovert and the chatty guy. But I’m terrible at long-term thinking or planning.
Nathalie is an introvert, good with strategy and marketing and excellent with long-term thinking. We both have separate, clear roles and have to learn how to trust each other in the decision-making process. But it’s easier said than done!
You need to give and receive orders
When you each have your own space, sometimes you’ll have to give direction to your other half. And the other half will have to learn to receive direction and act. There is no space for ego here, it’s only business. And again, it’s often easier said than done.
You need to plan for alone time
You’ll spend lots of time together, especially if you work from the same place. You can basically spend every single working day together, morning to night, and then spend the evenings and weekends together as a family. That’s why it’s important to make the effort to be without each other, whether it’s a night out here and there, or working from different places.
You only have one source of income
This is probably the biggest risk here. Both your incomes will be coming from the same source, your joint business. If the activity is slowing down for a bit, and you haven’t planned for it, you’ll get into big trouble because there is no second income to support the family. It will also impact your ability to take risks, knowing that failure can have dramatic consequences on your family. As a result, you tend to become more cautious.
The pros of being a co-founding couple
Small note for the readers: when I asked Nathalie what she would consider as pros of working together, she replied immediately: ‘Are there any?’😳 (and then she found a couple…)
You only have one source of income
That’s right. This one I consider both a con and a pro. Having to rely on only one source of income will make you very savvy. You’ll have to learn to think way ahead than you would normally in order to make sure that you don’t end up penniless, which is a good thing (or at least that’s what I believe).
When needed, you have the best partner that knows you
Your other half knows you better than anyone else. That could be invaluable at times when things have to be read between the lines, or when you need real support.
You raise kids inside the business
We have two little ones, and both of them have been regularly coming to the office from a very young age. They attend team meetings when childcare is tricky, they learn what every team member does in the company and they learn the concept of work from an early age. So we’re hopefully raising a new generation of successful entrepreneurs!
You want the same thing
You’re at the same stage of your life, whatever stage it is, so you should theoretically want the same thing, in terms of work-life balance, financial planning and business growth. Obviously, you can and probably will have different views on how to reach your goals, but long-term goal planning should be fairly easy.
So, should you start a company with your wife/husband/partner?
Let’s face it, creating and growing a company is hard enough, and doing it with your loved one just adds an extra level of complexity. Most people say that they couldn’t work with their life partner all day long. And we can totally understand why!
However, if you decide to give it a go, make sure that you do some test runs beforehand, such as completing small side projects together, and gradually learning how to work together on a larger scale. You also need to learn to deal with your personal issues pretty quick.
Most importantly, leave home life at home, and work life at work. Your team shouldn’t get caught in your personal problems, and your kids shouldn’t suffer from work problems.