There are pros and cons to this debate, and of course, your marital relationship is different from anyone else’s because you and your spouse are two unique individuals. However, here are some of the questions spouses commonly face when working in business and sharing life 24/7/365, along with ways you might approach the decisions you’ll encounter.

Can each spouse provide a sound business reason to join forces? Maybe your spouse is the only person you can totally trust, or your spouse knows the business, or your spouse just got laid off. Is there a good reason to co-own a business, and do both spouses have similar reasons for signing on together?

Do you share the same work ethic and values? If you’re working like a dog while your spouse is playing a round of golf, it probably isn’t going to work – unless you told that spouse to hit the links so you could get some real work done. Spouses who run a business together need to decide who does what, how, why, and how disputes will be decided. If you and your spouse don’t both have similar values and objectives, your husband, wife, or life partner is going to get tired of carrying the lion’s share of the burden. Before deciding on a spouse-owned business, talk a lot about ethics, values, commitment and sacrifice. If you and your spouse are miles apart, you might want to look around for some other partner who syncs with your way of thinking.

Can you be honest with your spouse? Will your spouse be able to offer constructive criticism without you getting annoyed? You have to be honest and open with business partners – even if that partner is your spouse.

How will work be divided? This one has drama written all over it, but it doesn’t have to be if you define roles and set boundaries early in your joint venture. Ideally, each spouse offers a valuable and distinct skillset that complements what the other brings. You do the books and “back of the store stuff,” your spouse handles marketing, sales promotions, and focusing on growth. Choose the spouse best suited for the work, but allow the other spouse to raise objections or offer suggestions. Each spouse should have final say in his or her designated areas with no hard feelings.

Are both spouses willing to learn? It’s important that both of you learn how to manage the other spouse’s side of the business in case of emergencies, or if your partner just needs some down time. Are you willing to learn from your spouse and still leave for home without hurt pride? It’s not always easy, but spouses must learn from each other while respecting the contribution each makes to business success.

How will financial assets be managed? This, all by itself, may be a deal-killer, but now’s the time to find out. Neither spouse should have total control and total responsibility for business financials management, so if number-crunching isn’t your favorite pastime, make sure you know at least the essentials, including how to read financial reports. Two-signature business accounts, online-banking, and easy-to-read bank statements enable both husband and wife to understand where the money came from and where it’s going.

Can you throw the switch at quitting time? You may fuss and feud all day in the workplace, but can you throw a switch, turn it off for the evening, and start fresh the next morning? It’s never personal in business, unless you’re in business with a spouse. Then, it can become personal too fast to stop.

Got a problem sharing success or failure? Spouses who open a business jointly will make unilateral decisions. Some will be great; some will flop. When your business lands a new client, do you share the victory with your spouse? How about when your expensive marketing campaign tanks? Any business enjoys “ups” and must be prepared for “downs.” Pointing fingers and affixing blame when a spouse is involved doesn’t help the business (and you know it can’t be good for the marriage), so celebrate success as a couple and work through the hard times as a couple.

Do you ever talk about your relationship? Spouses who share a business don’t have much to talk about except the business. Set aside time to calmly discuss your personal life and the toll your business partnership takes. Being together all day, driving to and from work, and going home to the same house and the same kids require, not just working on work, but working on your relationship as well.

Do you have an exit strategy? The time to plan the exit of one spouse or another is when there’s nothing to debate. Now, you may have $0 assets, $0 revenue, and you’re working in a spare room at home. What happens if this business actually takes off? It can happen quickly – with a single gigantic order, or contract for services. What if one spouse wants to sell and the other doesn’t? That could be a major problem. What if one partner becomes disabled or dies? What if you end up in a divorce situation? Consult an attorney about putting an exit strategy in place that can protect you both in any of these contingencies.

Whether you’re still in the planning phase or you’ve already launched, business is business and personal life is personal life. Before you start down the road to a business partnership to go along with your life’s journey partnership, get past the giddy phase where you’re certain you can side-step any issue and get down to the real-world-nuts-and-bolts of business ownership.

Not only will your business grow stronger with a trusted, like-minded partner, business success can strengthen a marriage when each  spouse respects the other’s contribution to business success and a successful home life. The key, as always, is in the details. So talk – a lot – about your plans, long-term and short-term. The time to work out any differences is at the beginning.


The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank. Nevada State Bank is a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC