For the past 9 months, my husband Robin and I have been working together in business. We’ve created a separate brand called AmbitionAlly, because we’re allies in business and life. We’re also both pretty driven ambitious Type A’s, who like to relax and take it easy sometimes, too.
We’ve been hard at work creating software solutions for business owners like you. The first of which is our brand new plugin called PopupAlly, it’s the polite popup, and you can read all about it here.
But this episode isn’t about our software projects, it’s about how we’ve managed to work together without wanting to get a divorce!
I’m often asked about how we’re able to work together, and how we keep our happy marriage while we’re working on business projects.
Working With Your Spouse
First, I need to say that almost everyone I spoke to about working with my husband told me it was a bad idea. And since we haven’t been working together for that long, I can’t say my opinion won’t change, but here’s what I’ve learned along the way that made it work for us.
1. Having separate rooms to work out of makes a big difference.
When you both work from home, it’s important to have doors so you can take phone calls without disturbing each other.
You’ll also learn very quickly who likes to listen to music, and you’ll notice that you have different patterns of focus. Sometimes I’ll need a break when he’s in the middle of something, or vice versa.
It’s important to respect your spouse’s work rhythms and to explain yours too.
One of the big reasons why we moved out of our small Brooklyn apartment into a bigger home in Dallas is that we have more space. Now we each have a real office with a door, and we can really dive deep into our work without distractions.
It’s also helped us take time away from work better, because our computer stay in our offices while we have meals together.
2. There are two modes of communication: work and play.
Sometimes when we’re working on a project we’re really excited about, we can’t stop talking about work even after hours and during meals. We even end up staying up late chatting about our plans and coming up with new ideas.
This phase can be fun, but also really draining because we don’t have any off time from thinking about the business.
On the other hand, we’ve had the opposite experience of not talking about business projects at all and experiencing miscommunications. We’re pretty good at guessing what each of us wants in general life situations, but when it comes to business we need to talk about things explicitly to be on the same page.
Our solution to balancing the “all work” or “all play” modes has been to schedule a mini-huddle every morning, to go over what we’re working on and then to catch up at the end of the day to see how things are progressing.
It takes 5 minutes, and we just go over our plans for the day and get any questions out of the way before we get to it. We often notice right away if there’s a mis-match in priorities or if the other person is taking on more than they can handle in one day.
This helps us stay a little more balanced and not feel overwhelmed, too.
Along the we way, we’ve also learned how to stop arguments early, and get things out into the open. One trick we’ve been using is to explain why we want something done a certain way.
So instead of just saying “update this feature” or “go take out the recycling” we add the word “because”. So example, “update this feature because I noticed that many people were having issues getting it to work”, or “go take out the recycling because the box is full and I am about to take a conference call”.
These are just made up examples, but you can see that they’re not as demanding or demeaning when we explain the rationale, and gain some buy-in instead of giving orders to each other.
Avoiding the passive aggressive zone is key here!
3. Agree upon clear roles and responsibilities.
One thing that we did right from the start was set clear expectations on who is doing what. This was fairly simple since my business was established and we were starting a new project together, but I know this can be tricky if you’re just starting out.
Along the way in our relationship we’ve figured out who does what best in our personal lives too. Robin is an excellent chef, and if you were to leave dinner plans up to me we’d be eating a lot more blended foods and simple meals.
So while he’s making dinner, I’m usually getting in an extra bit of work.
Finally, having totally romantic time together is a non-negotiable every week. We’re homebodies so we don’t go out on dates very much, but we do have amazing weekends in where we can really relax and be fully present together.
Do you work with your spouse? Thinking about it?
I’d love to hear your tips as we continue on this journey of working side by side to build new businesses together.
Leave a comment below with your experiences, advice, and any hesitations you might have about working with your spouse!