My experience of doing business with my life partner
A lot of people tell you to not do business with your life partner.
In fact, my friend, mentor, and our brand ambassador at PItchblak, Glen Richards (Shark on Australia’s Shark Tank and founder of Greencross/Petbarn) is super against mixing business and romance.
He didn’t forget to mention it again during our last demo night as my business and life partner Kim and I were on stage together. 😂
But this advice never felt right to me because my parents are business partners and have been happily married for more than 30 years.
So even though I had heard the horror stories of heartbreak and financial ruin, I knew it was possible to make it work well.
Entrepreneurship is an obsession
I’ve had three long-term meaningful relationships in my life.
If I had to pin down why those past relationships didn’t work, I would say my exes felt I was ‘cheating’ on them with my businesses.
When you’re obsessed with what you do, it can be difficult to come home to ‘normal’ life to talk about ‘normal’ things.
If you’re an entrepreneur or you’re dating an entrepreneur, you know exactly what I mean. You rant on about all the crazy sh*t that’s happening. Everything is constantly evolving. You want to talk about what’s going on in the industry and your predictions for the future. It must be exhausting to keep up with when you’re not deeply involved.
I know some successful entrepreneurs who really enjoy a simple home life where they can relax and switch off. I’m really supportive of this. It’s so important for entrepreneurs to find time to mentally disengage from their business.
But I’m a musician. I drum in a punk band and also write 80s pop songs for fun. When I’m writing or playing music, I don’t think about business one bit. This is how I relax and disengage.
So other than music, I’m thinking about my businesses constantly, and dating my business partner is the only way to make this healthy.
Enter Kim. My business partner and now also life partner.
We stay up late talking about how to solve problems in the business and in the world. When one of us hits a mental roadblock or goes through an emotional rough patch, the other person can empathise. We get to spend our days and nights together and watch each other grow personally and professionally.
It’s been the most amazing experience.
The key principle
The most important aspect of mixing business and romance is respect.
Because we had started off as business partners, we had a huge level of respect for each other’s work. We had formed a communication style that was based on that respect.
I didn’t go to University and spent my early years hustling in call centers, managing teams of 100+ people, and building my own companies from scratch.
Kim had a background in corporate and management consulting where she was highly respected and known for being a badass. Then she left to build her own companies.
We had a mutual respect for the other person’s background and achievements. And this respect played a huge role in how we fell in love.
What I often see is people who are partners first and then go into business together. This can work but couples often don’t have the underlying respect and communication skills to work well on the business side of their relationship.
Support at home
We’ve spent the past four years supporting early-stage entrepreneurs, and we noticed a huge difference in the entrepreneur’s output when they have solid support from their partner. Particularly when they’re involved in the process from the start.
If their partner isn’t sold on them doing a startup, it’s nearly impossible for them to get traction.
It makes sense, right? If the person closest to you doesn’t understand or support this super tough journey you’re about to embark on (mentally and emotionally), then your chances of succeeding are pretty slim.
We have a friend who is a venture capitalist and, before he invests in a founder, he’ll have dinner with their partner as the final stage of their due diligence (screening). They ask the partner tough questions to make sure they’re prepared for the upcoming journey.
To me, there is no stronger support than your partner being in the trenches with you.
Evaluating the risk
Obviously, the worst case scenario is we break up. It’s would suck (a lot), but we’re human, so it could happen.
We have no plan on this being the case, but if it did, Kim and I would go our separate ways to continue building our own companies.
Because we have such a high level of respect for each other, neither of us would be concerned about those typical horror stories of lawsuits and financial ruin.
Interestingly, it’s less complicated than break-ups where one person has created the wealth. In those cases, it causes drama where one person ends up getting 50% or more of the wealth, when they weren’t in the trenches creating it. For us, it’s simple. Kim has created at least 50% of our net value. If she walks away with 60%, who cares.
Even though it’s a risk to do business with the person you love, I wouldn’t do it any other way.
If you own a business or are considering it, my advice is to involve your partner as much as possible. It gives your business (and relationship) the highest chance of lasting the test of time.