“The secret of a happy marriage is finding the right person. You know they’re right if you love to be with them all of the time.” — Julia Child
My husband and I were both working in the publishing industry 18 years ago when I had an idea to start my own business. I wanted to promote books online. I left a great job to follow my interests, but thankfully, my past employer became my first client. Within a year of starting FSB Associates, I had more work than I could do alone, so my husband took a huge leap of faith and quit his job to join me. Together we built a niche service company creating online awareness for books and authors through a seamless integration of social media and web publicity. We build brands and loyal communities of readers for authors, and create and design author websites to help authors build the foundation of their digital strategies. Many years ago, people advised me not to work with family — particularly a spouse — and that’s not bad advice, but for us, it works.
We are still happily married and very much in business. Joining forces, we have successfully executed more than 2,000 book publicity campaigns and watched our beautiful daughters grow up. I’ve learned a few things along the way about how to grow a business and a family together.
Don’t immediately toss out the idea of working with your spouse. You don’t have to immediately discount the notion of working with a spouse or another family member because of the taboo of mixing family and business. Under the right conditions, or the right relationship, it can work. Building a business and a family with my husband has made us closer, and we love what we have created together.
Position your strengths. My husband and I have different skill sets that complement each other. He’s good with numbers and technology and I’m good with people and publicity. Positioning your strengths is how you can build a successful team and business. Plus, people are happier when they are doing what they do best and it’s easier to stay in your own lane when you separate your responsibilities by what each spouse does best.
Maintain boundaries. Once you have delegated your responsibilities, let your spouse handle those responsibilities without interference. Sure, you can collaborate, but it’s best to stay out of each other’s way. Refrain from telling your spouse how to do what they do best. Let each other have some room and flexibility to work independently. Trust one another because it’s key to letting each other flourish in your designated roles.
Create a work only zone. Understand that business communication is different from personal communication, and once you are at work, be at work. Leave all personal miscommunications or disagreements behind. Know you can talk about personal topics once you are home. Clear your mind of any issues once you enter your work only zone. Since personal issues typically involve more emotions than business issues, make a conscious decision to table emotions until you are back in home mode so work decisions can be made with a level head.
Embrace open communication. Respect is so essential in any marriage, but if you are in business together, respect is critical. Respect is being appreciative of your spouse’s talents, gifts and insights. Respect can easily be conveyed by listening. Always be respectful in your communication. Open and effective communication can make a working relationship harmonious.
Forget balance and go for blend. Don’t worry too much about separating work and family in some perfect balance; find a blend that works for your family. Feel free to attend school events for your kids and make up the time at night after bedtime. It’s okay to talk about the business at dinner, or put in some work time in the evening, as long as the blend of work and personal time works for everyone involved.
Remember that you are both on the same side. There is a Zig Ziglar quote I love: “Many marriages would be better if the husband and wife clearly understood that they are on the same side.” Not only is this a great piece of marital advice, but it also is great advice for running a business with your spouse — just remember you are on the same side. As business owners, we have the same goal, success for our clients, staff, our business and our family. Remembering that you are working together for the same outcomes can facilitate a positive and easy-breezy working relationship.
Focus on the big picture. Remember, why you went into business together. My husband and I are passionate about the book publishing industry, about web marketing, and about helping authors. We also enjoy the flexibility of having our own business. While we do put it long days and some working nights — common for entrepreneurs — our time is our own. We can design our days with flexibility, coming up with the right mix of family time while never losing focus on the business. Ultimately, we always keep the big picture in our minds, and that’s the importance of our marriage and family, our number one priority.
Marriage and business works when you work at it together. In fact, it can work so well that blending family and business may become a tremendous blessing in your life. It has in mine.
© 2013 Fauzia Burke. All Rights Reserved.
Fauzia Burke is the Founder and President of FSB Associates, a digital publicity and marketing firm specializing in creating awareness for books and authors. For online publicity, book publishing and social media news, follow Fauzia on Twitter: @FauziaBurke. To talk with FSB and ask your book publicity questions, please join us on Facebook.