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Business 101: When your spouse becomes your colleague

Maria Mora is a freelance writer and single mom fueled by coffee, questionable time management skills, toaster oven waffles and the color orange. She lives in Florida with her two young sons. If you see her on Twitter, tell her to stop p...

Starting a business with your spouse

Can you imagine working full time with your spouse? We met with two couples who work together and found out what makes it difficult, and what ultimately makes it work.
Bobbi and Mike
Photo credit: SB Childs

Meet two couples who balance being married and being colleagues.

Mike and Bobbi Sheridan

A mutual love for photography led Mike and Bobbi Sheridan to begin their own photography studio, bobbi+mike. They are full-time professional photographers who offer workshops and software for other professionals, and for those looking to go pro. “We love to photograph people's personalities and the love they have for one another,” says Bobbi, “whether it be a family session, engagement photos, or someone's wedding.” As a married couple, Mike and Bobbi feel very in tune and feel that they’re generally on the same page when it comes to their business and creative direction. What does Bobbi love about working with her husband? “We get to see each other and hang out almost whenever we want!”

How they make it work

“I think we've a book's worth of thoughts on that!” says Bobbi. She emphasizes the importance of checking your ego at the door. When you work in a creative field, it’s crucial to know how to accept and give criticism directly and gracefully. She offers these additional tips:

  • Delegate authority. “We've found things work best when one person has final authority and responsibility for a given area of the business.”
  • Stay on schedule. Try to stop working at the same time each day. This gives you the ability to create a solid work/life balance.
  • Check out of work mode. “Make a very deliberate effort to switch from a co-worker to spouse mindset when done working.”
  • Get separate offices. Even if you work closely together and get along great, you need time apart. Create separate workspaces or offices for a healthy sense of individuality.

Daniel and Zaida Grunes

 Taproot Organics

When Daniel Grunes made his wife a batch of olive oil soap to help her cope with side effects of an autoimmune disorder, Zaida raved about it online. Friends began requesting batches and Daniel began experimenting with essential oil blends. After coming up with a wide variety of popular soaps and body products, Daniel and Zaida launched their own line, Taproot Organics. What’s Daniel’s favorite part of working alongside his wife? “Being able to hang out with my best friend,” he says,  “working together on producing a quality product we are extremely passionate about, and building a legacy to pass on to our kids all at the same time.”

How they make it work

“We have found the same issues that one expects to encounter when you have a business partner are amplified when you live and parent with that same person,” Daniel says. He offers these tips:

  • Separate work and family time. “When the workday ends, we leave our studio and are not allowed to talk business.”
  • Play to your strengths. Zaida spent years in retail and focuses on the business side of things while Daniel focuses on creative aspects of soap making and promotions.
  • Set specific roles. “We set specific responsibilities and try not to step on each other's toes.”
  • Use a “safe word.” Daniel suggests having a code word to use in public or in front of clients to diffuse or end a touchy situation.

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