I’ve run my DJ company for the past 10 years with my husband, Evan. And while many other wedding business owners that I know also work alongside their spouse, I’ve also encountered many people who’ve said, “I don’t know how you do it. I could never work with my husband/wife.”
Working together hasn’t always been entirely smooth sailing, but I have to say it’s been great overall. So, here’s my advice to anyone running a business — or considering it — with their spouse or significant other:
- Have clearly defined roles. When we formed our company, we decided that Evan would be the president and “face” of the company, while I would be the vice-president. Quite a few years later, we restructured a bit and I took the helm, but our roles have always stayed very clear. I strongly recommend written job descriptions that cover each person’s overall responsibilities. You’ll obviously be collaborating on many things, possibly including the overall strategic direction of the company, but maintaining some separation in your day-to-day operations is the best way to ensure each person feels valued, secure and productive.
- Assess one another’s strengths and weaknesses. Starting a business together because you love each other is great, but if your collective skills and knowledge aren’t enough to successfully operate your company, you won’t last long. In my company, Evan has always been more of the visionary — the “idea guy” — while I’ve been a little more grounded in the actual business side of things. He brings his expertise in technology and design, as well as great problem-solving skills, while I bring marketing experience and more broad knowledge of other fields within the wedding business. Combined, I’d say we make a pretty kick-ass business superhero.
- Make an effort to separate your work and personal lives. Let me be the first to say that this is way, way harder than it seems. All couples come home at night and talk about their workday — but when you spend your workday together, doing the same work, and then spend your evenings discussing and dissecting it, you’re robbing yourself of balance. Breaking this habit is something that requires a ton of discipline, but is well-worth it when you realize your life is more than the work you do.
- Be realistic about money. Before you and your spouse jump into your business with both feet, be sure you are prepared financially. Weddings are very cyclical, and with both of you depending on your wedding business as your sole source of income, it’s easy to wind up in the red. For the first few years of operating our business, Evan and I alternated: one of us would focus on the business full-time, while the other worked another well-paying job while also working part-time on our company. We both jumped into full-time work on our DJ company about 6 years ago.
- Have a contigency plan. This is essential for any business, but especially one where both spouses are involved. You need to have a plan in place for illness and other emergencies, because work still needs to get done, clients still need to be serviced, and bills still need to be paid. You also need to have a plan for how your business will operate when you’re on vacation or otherwise unavailable to work for a few days. Owning your own business doesn’t give you the luxury of putting in a time-off request and just walking away.
I’d love to hear some success stories of other couples who’ve managed to operate a wedding business together, as well as stories of challenges they’ve faced. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post a comment if you might like to be featured in a future post!