Working With Your Spouse

Finding balance between business life and home life takes on a different challenge when you work with your spouse. We began dating the month Ben started his vacation rental photography business so this business has been an integral part of our entire relationship.
We have found a remarkable rhythm and flow that has made this work but that’s not to say that there weren’t challenges. In the book, Daze of Our Wives, Dave Meurer says “A great marriage is not when the ‘perfect couple’ come together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.” The biggest secret to our success was to learn how to blend our differences into a unified business plan.
The first key to a happy partnership is creating an organizational chart and deciding who does what. I talked in an earlier blog about the common mistake entrepreneurs make of not fully understanding the many hats that a business owner has to wear. I’ve also blogged about focusing on our individual skills and that was integral in deciding who was going to be responsible for each aspect of the virtual tour business.
Chief Executive Officer — Ben is the leader of our home and the leader of our virtual tour business. There are very few times when we disagree on the vision or details of our business but it’s decided ahead of time who has the final say.  Some people may balk at the Scriptural belief that the man is to be the head of the household but for us, it’s not just a mandate from God…it’s logical and it works.  Ben values my input and if we have a difference of opinion, I gladly submit to his decisions.  I married a wonderful godly man and he is accountable to God which makes it easy for me to be accountable to him.
Chief Financial Officer — Perhaps the biggest challenge most marriages face is differences of opinion about finances. It’s said that money issues cause a great deal of the fights and divorces so add business finances to personal finances and you can see why it’s important to be on the same page up front. In our business and personal life, we have one checkbook, one debit card and one bookkeeper. That forces us to make financial decisions together but because Ben is CFO of our home and business, it means that I don’t have to be involved on a daily basis with the details of every transaction.
Chief Marketing Officer — I am responsible for sales, marketing, web content, and customer service. Because we have a very clear vision and sense of purpose for our business, it is easy for me to communicate this message.
Chief Technology Officer — 
Ben is solely responsible for everything involved in creating the virtual tours. He keeps up with the latest updates and innovations in the industry.  He has such a high level of expectation for what we publish so he takes every picture through Photoshop. With that high expectation comes a high level of expertise that I just don’t have. We toyed with the idea of having me help with the tour preparation but it was not a good fit. I am big picture person and am better with ideas than details.
We have done this delineation of duties on a macro and micro level. When we are on site for a shoot, we have clearly defined and delineated set of responsibilities. Ben is the photographer…I don’t touch the camera unless it is to hold it while he adjusts is tripod. I have one job when we are on site and that is to make sure that Ben is able to do his job. If we are at a cabin, Ben photographs the outside while I go inside and stage the rooms, turn on all the lights, sweep the porch, clear the clutter, and whatever else is necessary so that he can walk through the door and start shooting pictures for our virtual tours
If we are working at a school or healthcare program, I work with the clients and patients so that Ben gets a clean canvas.  Life doesn’t stop just because we are there to photograph so it’s important to work around the inevitable distractions that will come about during the day. Confidentiality is of the utmost importance in healthcare programs so I have to make sure there is nothing showing that would identify a patient.
We have also found that having the same approach to our home life helps us balance our virtual tour business. If I have done a good job marketing, Ben stays very busy building tours. So it makes sense that I will do the majority of the cooking and cleaning during those times. If we have just finished a big job and Ben is caught up, then that means I am locked in my office finding the next job. At that time, Ben will do the majority of the cooking and cleaning for a while. We are not concerned about equal as much as we are equitable distribution of duties.

We absolutely love working together as a married couple but would warn others who are considering the idea that it’s vital to the success of both work and home to take the time up front to decide how to separate responsibilities. The most important thing of all to keep in mind is to put the marriage first and remember why we decided to go into business together.