I Slept With My Business Partner: 5 Systems to Follow When Starting a Business With Your Spouse

Updated: Mar 5

This blog is written by Jen Josey, Real Estate Investor, and REIGN Coach. She is not a professional writer and writes like she talks so put your red pen away.  Jen is extremely opinionated but reserves the right to change her opinion at any time because, well, that's the way she rolls.  She may also use colorful language so don't be offended.  Jen does not claim to be an expert, she is just sharing her personal thoughts and adding a perspective on investor topics that may benefit her readers.  Jen also finds it strange to write in the third person.  Enjoy!


I have always struggled with commitment.


I would love to get a tattoo but the thought of choosing a design and having to live with that choice for the next 40 years makes my head spin. Twenty-five (plus) years ago, I considered getting this cool tattoo of yellow daisies woven together in a lovely design on my lower back. Thank goodness I never mustered up the courage because it wasn't much later that the super sexy low back tattoo evolved into the humiliating branding of "tramp stamp." (Sorry ladies, just keep that shirt pulled down and no one will notice.) Not to mention my weight fluctuation over the years...my pretty daisies would have mutated into odd-shaped sunflowers and then to drought-ridden black-eyed Susans.


So, it should be of no surprise that I didn't get married until I was almost 40. My husband, Vance, and I had dated briefly, broke up, but remained friends. Guess he had a commitment issue as well! It wasn't until years later, I needed a last-minute date to my cousin's wedding in New Orleans when I realized he was "the one." It may have also been the multiple hand grenades we drank in the French Quarter...


In dealing with my commitment phobia, I have learned that when another person is involved, I have to create systems. This is to insulate not only my decision to commit but to protect the other person's sanity when associating with me. Vance and I did some pre-marital counseling at our church and we were given some great tools for a happy marriage. We were asked if there were any issues we'd like to discuss and I brought up our morning routine. Vance loves to talk and talk and talk. I found myself wanting to throat punch him before the sun even came up. Our pastor suggested we limit all conversations to "good morning" until Jen finished a cup of coffee. Perfect! System created! I am now able to wake up and enjoy my morning brew in peace while Vance's esophagus remains intact.


Almost 6 years into our happy marriage, we decided to open our real estate investment business. This was a commitment I was excited about. I was excited to quit my corporate America job. I was excited to make my own schedule every day. I was excited for the next chapter in our life. I was excited about financial freedom.


I was not excited to think our pillow talk could recede into business talk.


This new commitment was sure to have its challenges. We were excited to commit to our new business but we needed to maintain the commitment we had towards each other to sustain our happy marriage. We learned early on that communication is important for marriage but ten times more important if you are in business with your spouse. Here are five systems that work for us...


1. Define Your Roles

Real Estate Investing has many moving parts so you must decide who will be in charge of the following:


Marketing

Acquisitions

Finances

Construction Management

Property Sales

Business Development


Sit down together and write each one of the above business roles at the top of a sheet of paper. Then discuss the tasks required of each of those roles and list them on each page. Next, take two highlighters, one color for you and a different color for your spouse, and assign each task. It's OK to have both of you share a role, but it's important to be specific on how that role is split up. For example, under Construction Management, I hire all our contractors and coordinate their schedules at the work-site but Vance manages their contracts and invoicing. Lastly, display these papers in your office for you to reference. There will be times when tasks may start falling through the cracks and you both will need to revisit roles and responsibilities and change ownership of those tasks.


2. Determine Time Commitment

Work / Life balance can be very tricky, especially if you have children. When expectations are set on how much time each week is to be devoted to your business, it's important to honor those expectations. It is easy to get sucked into your business dealings, especially when it's your passion, so set a quitting time each day and stick to it. Don't forget to schedule date nights, looking at properties is not romantic! If you need more time to grow your business, try waking up an hour earlier so you're not taking away from family time. Take advantage of commute time by turning off the radio and listening to some Bigger Pockets podcasts to expand your education.


You may also be in a situation where one of you is running the business full time while the other is still working their W-2 gig. Roles decided in the previous system may need to be dispersed differently since one of you has a lot more time to work the business. When I quit my job and ran our business full time, I actually carried a lot of guilt. I was finally experiencing the freedom to make my own schedule, not apply make-up, change out my work wardrobe to jeans and t-shirts, take long lunches if I wanted to...all while Vance was still reporting to the man.


Having just left a micromanager that would call your ass out the second your SKYPE status switched to inactive (wiggle the mouse, wiggle the mouse), I struggled with having to justify any non-business thing I did throughout the day. Every once in a while, I'd steal a little cat nap after lunch. When I woke up, fully recharged, I felt like I was letting Vance down. I finally told him about my mid-day, shut-eye sessions, expecting to see disappointment take over his expressions. Instead, he reminded me that anyone who holds a job takes breaks throughout the day, why would I be any different? The lesson learned here is to not forget to balance my work life as well.


3. Complete Professional Assessments

When you start a new job, many employers require new employees to complete assessments to learn more about their skills, knowledge, cognitive ability, emotional intelligence, personality, etc. Even though you may feel like you know your spouse better than anyone on this planet, do NOT skip this part! You and your spouse are taking on completely new roles within your marriage and it's always best to defer to the professionals. Vance and I followed the advice of one of our coaches and took the DiSC test and the Core Values Index. It exposed our strengths and weaknesses prior to starting our business so assigning roles was so much easier. Our coach also had us rate each other on personal competencies. While I thought it was obvious Vance was so skilled at organizing our finances, he had never heard me say it. This was a huge boost to his confidence thus revealing the leadership already inside of him. (You can find tons of free versions of the DiSC test and Core Values Index online...just ask The Google.)


4. Create Goals

Visualizing the future of your business is essential but sharing the same perspective with your business partner can be challenging. One of you may see your business taking over the world while the other is much more conservative. Take the time to collaborate your vision by writing SMART goals together. Vance and I escape to our cabin every December to write out our goals for the next year. We first reflect on the previous year's goals and use it as a tool to make better predictions for the upcoming year. Taking the time to choose your goals together allows you to align your vision. We do an annual business SMART goal, a monthly SMART goal, and a personal SMART goal. If you have never written a SMART goal, check out my blog, "Be SMART With Your Goals" by clicking here: https://www.reignmastermind.com/post/be-smart-with-your-goals


5. Weekly Meetings

When I worked in Corporate America, I dreaded our mandatory weekly meetings. I thought, "Why have a meeting when this could be a simple email?" Truth be told, emails would never get read and we all know it. I also secretly found it entertaining to listen to Karen from the other side of cubicle land ask all her stupid questions that were JUST answered 90 seconds prior. There were a few other positives: wedding photos, sports rivalry, an hour away from my desktop computer, not to mention...the endless supply of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. From a business perspective, I must admit it was important to touch base with co-workers to make sure everyone was on the same page, even if those pages were sprinkled with a little doughnut glaze.


So when it comes to your spouse, even though you see each other day in and day out, the importance of being strategic with your weekly meetings does not go away because you share a tooth brush holder. The biggest mistake a couple can make it to assume those topics will be addressed on their own. Our weekly team meetings have been the key to keeping communication open so there are no surprises in our business.

Vance and I meet every Sunday evening at 5 pm in our office. We sit across from each other with our laptops and complete a spreadsheet that has evolved over the years. We have one spreadsheet for each year with tabs of the meeting dates along the bottom. Here's a screenshot so you get the idea...

Each meeting, we review the previous meeting, add our finance report and a project update. We then pick our wins, a theme, and then discuss our "stucks" for the week ahead. As mentioned before, it's so important to discuss these items for you should never assume the other is in agreement. I spend all week visiting work sites. I share with Vance the highlights throughout the week but when I summarize the project update on our spreadsheet, it's a focused recap of anything I may have missed sharing with him in passing.


The next section is a tally of the measurable objectives of our SMART Goals. The 2020 SMART Goal check-in is a running tally for the year. To accomplish those goals, we have supplemental Monthly SMART Goals that reset each month. The monthly SMART Goal check-in includes tasks that when completed, give us a better chance at accomplishing the yearly goals. Including a SMART Goal check-in during your weekly meeting keeps a spotlight on your target.


The bottom half of our spreadsheet incorporates our weekly goals. This puts attention on the growth of our company. While having a meeting just to have a meeting can get annoying, the last entry typically ends up being a highlight. When you work with your spouse, you are always harder on your family so it's important to express gratitude. Adding a "bravo boost" gives your partner a chance to brag about something great you did in the business that week. Receiving that boost allows you to end the meeting on a positive note.


While commitment can be tough, adding systems to run your business successfully with the most important person in your life is critical. I hope you find these systems for a happy marriage and a happier business beneficial.


Now...off to the tattoo parlor...


Make it a great day! Whoop whoop!

*Read more blogs by Jen Josey at www.REIGNmastermind.com.

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