It was 2005 when designer Emily Bishop launched South Yard Design & Digital, a design and technology agency. Business was flooding in and she was busy—a little too busy, she says. So when her husband Kevin found himself unhappy in his career, he decided to join her company and add his branding expertise to the mix. The company flourished, and today the Bishops happily run their firm from a home office in Atlanta.
The couple works with a handful of contractors, but most days it’s just the two of them, working to solve business challenges together. The Bishops are part of a large group of people starting companies with their significant others.
Are you considering launching a business with your partner? Then take note of the following pieces of advice from the owners of South Yard Design & Digital:
Set boundaries for work talk
Establish work hours and chat about clients and projects during those times. When you’re outside the office, though, stick to personal topics. “We do not talk about work after work at all, and it has helped us tremendously,” says Emily. “If you don’t set that boundary, one of you could be relaxing and watching TV and the other person could be stressed about a work project. It can create arguments.”
Separate office from home
The Bishops recently moved to Atlanta from Chicago, and now have a downstairs room dedicated as their office. They go down there while working, but stay upstairs during all other times. This designated space used only for work helps separate their home lives from their business.
Treat Your spouse as a co-worker
Spouses usually know how to hit below the belt, but that kind of behavior isn’t appropriate in a workplace setting. “You wouldn’t call a co-worker a bad name,” says Emily. “So don’t do it to your spouse. Try to control your emotions.”
Be upfront with clients about your work arrangement
The Bishops are open with potential clients about their relationship—an openness that seems to help them net the customers they’re looking for. “Some of our best clients are husband and wife-owned businesses,” says Kevin. “It’s a natural fit. We are better together, so we try not to be something we aren’t. We embrace the fact that we work together and are married as a selling point.”
Give each other space
It can be almost impossible to not let personal squabbles filter into work relations. When you own a business with your spouse, though, it’s best to give the other person space in order to maximize their productivity, as well as your own productivity. “Sometimes, it is best not to be in the same room,” says Kevin. “Maybe just take your work to another room or a coffee shop down the street. It can help to have some breathing space or even take a few hours off.”
As owners of the same company, netting a client is great news for both of you, personally and professionally. The Bishops recommend acknowledging and celebrate these high points in your business. “There are so many stressors with running a business,” says Emily. “Take time to recognize and celebrate personal and business victories with your spouse.”
Build a strong support network
Remember when you could come home from work and complain to your spouse about your annoying co-workers? Now that your spouse is your co-worker, it’s important to establish a network of people you can lean on for emotional support, especially in the early days of your business. “You need friends and family who you can talk about work issues with,” Emily says. “If your husband is causing you stress at work, it is best to talk it out with someone outside of your business.”