On Entrepreneurship: Business and Marriage

On Entrepreneurship is a column that I write for Forbes Magazine in the Philippines. I wrote the following for the March 2016 issue.

People often say that business partnerships are like marriages. So what happens when you’re actually married to your business partner?

I asked some friends who’ve built million dollar businesses about their experience.

Ricky and Rosemarie are in retail and distribution.

“We started going out and running our own businesses in college. We ended up helping each other a lot so it seemed natural to combine them.
One of the principal sponsors at our wedding gave us some useful advice. She said that the bond we would form from starting with nothing to overcoming difficulties together to eventually seeing the fruits of our shared labor would help keep our family strong and close. She encouraged us to have all our kids one after another, 2–3 years apart. The idea was to endure the hardships all in one go and then have fun later.
Today, our businesses are doing well and our family is quite close. We’re glad we followed her advice.”

James and Kylie are Australian and are in consulting and retail.

“We were both entrepreneurial, neither of us liked working for other people and we knew we had complimentary skills. We also shared the same values around having new experiences, travelling, family, money, taking responsibility for our own choices and making a difference in the world.”

I asked about how they divided the work and made decisions.

Ricky and Rosemarie:

“Rosemarie is very good with numbers and dealing with people. She takes care of finance & accounting, merchandising & purchasing. Ricky is good with details. He handles sales & marketing, warehousing & logistics, operations & HR.
We debate on a lot of things. In fact, when we were younger, there were a lot of fights. As we matured, we learned to clearly define our roles to avoid conflict. We also learned to choose our battles and to be more understanding and forgiving. “

James and Kylie:

“James is a salesman. He deals with new business, client relationships and managing staff. Kylie is more focused on the profitability of the businesses; ensuring that all line items on the P&L are scrutinized and ensuring that there cash in the bank.
Being married, we don’t have to deal with some of the social politeness that usually waste people’s time. Others might think that we are arguing, but we aren’t. We’re actually cutting straight to our points of view on the issue, and it helps us to come to a quick resolution without dancing around the issues.”

I then asked them how they balanced their personal and professional lives.

Ricky and Rosemarie:

“In our toughest and saddest times, it was the family who supported us and kept us going. For us, family is above all.
Now that our children have grown up, they’ve become interested in business too. Hopefully the interest is accompanied by the work ethic, passion and hunger that we ‘ve tried to nurture in them through the years.”

James and Kylie:

“For us, there is really no separation between work and personal life. Work is a part of our lives, but is just one aspect; as is our son’s schooling, house renovations, travelling, etc.
Today, our focus is turning more towards environmental and human issues. Fortunately, we have a great team working with us on our businesses so we have time to pursue our new passion. We believe that we’re here on this delicate planet for a short time and we want to make a difference.”

On my end, my wife and I have chosen to keep our professional lives separate.

What interests us and how we like to do things are just too different. We’re fortunate that we’ve each achieved some measure of success independently so we never felt the need to work together. We help each other where we can, but that’s about it.

I believe the values of love, trust and respect that enable Ricky & Rosemarie and James & Kylie to work so well together are the same values that led me and my wife to happily keep our professional lives separate.

Business partnerships are like marriages. They’re successful when the vision and the values are truly shared and lived by the partners.

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