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Married Business Partners: 13 Tips From a Relationship Expert

 

If there’s one thing everybody and their mama can tell you about running a business it’s, “don’t work with family!”  Family and business go together like oil and water, hot grease, and straightening combs (those who know, know).

 

You don’t have to think long to come up with examples of business and family gone wrong. But what about the couples that defy the odds? We all have that one mom-and-pop shop we love. Many cultures are actually built around family businesses. In fact, 57% of the US GDP is run on family-owned and operated enterprises. 

 

So why is it that some couples seem to make business ownership work while others dissolve into arguments, business failure, and, ultimately, divorce? We talked to Sistahbiz Member, CEO, and relationship expert Elitia Mattox to weigh in on how she and her husband manage to run a successful business all while nurturing a thriving marriage.

 

Elitia and her husband Cullen own When Love Works Dynamically, and have helped more than 1,000 clients across the United States save time, energy, and resources as they navigate personal growth and development in their own relationship journeys. 

 

Here’s what she had to say about setting boundaries, facing business challenges, and still making time for love:

 

1. When working with your husband, how did you decide what your individual roles and responsibilities would be?

This one was a no-brainer. When I decided to turn our passion into a business, I started with our backgrounds. I asked two questions:

  • How our qualifications set us apart to do this work and
  • Would this business require a new skillset

We both had over 20 years in our respective fields before working together but knew we wanted our collaborative business’ content to be unique and have a focus on consciousness.

Cullen [husband and cofounder] is more the creative and ideation-driven one. He’s the Creative Director who finalizes the aesthetics of all services and products as well as the brand image of our business. 

I’m driven by how the curriculum is packaged and its psychological impact. I’m also the CEO in charge of staff development, administrative decisions, and partnerships.

We both are Relationship Coaches who are well versed in the WhenLoveWorks Dynamically content and processes.

 

2. Based on your own experience and the experience of clients, what in relationships is even harder to manage as married business partners?

In relationships, balance is even harder to manage as married business partners. Balance in the sense of being able to shut work off to give your relationship what it needs to grow and thrive.

 

3. During the workday, how do you avoid a total collapse of boundaries and over-familiarity in the boardroom?

During the workday, we don’t have boundary issues because we know each other’s strengths. We know our partner is brilliant in their area and we ask a ton of questions. 

I used to get impatient with Cullen’s questions early on. Now isn’t that something else? In the beginning, I was the only other person Cullen could turn to, I was the only other Coach, the only other content creator, and the CEO. I didn’t do well when it came to teamwork early on. But in true Love Leader–who wants a healthy relationship–fashion, Cullen got to work. He saw my bad behavior, he called me on it and waited for my response. I owned it, apologized for my bad behavior, and switched to a healthier practice.

When the workday is over, Cullen does a better job of ending and having a balance than I do. He is also great at lovingly reminding me we are off for the day. 

 

4. What are some work-life balance tips you would give husband/wife couples?

The best helpful work-life balance practices are:

  1. Consistently demonstrate in words and actions that you are partners in love first
  2. Create off-time and restorative practices in your daily schedule and then make sure they are automated and have reminders
  3.  Express gratitude throughout the workday

5. Speaking of work-life balance, do you think creating a kid-friendly workplace is essential?

I believe creating kid-friendly workplaces is not only essential, but it will also set you apart from other employers. People have families. The more that employers recognize the holistic nature of employees, and take action to create this type of environment, the better the workplace will become and productivity will increase.  

6. How do your work roles align or conflict with your home roles?

Our work and home roles don’t conflict because we have created a work schedule that revolves around our home life. We set ourselves up to succeed as healthy individuals and as partners first, then we fold in our work around those practices.

7. How do you resolve work disagreements? Do work disagreements impact home life?

We don’t have work disagreements because we discuss what we are thinking before we make the decision. We do this for 2 reasons: one we see our partner as a valuable part of the brainstorming process and two, we know every decision impacts the other person as well as the rest of the team and our clients.

The only impact these discussions have on our home life is when we carry them over into our ‘off hours’ but even then we love what we do so we don’t mind continuing the conversation until we get to the best decision. 

8. Is it beneficial to have separate workspaces? (Why or why not?)

Generally speaking, it is usually beneficial to have separate workspaces because two people do not have the same working style. Each person needs to have the ability to create an optimal working environment.

9. How do you handle high-stress situations and what do you do to balance the stress of business?

Whenever a stressor shows up, I communicate it with Cullen and the team first. I want them to know I have an unexpected issue I must deal with and I don’t want them to have to wonder why I’m off or quiet, etc. I review the issue again and assess whether I can resolve it on my own or if I need their help. 

If it’s a solo mission for example, then I remove myself from the collaborative work area. It’s just something about changing my physical position before I resolve an issue that works for me. I take some breaths and tap into my creativity for a solution. If the issue is causing anxiety, then I step away and revisit it after some self-care. 

I don’t make ‘stressful situations’ an emergency in my schedule. In many cases, I resolve issues after I’ve poured into my self-care needs.

This routine has helped me shift my perspective of ‘stress of business’

10. Speaking of self-care, how do you make time for yourself since you work with your spouse and then “go home” to your spouse?

I have a monthly spa membership. I have manicure and pedicure sessions. I listen to my favorite music on walks and during my workouts. I check in with family and friends. 

11. How do the two of you remain committed to the business and the relationship?

Remaining committed to this business comes from our deep desire to end the struggle around love and help those who are suffering in silence. We are advocates of black love for all but know the challenges that many of us have had to face in pursuit of it. It’s our personal longing to share an easier way for historically marginalized communities to get and maintain black love, that keeps us committed to the business day in and day out.

To remain committed to our relationship, it’s really the daily practice of our WLWD [WhenLoveWorksDynamically] model that also holds us accountable in our relationship. We were our first clients, so we know the impact of the business on our relationship and know that we have to consistently show up as not only the owners but its first clients.

This business is different from many other service companies because the information we are sharing has to be seen, felt, and lived in our own lives for our clients to take us seriously.

So when there are difficult moments in the business regarding staff or other administrative tasks, we have to pause and stay true to our commitment to be loving in spite of challenges. Many people say we are authentic, genuine, and down to earth and I think all of their reactions come from our daily walk as clients who are committed to our healthy relationship first and business partnership second.

12. If you could go back in time and change anything about your WhenLoveWorks Dynamically, what would that be?

I’m struggling to come up with an answer because if I were to change anything in our journey, we wouldn’t be where we are today. 

13. As dating and relationship experts, what’s one piece of advice you would give to a client couple considering going into business together?

I’d ask them to rate their level of comfort in committing to these 3 on a daily basis:

  1. Consistently demonstrate in words and actions that you are partners in love first,
  2. Create off-time and restorative practices in your daily schedule and then make sure they are automated and have reminders
  3. Express gratitude throughout the workday

Elitia is a member of Sistahbiz Global Network, a business accelerator for black women in business. As a member of Sistahbiz, she receives access to a network of black women business owners and countless resources to help further her business goals. If you need business coaching or know a sistah who would benefit from it, sign up for a free coaching session here.

 

Sheila Ellis-Glasper

Sheila Ellis-Glasper is the founder of SEG Media Collective. She helps business owners and organization leaders amplify impact, revenue and legacy through branding and digital media.

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