Five lessons from starting a business with my Wife
People warned us it would be difficult to work together. Some said it was hard enough being married let alone starting a business together. A speaker at an entrepreneur event in Berkeley, USA told us that he knew of only one couple that stayed together after working together. It speaks volumes when he couldn’t even recall their names, emphasising how challenging it is to start a business with your wife or husband.
1. Two leaders and two supporters
We’ve worked together on other projects before like travel plans, our wedding and other D.I.Y projects. But I think the main difference between starting a business and all these ‘projects’ have been that one often leads the effort and the other supported. With The Kit Source, it requires both of us to lead and support. The effort required by both parties is a lot higher than making travel plans where it was simple as agreeing and one to action it.
2. Adjusting to the different work styles
This is what I’m finding out right now. I know my wife pretty well but we’ve never worked side by side for this long on something so big. Yes, the wedding was a big project but it was one day and had a set deadline. This new online business we’re starting doesn’t really have a deadline and it’s more than just one day, it’s about our future.
One of the main challenges is to adjust and accept that we have different styles. Just like having a new colleague in the office, we’ve got to compromise and adapt. The first point of difference is the hours of operation. I’ve traditionally been an afternoon/night time worker. Whereas Lel likes to wake up early and get things over and done with.
In addition, I work sporadically and like to think about numerous things whilst working. I find that when I work on one task, an idea arrives as to how I can improve a task I completed yesterday. As a result, this leads me to change that content before I jump back to the current task. Lel, on the other hand likes to focus on a single task until it is complete. She must find my style rather distracting or dare I say, annoying? I can’t help that I draw ideas and inspirations from completing other tasks. I’m use to a dynamic workplace where I’m constantly disrupted and always had to adapt.
3. Need to create boundaries between personal time and work time
This has been extremely difficult for us. Separating the personal and work use to be easy when we were both working full time in different jobs. Now that we’re working together on The Kit Source, it’s proving to be a lot more challenging than I imagined. We both work during the day so naturally we’ll be working together after hours. These hours used to be our personal time but are now “work” time and I’ve accepted that. I’m finding that we’re working late into the night and sometimes still discussing it in bed. It’s hard to just switch off when you’re so excited about the business and can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow.
At times, I’m finding that we have to consciously say “ok, we need to talk about something else other than The Kit Source”. We carry a conversation about other topics but we always return to it. Like Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother said “new is always better” and there seems to be no shortage of new ideas or tasks to discuss. To counter this though, we’ll have to keep organising dates where we leave our “office” and get out to talk to each other about different things!
4. Delegation and separation of roles
We spoke about the roles when we first came up with the idea. However, the roles were imaginary so it was easy to say well “you look after the marketing and sourcing and I’ll look after finance and operations etc”. It’s not that simple, not when we’re both new to this. Although, I can admit that Lel has done a lot more online shopping than me…
We do have certain strengths in different areas but it’s not enough to say that I’m an expert and you can leave it all to me. There’s a lot of co-operation with all of the tasks and I think we’re both pretty happy with the learning experience. This arrangement will stay intact in the short term but I can see us becoming more specialised in the areas of interests down the road.
5. Lel’s sense of equality and fairness
This is a funny one actually. I’ve had to constantly remind her that not everything needs to be split 50/50. Just because I’m packing kits, doesn’t mean she needs to pack kits! She’s always been like this and it’s not a bad thing. She feels very strongly about sharing the workload but it’s always more towards her not doing “enough” work. For example, she’s happy to do the washing on her own but if I do the washing, she wants to be involved.
This is a problem most husbands don’t mind having but I don’t want her to constantly feel ‘guilty’ just because I did 100% of a task. Me on the other hand, would never complain when she does the whole task herself haha… but that’s the difference between us. I try to make up in other ways and probably still don’t do my fair share of housework.
In the past three months since working on The Kit Source, I’ve had to remind her that I can do things on my own and that she shouldn’t feel bad for not be involved! It’s nice to have someone who doesn’t want to take advantage of your kindness…if you have this, you better keep them!
It’s certainly been interesting working together and getting to know each other in the “work” environment. There’s been many times when we have been frustrated at each other but this is often due to a misunderstanding or caused by external irritations e.g. sickness. The key is to remain patient and tolerant. I’m excited that the online business has started and even more excited that I can share the journey with my Wife!
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While starting and working on The Kit Source, I returned to my previous employer to help pay the bills... Here's my blog on "returning after you resigned".