Written with love, by Karley Kiker
In addition to being partners in life, Taylor and I are partners in business. When sharing this information with other couples, we have (more than) occasionally received eyebrow raises, barely-muffled gasps, and questions along the lines of, “So how’s THAT going for you?”
Our response is always the same: We absolutely love it! There are so many pros to working alongside your best friend—think spontaneous outings to enjoy half-price sushi (hooray for discounted lunch menus!) and the ability to tackle your to-do list from anywhere, be it a coffee shop around the corner or across the globe (after all, you have the exact same number of vacation days).
That’s not to say it’s always easy. In fact, the first few months contained more than a few touch-and-go moments—turns out that “constructive criticism” from your spouse is a little more difficult to swallow than the opinion of a co-worker in the next cubicle. At this point we’ve been working together for two years, and the experience just keeps getting better. It’s truly one of our biggest blessings! Whether you currently work with your spouse or you’re dreaming of doing so in the future, here are seven things to keep in mind when setting up shop together:
Be a spouse first and a co-worker second. In our experience, you just can't critique your spouse’s work the same way you would a co-worker. Scratch that—you can. But it’s probably not going to go well for you if you don’t season your feedback with a hefty dose of affirmation and kindness. Right or wrong, I want Taylor to see me and everything I do as I-woke-up-like-this flawless. But I also highly value his honest opinion, and if something is just average, I don’t want him to flatter me into believing it’s gold. Long story short: I’m most prepped to receive his input if he points out the good first and digs into the room-for-improvement second.
Set a schedule. We’ve found that our work day goes the most smoothly when we wake up early, immediately consume coffee, spend time reading our Bibles individually, and then come back together for prayer and a meeting before digging into our workload. While we still leave room for flexibility—after all, that’s one of the biggest benefits of owning our own business!—sticking to a schedule helps us to be efficient with our time.
Have an official meeting. Every time one of us (usually me) dives into what we *think* is our workload for the day without consulting the other, we tend to be way less productive...and much more likely to get into an argument. No matter what your work style is (more on this below), it’s important to set aside time each day to meet and create a joint task list. This will ensure that deadlines are met and there’s no miscommunication.
Define your roles. Although our roles do overlap at times, I am “officially” the creative director + lead writer for our company and Taylor is our business manager + designer. This means I’m responsible for dreaming up the big picture, and he is responsible for bringing it to life (also, charging for the time it takes us to do so). Defining our roles helped us to increase our productivity, set (and achieve) personal and company goals, create systems for processing new clients, and more.
Determine your work style. Taylor does not like to switch directions—meaning if he’s working on something for client A, he prefers to completely close that box before moving on to client B’s needs. In other words, he’s a structured worker. I, on the other hand, can jump from doing a styled shoot for client A to writing a blog post for client B to emailing client C and back again depending on what I perceive to be the most pressing needs of the day...or the hour. In other words, I’m a creative worker. Identifying the differences in how you each approach a task list will lead to better communication and fewer hurt feelings—no “You’re all over the place!” or “You’re so inflexible!” insults required.
Be willing to share household responsibilities. I am from the South and I like to cook, so I actually wanted to be Betty Crocker when we first got married (cute monogrammed apron and all). However, now that we work together, it’s very difficult for me to single-handedly keep our house clean, stay on top of the laundry, and dish up three homemade meals per day. The fact that Taylor is willing to share household responsibilities such as cleaning the dishes, preparing dinners, grocery shopping, and so on has taken so much pressure off of these Southern shoulders. With that said, I highly recommend having a conversation (or three) with your spouse about roles, expectations, and responsibilities whether you’re in business together or not!
Dream together. Again, in my opinion this is essential whether you’re working with your spouse or not. Dreaming together is the next level of goal setting. It means joint vision, a common passion, shared excitement—all amazing things in business AND in married life as a whole!
Disclaimer: Life happens, and sometimes these lofty goals of ours are not perfectly met (see last week’s post on the inability to achieve perfection for details). But we don’t let that stop us from aiming to be the best teammates we can be between the hours of 9-5 and beyond!
Do you have any other tips for working side-by-side with your spouse? If so, I’d love to hear them!