Getting caught up in work can be easy to do, and even the most balanced spouse can bring an unhealthy serving of work frustrations to the dinner table every day. But for small business owners, or more specifically, their spouses, work can quickly become the third partner in a marriage, and in this case, three can certainly become an unwanted crowd.
Being married to an entrepreneur has its perks, though, and seeing a loved one turn their dreams into a reality, especially one that can or does support your family, is a rewarding experience in and of itself. But it’s not always easy, and if work and life get too out of balance your marriage, family and even your assets can be at risk. You can make things a bit easier if you or your partner follow these tips:
Separate Business from Personal
Though this can occasionally be a helpful rule for the financial and emotional aspects of being married to a small business owner, here I’m referring specifically to the financial side. It can be risky when business and personal finances intermingle because doing so puts the business owner and their personal assets at risk.
That’s why it’s smart separate your business and personal finances. That includes having an official name for your business with separate contact information, and perhaps more importantly, a separate checking account to pay bills, vendors, and employees. Similarly, if the business is using credit cards, having those cards in the name of the business and not the business owner, can make good financial sense.
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Select the Right Business Entity
Many business owners choose to start their business as a sole proprietorship, and while that’s easy, it’s not always the best decision when it comes to liability. If something happens to your business, be it an onsite injury or financial disparity, a sole proprietorship leaves your personal assets on the table, and that includes things like your home, automobiles, investments, and retirement savings.
Operating as a corporation or limited liability company (LLC) allows business owners to mitigate risks against their personal assets, protecting their financial lives as well as those of their family.
Maintain Operational & Ownership Documents
Though we don’t like to think about the possibility of dealing with death or illness, tragedies do happen, and if you’re married to a small business owner, then it’s a good idea to have a plan in place to ensure business matters are handled.
To start, it’s important that business owners keep up-to-date copies of wills and have established a power of attorney; these documents should explicitly state who will handle business affairs. In addition to that, other documents that address business processes as well as valuable contact and account information should be created to ensure that whoever is charged with overseeing the business is equipped to do so.
Have Reliable Business Insurance
If something happens and the business is sued, choosing the right business entity can help, but it doesn’t mean it won’t be costly. That’s why having proper insurance is important protection, but figuring out what coverage your business needs can be tricky. There are literally dozens of different insurance policies or packages, making it easy for you to end up under- or over-insured. Do your due diligence and learn about the types of insurance and what kind of coverages you may need.
Remember the Perks
When the going gets tough, it can be hard to remember there’s usually a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Though there may be a fair share of difficulties that come with the territory, there are also plenty of perks. Having a spouse who isn’t bound by workplace rules and obligations, like PTO or an inflexible 8-to-5 business day, can be a big positive. And, when business is successful, it’s likely that you and your family will financially benefit from that.
Achieving business milestones means a better life for your family, and since it’s the family business that makes them possible, you should all take time to celebrate, be it a date night, quick getaway, or simply a dinner and some bubbly. Celebrate together and congratulate your partner (and yourself) on a job well done.
Communicate About the Business
In some cases, ignorance can be bliss, but that’s rarely the case when it comes to being married to a business owner. Discussing ups and down, problems and successes, new strategies and old business can help keep couples together, even if your initial reaction is to table work talk.
Why? If you don’t know what’s going on in the business, it’s hard to understand your partner’s concerns or moods, and in some cases failure to communicate about the business can leave you blindsided when things aren’t going as planned.
Schedule a ‘No Work Time’
There is always a call to be made, an email to be sent, or something to review; it’s just the nature of the gig. It’s understandable that your spouse is often caught up in the minutiae of business ownership, and it’s important that you talk about the business, but that doesn’t mean the business should seep into every part of your waking hours together.
Whether it be a daily routine at the dinner table or a block of time on the weekends, schedule a standing “no business allowed” time so that everyone can get away from the work stress and your family can enjoy some much-needed quality time together.
Being married to a business owner can be an exciting journey filled with success, adventure, and financial security, but it can also be stressful, especially when things don’t go as planned. Being prepared for the worst and maintaining a healthy relationship, despite business troubles, is key to weathering the storm.
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This article was originally written on April 10, 2018 and updated on January 27, 2021.
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