Forbes Coaches Council
When you’re running a business with a partner, solving disagreements can be particularly vexing. But when you’re married and running a company, it’s even more challenging. After all, it makes it difficult to go home, decompress and complain to your husband or wife about your business partner. And your business partner may not feel he or she can vent either.
Still, there’s no doubt some couples thrive as married entrepreneurs. Many entrepreneurial couples say running a company together can create a tight bond. At The Entrepreneur’s Source, our coaches have helped many of these couples uncover the possibilities, options and dreams associated with owning a business together.
At the same time, there are obviously some couples who shouldn’t run a business together — and maybe shouldn’t even be married (but we won’t get into that). Running a business with your spouse certainly isn’t for everyone.
But if you think it is for you and your better half, consider buying and running a franchise together versus starting a business from scratch. We’re not just saying that because franchises are our specialty. We really do believe that while some types of businesses can break a couple’s bond, a franchise can strengthen it. Here’s why.
A franchise reduces the financial stress of starting a business.
Buying a franchise is expensive, exciting and, sure, scary. But at least your startup costs are in writing. You know what you’re going to spend and what you will get for your money, and you know that you’re buying into a proven business model.
If you and your spouse are starting, say, your own online T-shirt store or opening your own new restaurant, you don’t have reams of data and company history to reference, where you can feel confident that your money is going to lead to a successful business. And you may not even know how much you’re going to spend. You might imagine that you’ll need $100,000 to open your first restaurant when really, you should budget half a million.
It’s easy to imagine that at some point, if you hit a rough patch and the customers aren’t showing up, one spouse may become very nervous that you’re both throwing money away.
This isn’t to say that individual franchisees can’t fail, too. But, again, you’re buying into a successful business model, and you both know that. So, that first year is going to be much less stressful than the couple who starts a business on their own and may be throwing money into a dark hole.
A franchise offers a clear path to follow.
It isn’t just that a franchise model has clarity with startup funding. It has a blueprint for how the business should run every day.
Obviously, there’s enough freedom in every franchise system that a couple — if they don’t work well together — could still theoretically argue. You could both be hiring your own employees, for instance, and if one of you wants to hire a certain worker and the other doesn’t, sure, a couple might argue.
But for the most part, two spouses running a franchise are following a system, and since you both believe in the franchise, there shouldn’t be a lot of stress (beyond the usual day-to-day stress of running a business). And odds are, you won’t have any serious stress or disagreements because chances are, like many couples running a business, you each will be working on areas of the franchise that fit your interests and skills. Many couples find that each person has their own strengths. So maybe one of you does the hiring and scheduling and accounting, while the other takes care of the marketing, inventory and sales.
A franchise can offer marriage counseling.
OK, don’t take that too literally. But, seriously, all franchisees are working with a franchisor — the headquarters. It’s easy to imagine a couple fighting over that online T-shirt website or restaurant, both blaming the other for the reason the business is hemorrhaging money and not feeling as if there’s any income available to hire a consultant.
It’s also easy to imagine a married couple with a franchise and wishing sales were a little higher, then turning to the franchisor and getting support/training to help get the couple back on track.
All of this being said, the success of any married couple running a business does come down to the couple and their collective skills, energy and enthusiasm. It’s also safe to say that your marriage should always come first before the business. In fact, it’s probably better for the health of your business if your marriage does come first.
If you’re looking for some inspiration and wondering how couples run a business together, Peggy Cherng, co-CEO of Panda Express, told Fortune magazine a few years ago, of working with her co-CEO husband, Andrew, “Being married does not always make working together easy. We had to learn how to resolve business disagreements. It’s not ‘Your way is best’ or ‘My way is best,’ but the alternative way — which incorporates everybody’s ideas — is best. In 2010 we reached our goal and had sales of $1.069 billion.”
Really, it doesn’t matter if you’re a married couple running an entire franchise or one unit. The fact is, you two are a unit, and as long as you always treat each other the way all couples should treat each other — with respect and good communication — you’ll probably find that not only will your marriage thrive, but so will your business.
Another way to look at it: When you’re working together, always treat your husband or wife as a professional. If you don’t, that’s when things can really get personal.