Fabiola and Simon Hesslein didn’t plan on starting a business together when they got married in 2005. But when the recession impacted their careers in the entertainment industry in 2008, they were forced to get creative to make ends meet.
Tips for Running a Small Business With Your Spouse
Running a small business as a couple includes some challenges. But the Hessleins have been able to build a successful event entertainment business, Tryon Entertainment. Fabiola Hesslein recently shared some tips and insights about running a business as a couple in a phone interview with Small Business Trends. Here are some of the most important tips for other couples looking to build successful businesses together.
Find Something You’re Both Passionate About
The Hessleins both worked in the entertainment industry before going into business together, which really helped them narrow down a business idea that fit both of their strengths. And Fabiola believes that their passion for music, dance, acting, and the concepts they use every day have helped them build a business that’s actually sustainable.
Share Your Vision
But it’s not enough to just have a general idea for an industry you’re both passionate. You also have to create overarching goals for your business and make sure you’re both on the same page in terms of your vision.
Learn Each Other’s Strengths and Weaknesses
Every business owner has their own strengths and weaknesses. And being honest about those things, both with yourself and your partner, is essential for identifying roles and tasks. This is something that the Hessleins had to learn about each other over time, since they started their business sort of on the fly.
Fabiola says, “I think if you’re able to be really honest with each other about your personal strengths and weaknesses right away, it helps you create roles and processes that work best for the business and for both of you personally.”
Outline Specific Roles
When you know your strengths and weaknesses, you can figure out what roles and tasks are best suited for each of you. For example, if one of you is creative and the other is more practical, you would probably have the latter handle the bookkeeping, while the former could work on innovative new marketing tactics.
Fabiola says, “I did study business in school, so there were a lot of parts of running the business early on where I kind of took the lead.”
Focus on Work Life Balance
Of course, one of the major challenges for a couple running a business together is bringing work home. The Hessleins still do this, according to Fabiola. But they have gotten better at separating the two over time.
She says, “At the beginning, you’re so excited about every single idea that you want to talk about the business all the time. But we’ve definitely made a point more recently to focus on work life balance and really make it a priority.”
Create a System for Sharing Ideas
For that reason, it can be a good idea to have set times or a system for brainstorming and sharing new ideas. You could set up weekly brainstorming sessions, have a notebook or Google Doc where you collaborate, or even discuss ideas each day at breakfast, leaving dinner time for work-free conversations.
Keep Personal Issues Out of Work
Just as it can be difficult to keep work out of home, it can sometimes be difficult to keep home out of work when you’re running a business with your spouse. But Fabiola says it’s essential to settle any small issues or disputes as best you can before you get to the office each day, so as not to let it affect your work and the rest of your team.
Have a Signal to Keep Things Light
In fact, she suggests even having a sort of signal or joke that you can use with the other person as a reminder to keep things light and happy.
She says, “It can be something small like a code word or silly face just to turn the situation around and keep it light for now. You can always talk about whatever it is later when you’ve left the office.”
Surround Yourself With Team Members You Trust
By that token, it’s also a good idea to surround yourself with team members you really trust and who fit in with your personalities. This is important in any business, but especially important for a family business where work and personal lives can sometimes overlap.
Re-evaluate Goals Regularly
Finally, make sure that those goals you set at the beginning are still what you both want over time. As your business grows, those goals can change and evolve. So you need to have annual or semi-annual meetings where you re-evaluate and make sure you’re still in agreement.
Fabiola says, “Go back to those original goals you set every so often, just to make sure you’re both still on the same page. If anything has changed over time, it’s important that you really hash it out and figure out a vision that you both agree on going forward.”
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