Running a business as a couple? Here's how to still maintain a happy marriage. Photo | Photosearch


Running a business as a couple? Here's how to still maintain a happy marriage

What you need to know:

  • Starting a business with your partner can be an excellent idea

Running a business with your spouse can easily turn into a disaster for both the business and your relationship

Starting a business with your partner can be an excellent idea. Indeed, there are business partnerships and ventures in Kenya between spouses that have worked seamlessly.

But just as successful as starting and running a business as a couple can be, the opposite can also be true. Running a business with your spouse can easily turn into a disaster for both the business and your relationship.

This is why you must adhere to certain rules when starting or running a business as a couple if you want to ensure the business, the relationship, and yourselves as individuals succeed.

The legal and contractual agreements

When entering into a marriage, one of the most recommended obligations for couples is the signing of a prenuptial agreement.

This agreement safeguards the wealth you had accumulated before marriage, and also outlines the division of finances and assets in the event of a divorce. In the same measure, when entering into a business partnership as a couple, you will need to have your legal and contractual agreement in place.

According to startup consultant Claire Nyokabi, having legal and contractual terms in place will allow your business to have a foundation that is independent of your personal relationship.

"This means that even if your relationship breaks, your business interests will remain safeguarded." This agreement will also safeguard the investment you both make as well as outline how compensation for initial investment will be done.

The salary

You will need to pay yourselves salaries. In your partnership, you will be distributing profits and losses based on the percentage you each own.

According to Nyokabi, the amount of pay you allocate yourselves must be realistic and based on factors such as the location of your business, the sales, the market standards for similar job positions, the amount of work being done, and the age of the business.

The salary must not eat into the operating capital. Nyokabi adds that other than the salary, you can have a 'Draw Agreement' which allows either of you to draw a percentage of their pay in anticipation of profit distribution.

For example, if you are expecting bonus dividends of Sh80,000 from the business at the end of the year, the spouse who is short on cash can take a draw of Sh20,000, which will be deducted from their share," she says.

The consultant

Hire a consultant or expert who will be able to objectively analyse and audit your business on a quarterly basis. For instance, says Jeremiah Rugunya, a certified public accountant and the lead consultant with Prolific Business Consultants.

Income Tax and VAT are two of the major taxes your business will need to honour. Rugunya recommends that your consultant must be able to respond to taxation issues such as when these taxes are filed, how they are filed, and how claims are settled, as well as regular auditing and bookkeeping.

The familiarity and boredom

As business and romantic partners, you will mostly spend time around each other. This can rapidly build up the boredom. For example, the allure of finding out how your spouse's workday was and the experiences they encountered will fizzle out. There will be little to talk about. "The first few weeks after launching your business together may be exciting.

But running a business, the frustration of breaking even, and the familiarity of being around each other all the time can be exhausting," says Nyokabi. If the business space allows, create a separate office space for each partner. This will allow you to have your independent routines. If the business doesn't have too much space, find roles that are different.

"For example, if you run a consumer goods wholesale business in Embakasi, you could take over daily operations while your husband could take over delivery operations. You will be stationed at the business premises overseeing daily operations while your husband will be out supervising deliveries to customers," says Nyokabi.

Decision-making and communication

If you have employees, you must have a structured way of making decisions and communicating them. According to Malini Bhatia, a family psychiatrist, your employees will have to know that you are responsible for the decisions taken in your respective roles.

For example, if you run the marketing department, any marketing decisions will have to be communicated by you. "This will let your employees know who makes the final call," says Malini.

Work-life balance

In Kenya, data from the Small Business Administration shows that 1 out of every 5 businesses fail within the first year. Half of those that survive fail within the following five years.

This means that if you are starting a business with your spouse, you may easily get lost in the tough task of making it work. This can lead to a work-life imbalance and eventually burnout, both in your business, relationship, and family. Take the initiative to set targets that will get you closer to the sort of family, social and entrepreneurial life you want. 

"Prioritise the most significant things first.

This entails planning and writing critical to-do items down. For example, you can select three things which will guide you in your daily roles in both life and business," Isis Nyong'o, the co-founder of Women Work Kenya, said in a recent forum that was held by Absa Kenya on work-life balance. In addition, having a plan will ensure that you avoid the imbalance of overworking without results.

According to Kerry Goyette, an entrepreneur and the author of The Non-Obvious Guide to Emotional Intelligence, you should coordinate your business operations to allow either of you some time off. "I work really hard in small bursts then take time off to relax. For example, if I work intensely over the weekend, I will take time off during the week or over the following weekend. This is the same principle you should include in your partnership," she said.

Handling money as a couple, the dos:

What to do

Bank accounts: Psychologist Dr. Chris Hart says that you should have three bank accounts. A private account for each of you, and a joint account which you use to manage your household and relationship expenses.

Prioritise money and money talks: You must make your finances a priority. "If you fail to prioritise your money right before things get serious, it won't be a priority down the line," says David Bach, the author of Smart Couple Finish Rich. Plan together, and know what purpose the loan is funding.

Financial unfaithfulness: Be financially faithful. Don't lie and hide money and purchases. If you say it's a loan, then endeavor to repay. If there's a huge amount of money involved, explore the possibility of putting it in writing just as you would commit to a prenuptial agreement.

Promissory note: Stefanie O'Connell, a financial advisor and author of Broke and Beautiful, says that due to the dynamics of a romantic relationship, you should stretch as far as a promissory note – which in the worst-case scenario can be legally enforceable. "Both of you should make a plan on the amount of money being borrowed, how it'll be used, and when it will be repaid, where the money is going, and then put it in writing," she says.

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