Starting your own construction business is no easy feat. And if you want to build a construction business with your spouse, there is even more on the line. Starting a business with your spouse can have its benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to start with a solid foundation. Here’s your survival guide to starting a contractor or construction business with your spouse, without sacrificing your marriage.
Agree on an Exit Strategy (or lack of one)
It may sound strange to talk about the end of your business before it has even begun, but defining an exit strategy is the cornerstone of any business partnership. Where do you want your business to go?
You are guaranteed to run into issues down the road if one of you has been working toward a modest, mellow local venture, while the other has been dreaming of a multi-million dollar firm and an IPO. Verbalize and shake hands on a common goal right from the start.
Discuss your Risk Tolerance
When a married couple is creating a business together, all of the financial eggs are likely to be sitting in one basket. It’s important to be on the same page about the amount of risk you are comfortable taking.
Do you want a slow and steady pattern of growth? How much debt are you comfortable holding? Risk tolerance is about more than just determining how much you can money you can afford to tie up into the business, or even potentially lose… it is also knowing about your emotional ability to handle risk, as well.
Have an Emergency Fund
Cash flow can be one of the biggest struggles a new business has to face. Whether you are an electrician, handyman, plumber, or general contractor you’ll likely have to pay for materials, supplies, equipment purchases or rentals, and labor before you can complete a project and collect a paycheck.
Be sure you have enough cash flow and a healthy credit line to get you through these early days, and keep an emergency fund set aside just in case.
Set up Separate Accounts
You may be blurring the line between business and personal in many areas by going into business with your spouse, but one area that should be kept completely separate is your banking accounts. (No, not your and your spouses…) According to the Small Business Association, a separate business bank account not only provides your business with credibility, it also reduces your personal liability, and helps you better manage bills, payments, and taxes.
Separate business and personal banking accounts will help you and your spouse to better manage your overall financial picture and reduce the likelihood of business-finance stress impacting your personal lives.
Know Who You’re Working With
You and your spouse are two different people with two different personality types. If you want to lessen conflicts in your (shared) workspace, it can be tremendously helpful to know how the other person thinks and acts according to their personality type. The Myers-Briggs Personality Test is one of the most-used psychological instruments to help people determine and understand their personality type.
When you are open to the fact that your spouse and business partner interprets information and sees the world in a different manner than you do, it makes it much easier to understand why you don’t always see eye to eye on business (and personal) decisions every time.
Define and Divide
Not only do you and your spouse/ business partner have different personality types, you have different professional strengths, as well. Take some time to define and divide job responsibilities between the two of you. Obviously, you are starting a construction business because you have experience and expertise in a specific trade. But what about the business operations? Are you better with finance, taxes, and numbers, while your spouse has a knack for customer service and marketing? Take over the role of accountant and let your spouse wine-and-dine potential clients, handle your social media marketing, contractor insurance, and website setup.
Along the same vein, try to allow the other person to handle their own part of the business without too much interference. If you are type A, like many successful and driven business owners, you may have a hard time letting go of the reins. Try to walk away and trust your spouse to rise to the occasion.
This define and divide mentality will also work well with your home life, too. If you are both putting in long hours trying to build up your business, dividing the personal responsibilities at home will help keep your personal life in harmony, as well.
Create a Work Space
If you are bootstrapping your new operation, make sure there is enough space for you and your spouse/ business partner to be working in the home office at the same time. If at all possible use a spare room or distant corner of the house as your ‘office.’ Keep business in the ‘office,’ and your family time and personal relationship out of it.
You may also consider a co-working space. Shared workspaces are the latest trend for start-ups and small businesses. With a co-working space, you rent and share a communal office with other start-up and telecommuting professionals. It’s a great way to get the community and collaboration of an office space, without paying the overhead of renting out an actual office building.
Draw the Line
Speaking of space, if you and your spouse want to succeed at a joint business venture without sacrificing your marriage, you will need to create some. Draw the line between work and personal lives. Set office hours, and try to keep work within the confines of those hours. Set aside a date night or family day where the focus is on your relationship and personal lives, and not on work discussions. Schedule family time, relationship time, and vacation time to make sure it happens. If it is all work and no play for the both of you, business success may come at the high price of sacrificing your personal relationship.
Starting a construction business with your spouse can be many things: it can be rewarding, challenging, and give you the freedom to take your skill at a trade and turn it into economic independence. Working together can bring you and your spouse closer as you share a common goal, but it also has the potential to demolish the best of relationships. Set yourself up for success by making sure you are both on the same page about the business before you begin, and you can build a better business and a stronger relationship, too.