SCORE Tip of the Week: Think Twice Before You Start a Business with Your Spouse

SCORE's CEO, Kenneth R. Yancey, gives considerations for starting a new venture with your spouse.

Starting a business with your spouse may sound like a dream come true—but it can just as easily turn into a nightmare. Before launching a business with your husband or wife, consider it carefully, and take these steps:

Understand the risks involved. When both spouses are partners in the same business, you’re essentially putting all your eggs in one basket. If the business doesn’t work out, how will you stay afloat financially? If you are using your personal savings, retirement savings or home equity to start the business, how comfortable are you with the idea of losing that money? Make sure you’re financially prepared to deal with the risks involved, and that both partners are equally at ease with those risks. If not, perhaps one of you should launch the business while the other keeps his or her job.

Define your roles in the business. If both of you plan to have an equal say about marketing and sales, for example, you’re likely to butt heads. Just as with any business partnership, the relationship will work best if each of you defines certain areas of expertise and responsibility. This also ensures that, when you have employees, they are clear about which of you they report to.

Be equally committed. If one spouse is gung-ho about starting a business and the other one goes along half-heartedly, that’s a recipe for disaster. Starting a business is a major life change, and if you want to succeed, both of you must be equally passionate about making it work.

Plan for time outside the business. A startup consumes your life even if you’re not working with your spouse. To keep your relationship as husband and wife strong, set aside time to get away from work—and from each other. Make time to work out or get together with friends outside of your marriage. And make sure you spend with your spouse without talking business, such as on a weekly date night or make dinner a no-business zone.