Planning, Startups, Stories


Tim Berry on business planning, starting and growing your business, and having a life in the meantime.

7 Questions to Ask Before Doing Business With Your Spouse

I often say “choose an investor like you would choose a spouse.” Sometimes I say “choose a partner like you would choose a spouse.” But what if you already have the spouse, and you’re looking to start a business together? What do you choose?

Before you start, it’s a yes or no question, I think. Do we start a business together or not?

I recently received an email from Dennis Seaman and Quincy Yu who are married to each other and, presumably, to their business, which they is SeaYu Enterprises, whose main product is Clean+Green Pet Stain and Odor Remover. They call that “copreneurs” and “marriedpreneurs.” They’ve been doing it for 10 years now, they said in their email. And they’re obviously happy with the results.

They offered me this list of seven questions to ask before starting a business as a couple:

#1 Do your skill sets compliment each other – or compete with each other?
#2 Do you have similar professional AND personal goals?
#3 Is your relationship equipped to handle the stress of running a business together?
#4 Do you know the “work” version of your spouse?
#5 Are you both equally passionate about the business?
#6 If planning to work from home, can you set aside a separate office space?
#7 Do you trust and respect each others’ skills?

Those are powerful questions. But from my point of view, having had 30+ years in business with my wife, and 10+ years watching two of my grown-up children doing business with their spouses, that the right (or wrong) answers may not be as obvious as you think. Take question #5 there, for example, or question #2: Do you think a yes answer is required? I don’t.  And with question #3, I’m afraid that until you’re right up to your neck in the business you have no idea what the stress level will be, or whether or not you can handle it.

But I will say this: This is definitely a good list of questions to answer. And do it out loud, please, and then discuss it. It’s never going to be this simple after you start.

  • At first I thought there was a misspelling in #1, but then after considering the relationship, ‘compliment’ does actually makes more sense than ‘complement.’

  • Thank you so much for this post, Tim. My wife, Louise, and I are living proof of how spouses can effectively work together. We were on the verge of divorce years ago because we had unhealthy (and unrealistic) views on business partnership. Thankfully, we dug in our heals and received help. Today we are happily plotting ahead with a dynamic and fruitful company.

    We also wrote a book entitled “The Invisible Partnership” a couple of years ago that touches deeply on this very subject.