Family businesses are a dime a dozen but couple-run companies are rather uncommon, as most people do not encourage working with a spouse for fear of ruining the relationship. Yet, some have discovered that their life partners are the best co-workers they could possibly have.
My partner, Dason Goh and I are married for 13 years, and we are also co-founders of Detrack, a logistics tech startup that created Singapore’s leading delivery tracking Software-as-a-Service platform.
Dason and I founded the company when we discovered a lack of visibility in last-mile deliveries, could not find a suitable solution in the market, then decided to take it upon ourselves to create the technology from scratch.
Our journey to success has been anything but easy. As with any coworker or colleague within the same department, we faced numerous challenges and obstacles and did not always see eye to eye on all matters.
It was through open and honest communication that we built rapport with each other, nurturing and sustaining a healthy working and romantic relationship, allowing them to successfully scale their business into its present-day achievements.
How did we manage and balance our professional and personal lives? We would like to share five important tips on running a business together as a power couple.
Not all couples enter a business together on the same footing. Oftentimes, one individual may be more involved or committed to the mission than the other. Each person also has their own barometer of what the company means to them, how their careers might pan out, as well as how their respective roles and responsibilities could impact their lives in general.
We highlighted potential tensions in a relationship that might surface in the early stages of a startup, including making considerable lifestyle changes and drastic measures taken to stay afloat.
During these situations when certain sacrifices have to be made, there may be some conditions where the other party might be unwilling to budge. These situations are unavoidable but can still be resolved by establishing and aligning expectations at the onset.
It is imperative to do so as being on the same page allows couples to have a common understanding of what each person values and what they find essential to their lives.
Not only is there give-and-take involved, having a common understanding and setting some ground rules before starting a business can help build a strong foundation for the relationship, as there will be plenty of tough times to endure throughout the business lifetime.
Make decisions together
Decision-making is part and parcel of running a startup and can range from the minute daily decisions to major choices that impact every single aspect of the business.
When it comes to making decisions, we believe in doing so together. We kickstart every decision-making process as a team, having open and detailed discussions, laying out all concerns and differing opinions on the table, then looking at the issue at hand in an objective manner.
Respecting each other’s viewpoints is of utmost importance and communication is key. In doing so, we are able to avoid potential pitfalls and conflict and come to an agreement on the topic of discussion. Once we have made a decision together, regardless of the outcome, we would choose to move forward and work together to make better and more well-informed decisions.
Every joint decision they make strengthens their teamwork and increases their mutual trust in each other, qualities that are extremely important in the workplace, especially in a startup environment that is more volatile and uncertain.
Have a support system
The journey of a startup owner is one fraught with challenges, and these difficult times can last over the course of several years. It is at this initial make-or-break phase where business owners need emotional support from the people around them.
When both parties are in the business, not only do they need to support one another, they would also need support from their families, friends and extended social circles.
This can be as simple as relatives lending a hand to watch over the children, freeing up valuable time for the parents to focus on their work, or even as personal as families understanding that the couple may not be able to contribute to monthly allowances or afford luxuries that they would enjoy with a more regular and substantial paycheck.
We were fortunate to have the unwavering support and encouragement from their families and close friends. This support system which we have unintentionally grown and built over time continues to push them – slowly but surely – as we soldier on in their entrepreneurial endeavour.
While we have had some prior experience with entrepreneurship during our schooling years, nothing could prepare us for the real world obstacles that would come our way.
As much as there will be opportunities to learn from each other, we highly recommend seeking professional mentorship or speaking to experienced entrepreneurs about their learnings on starting a business from scratch.
Conversations we had with accomplished veterans in the industry were extremely beneficial in understanding the startup world, as well as dodging potential roadblocks and pitfalls that new business owners may not see coming a mile away.
Be open to investments and funding
We may have founded a bootstrap startup but we would choose a less onerous path if we could. Financially, it was a huge strain on us during the initial phases of the business journey, and this could have been circumvented through the raising of funds and leveraging of government schemes.
Partnering with investors could also be a key driving factor of a company’s development and growth, especially during the early stages of building a startup.
While the team will have to take on additional pressures and responsibilities of external interests and expectations, investors not only provide capital but also offer valuable resources such as their expertise and knowledge that can help scale a business rapidly and more efficiently.
Ultimately, it is important for couples to explore different financing options and make mindful business decisions in the best interests of the company.
Running a startup together is not for every couple but there are still merits to being partners in both professional and personal settings.
Though the business might seem to be the main priority for some of these couples, we continue to encourage them to nurture the relationship, communicate frequently and be open with each other, as ultimately the relationship between the two needs to flourish for the business to succeed.
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