Helpful Advice for Working Together With Your Spouse
On paper, setting up business with your spouse may sound like a good idea. But let me tell you, working with your spouse or family is not for everyone.
Sloan and I actually met at work—I was an overachieving 24-year-old account executive, and he was the marketing manager at one of our advertising agency’s businesses. I have always known we would do great things. But when we first started dating I couldn’t imagine that, 13 years later, we’d be living in Australia (we’re both Canadians by birth), let alone running a flower empire.
Today, Sloan and I own a high-volume retail floral business as well as manage a separate wedding and events brand. We’ve been working together, day in and day out, for the past four years.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what has made this partnership and this business so successful. It’s impossible to pinpoint just one thing, but I can offer a few pearls of wisdom for anyone on this journey—or for those who are contemplating the idea.
1. Learn how you each operate
We’re at a definite advantage because we initially met at work. Sloan knows first-hand what makes me tick, how ambitious I am, and how I handle stress. And I know how he operates, what drives him nuts, and how he feels under pressure.
Even on a day to day basis, we know each other’s patterns. I’m a classic morning person whereas Sloan thrives in the evening. I wake up 5 a.m. and, by the time Sloan gets up at 7 a.m., my brain has already kicked into high gear, and I’m moving at a mile a minute. I’ve learned though that it’s not helpful to either of us if I bombard him with 1000 thoughts while he’s still half asleep. I know when he’s ready, he’ll ask.
In the evening, the opposite is true. Sloan’s at his best at 7 p.m., so we have to set time boundaries to ensure we don’t keep talking about work late into the evening.
We respect the way we each operate and do our best to set up the rhythm of our day to accommodate that.
2. Be mindful during stressful moments
Working together is a lot like traveling with someone—it’s hard to predict how someone will react when they’re out of their comfort zone and in a stressful situation. Weddings and events are high-stress situations, and we both behave differently. Sloan can get anxious, and I can get snappy.
We can tell within an instant how the other is feeling, simply by our body language or tone of voice. We’ve found the best way to move through a stressful period is to give one another more space. Be kind, recognize the stressful period will pass, and simplify wherever possible.
When the stress is high (particularly when we’re at a wedding setup and time is tight), we emphasize clear communication, being direct in our instructions, and pre-empting what needs to be done. We get focused, put our heads down, and look to get the work done as effectively and efficiently as possible.
And when one of us gets short with the other, we try not to take it personally. We know the sooner we get the work done, the sooner we can get back to being “us.”
3. Be open with your ambitions
The most significant benefit of working with your partner is the ability to mold your business into something that serves your greater life goals. Every day we talk to each other about what we want as individuals and make sure our business (and therefore our life) is pointed in that direction.
At least once a week I’ll walk into the kitchen and say ‘Hey, so I’ve been thinking…’ and suggest some new great ambition or dream. We’ll always sit with the idea first, let it percolate, and then create a plan to evolve the business to meet our changing personal goals.
When one of us has an ah-ha moment where we recognize something isn’t working for us anymore, we talk about it. And it never feels like a big deal. We sort through a lot of emotions every day, and that makes it so much easier to start the next day fresh, not carrying over yesterday’s frustrations.
4. Create space between work and life
When you work with your partner, one of the biggest challenges is separating life and business. Sloan and I talk a LOT about our business, and we spend a lot of time managing our business. We’ve learned to embrace the entangled mess of life and business for the time being.
We don’t have kids but we do have other life ambitions beyond our business and making plans for those dreams is on the horizon. At the moment, this is the hardest piece of the puzzle.
We’re still fairly new to the idea of making more space between work and life, but I am confident it will be good for both of us in the long run. I also know our ambitions for the business will evolve and shift and our personal goals will soon take centre stage.
5. Respect each other’s talents
There are so many different parts to running a profitable and successful business. When it comes to floristry, flowering accounts for less than 20% of the equation.
From the outside, the average person might think Sloan plays second fiddle because he isn’t a florist. Because of this, he often doesn’t get the same level of recognition and appreciation that he deserves. After all, no bride has ever thanked us for packing the van well or for our success with Google advertising.
Truth be told, his contribution IS the reason our business is thriving and why we’re able to make our partnership work. I couldn’t do the floristry work I do without him, and the company wouldn’t be growing as quickly as it has if he didn’t contribute everything he does.
Being in charge of a business can be a daunting and lonely place—so if you’re not each other’s biggest cheerleader, you’re in for a long and challenging road ahead.
Set yourself up for success by focusing on what you each enjoy most and what you’re good at. Say thank you to each another and recognize the value you each bring to the table. Do this every day, and you’ll wake up one day to realize your business is the success you dreamed it could be.