Couple-preneurs: Tracking the Business of Love
reprinted from Forbes.com
Couple-preneur may be a pithy term referring to couples owning and running businesses together, but it is far from being a new concept. In fact, couple-preneurship has been going on for centuries. In agrarian societies, men often married in order for their wife to run the farm and nurture the kid-workers that kept it going. With the advent of entrepreneurial businesses springing up each day, couple-preneurs are the latest startup trend.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the total number of new business startups is over 400,000 per year. Many of these are couples giving it a go. It’s hard to find specific stats on the success or failure rate of couple-owned businesses, but Bloomberg has reported that, “One-third of all new ventures close within two years, half within five years…”
The good news for startups is that, as two Bloomberg economists reported, “…failed entrepreneurs are far more likely to be successful in their second go-around, provided they try again.” So, don’t take it to heart. Keep going.
The Great Balancing Act: Love And Business
This whole situation gives new meaning to “married to your work.” At first blush, this all seems fabulous. What a great way to spend more meaningful time with your spouse? You both may need to work and, if you work together, you will not just be “ships passing in the night”…literally. But you had better give this some serious thought and be honest with yourself and with each other. There is even a coaching industry that has sprung up out of this situation.
One Of The Most Popular Couple-Preneur Industries
Fashion seems to be one of the most popular couple-oriented businesses, as reported by Crains. “A growing number of husbands and wives have been joining forces because of the weak job market, but the fashion industry seems to attract more than its share of couple-preneurs. The majority of them follow a pattern…: The wife launches a clothing line, and the husband steps in to handle the financials.”
(Okay, that is really an example of sexist, and in this case, racist stereotyping.) I must note that women are alive and well in this industry. As women started to take a more active role outside of the home, entrepreneurship made sense. Check out the Top 300 Women-Owned Fashion Labels awards given out by StartingAClothingLine.com, as reported by PR Newswire… Not to mention, there are also over 20 black-owned online fashion and beauty companies that were just highlighted in BougieBlackGirl.com…I’m back.)
Tips To Save Yourselves
- Talk Openly – Make sure that you understand that, “business is business.” Seriously, you need to discuss anything that is bothering you, or you will explode. You know what I mean. You also need to schedule real business meetings among yourselves to keep each other abreast of what is happening. Do not make significant business decisions unilaterally, assuming the other will agree, because they love and trust you.
- Don’t Fight In Front Of Your Employees: Take It Outside – This seems obvious, but it may not be. Since you are a couple, you could and may take liberties with criticism that you wouldn’t with another partner. This can really cause problems with your other employees or customers that you will want to avoid.
- Have A Contingency Plan If The Marriage Fails – You can never anticipate divorce. Well, some people can, but that is not the point. You need a “Pre-nup” for the business. Do not try this yourself; get a lawyer involved.
- Delegate Responsibilities – Play to your individual strengths. If one of you likes to sell and the other really likes organization, set up the responsibilities in that manner. Make sure that the big decisions are always jointly made. If one of you lords over the other, this can spell pending doom.
- Money – Try to get outside financing; do not tap into the family savings. Also, get a third party accountant or bookkeeper to handle the bills and accounts. That person should present their monthly activities and findings to both of you.
- Work vs. Life – I’d love to advise you to separate your work from your private life. But, how does that happen? Maybe just honor each other’s request, if one of you says that you need a little time off.
- Do Not Drink Your Own Kool-Aid – Do not get so wed to your own ideas and ignore the real world. Make sure you know your market, your customer and your competition. I could say this about any entrepreneurial venture, but when you have a couple-team, one may not want to “rain on the other’s parade.” Know how your product or service is differentiated in a crowded marketplace and sell to that strength.
- Know When To Bail – One of the big issues for entrepreneurs is knowing when to stop the bleeding and either go to Plan B, or close the business. Most people hang on too long because it is their baby and because they have so much invested in the success. I get it; I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 30 years. Your gut will tell you when to pull the plug… together make the decision and do it.
As a couple-preneur business, my suggestion is to closely follow the words of Michael Jordan, “I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I cannot accept not trying.”