My spouse, my business partner- The secret to how we make it work
Business is an all-consuming journey of passion that entrepreneurs commit their time and money on. With companies growing and scaling up to a massive scale it is hard to do it as a sole founder. Most new age start-ups today have 2 or more co-founders. India is known for family businesses. With the new start-up ecosystem, there is a new breed of founder team – “The Husband and Wife Duo”
This seems to be a trend that is catching on and probably here to stay. I (Madhumitha) co-founded my healthy kitchenware start-up (The Indus Valley) with my life partner and now business partner Jagadeesh Kumar. We have learned a lot about business, our industry and each other on this journey.
Starting a venture with your spouse seems easy at first. But as you get close to it, things get real. There are a lot of things that people consider such as-
• Financial well-being when both earning members quit to start-up
• Impact of business on personal life
• Impact of this decision on immediate family (kids, parents)
• Finally the least important but ominous –“Log kya kahenge?”
This article is my attempt to describe the elements of our partnership that helped us sail through during tough times. I have added some of my spouse’s inputs, but it will have a woman’s point of view. So here we go!
1. Respect each other
This one sounds obvious but it is most often missed by many people. Maybe because we know each other so well. We might take each other for granted. Never let that happen.
I have noticed that many women are treated like a secretary instead of a partner. It is sad that there are gender-defined roles at work for women too. This is not good for their relationship or company. Establish from Day 1 that we are a team of equals with different but comparable skills.
I was lucky that my spouse and I have a complementing skill set and have the sense to respect each other’s opinion. We recognize and appreciate each other’s area of expertise. When it comes to a vendor and employee management, I rule hands down. When it comes to Sales & Marketing, I respect and regard his opinion highly.
It is important to focus on the positives in each other and move towards building a strong company.
2. Be honest
The fundamental rule of a business partnership is honesty. It is especially hard between spouses. There is just so much history. We always try to stay professional; sometimes the emotion gets the better of us.
One thing that has always helped us when we are at an impasse is being honest. The first few weeks when my husband decided to quit and join The Indus Valley Natural Kitchenware full time, I had a lot of stress. I had the added weight of his faith on my idea to carry. I was honest with him about my fears and apprehensions. He helped me understand his motivation and helped me overcome that stress.
Have open & active channels of communication. Honesty will help you resolve most of the problems.
3. Understand how your spouse works
This is a tough one for everyone, more so for couples who are married for a long time. We have many aspects to our personality. Pre-venture we know our spouse from a personal context only.
People change their persona when it comes to work. This will be completely new to us and can catch us off-guard.
I used to consider Jagadeesh’s stubbornness at work as a personal attack on my abilities. My assumption was far from the truth.
He was just very clear on what he wanted to be delivered at work and stood by his decision. I understood that all I needed to do was explain why my method/idea was better with actual logical points.
Our shared agenda is to make our company grow. Once we get into the rhythm, magic happens.
4. Push each other to make your dream real
Many times being a spouse and partner are diametrically opposite roles.
The spouse in you wants to ensure you provide all comfort to him but the business partner in you wants to ensure we work hard and smart to keep moving forward. It is a tightrope walk between the spouse and business partner in you.
What worked for us is finding what drives us at work. I understood early on that Jagadeesh is a numbers person. He needs his milestones set clearly in sales figures or any other tangible number. He then makes plans and ways to reach his goal.
I am more of a reward-seeking person. I like it when I get a reward at the end of each important milestone. The reward is generally small like lunch with the team or movies. But these small things keep me going.
Find what makes each other tick and push each other towards a greater tomorrow.
5. Appreciate & celebrate wins
Entrepreneurship is a long and lonely journey. No one is this world cares about your business as much as you do. It is that sheer passion that drives entrepreneurs.
Remember to always appreciate each other for a job well done. “Good job, I am proud of the awesome work you do.”, is the one thing we all need, so give it at the right time. Do not get caught up with work and forget to acknowledge the good work.
Finally celebrate your wins. This journey is a thrilling and an uphill task. It will be hard and sometimes nearly impossible. But when you reach a view point (milestone), do not forget to celebrate. Create your own traditions.
We buy aspirational single malt whiskey for our aspirational milestones. When we reach our goal, it is time to say cheers.
Spouses are a great fit to be business partners. Just understand every aspect of how your spouse works. Also, accept their ways. Always have an open channel of communication.
Never let your personal drama to enter your work and vice versa.
Drive each other towards growth. With each small win, do not forget to appreciate and celebrate. After all, the whole point of this journey is to enjoy the uphill hike.