If you run a home based business and you live and work with your family, in the same building, then there is a vary real chance that you will go insane! My husband and I have worked together for years; it has literally taken years for us to work out how to run a business together and still remain in love. It takes a special effort for families working together, but finally my husband and I seem to have worked out the perfect way to ‘work and play’ without friction and stress.
The reason I was working from home was because I was the caregiver for my invalid mother. The reason my husband, Peter, stopped his full time work as an accountant to work with me, was that my art business was taking off in such an enormous way that I needed help.
Initially the main difficulty was getting Peter up at a reasonable hour and settling into work. He would wander around with a cup of coffee and want to sit down and chat with the girls that I employed as painters, slowing us all down. I literally had to set up a job list for him each day to make sure he got on with the tasks at hand and completed the list that day. He definitely struggled with the concept of working from home, whereas I enjoyed it enormously.
When we had to visit potential clients and build business connections, Peter was great. He would drive (I always got lost); I would do most of the talking but Peter would remember things more clearly and in a somewhat different mindset to me. Our later discussions could be quite volatile, but I found this exhilarating and it helped me to make decisions that were more stable than they might have been with just me making the decision. But Peter did not like these robust discussions; he always felt as though I was arguing with him, when in fact I was just stressing an alternative viewpoint.
Of course Peter kept the books, worked out the budget and discussed with me any potential problems he recognized. I am hopeless with this type of thing, so it was truly a blessing to have an in-house accountant. But I always felt as though Peter thought of this as ‘my’ business, rather than ‘our’ business. That certainly created some friction especially as I was an optimist and Peter was a pessimist; I was action orientated and Peter did not like to take actions he thought may be risky.
Peter was the manager and I was the entrepreneur – this was a good match. Later we developed an association to support other home based businesses like we were. I wanted to share my knowledge and skills with others. Finally we had found a way for Peter to feel as though he was a part of the business. We divided out tasks very clearly; Peter built websites, made videos; kept the accounts. I did the marketing, all written work (blogs etc.) and most of the phone calls and discussions with associates. Everything was working out well when tragedy struck.
I suffered from a stroke and a brain tumour simultaneously. Peter had a chronic back condition that had him bedridden for days at a time and had to have a full knee replacement. Suddenly surviving became our main focus. But even then, we were still able to keep our businesses going. I was left with the rare condition of ‘Alexia without Agraphia’ which means that I cannot read, BUT I can write! So, I immediately decided to write a book titled ‘Thank God I Had a Stroke’. It was a slow process as Peter had to read every page to me as I wrote it so that I could assess if I had actually said what I intended to.
Finally it was completed and an American company published it for me. Now it was time to market it. I had the ideas of how to do this but Peter had to spend more time on the phone, email etc. as I would from time to time get confused. I was organizing speaking presentations and had The Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Health decide to launch the book for me at Parliament House in Melbourne.
My Art business continued to thrive – though now it was an online business. I was still able to keep the association, Home Based Business Australia going as well. Everything was done more slowly now, but with a love and understanding of each other’s needs that had not been so obvious before. Families working together can stay together and be happy.
Hints and Tips
When running a business with a family member, make sure that you have very clear job descriptions. Stick to your area unless asked for advice from your partner. Regularly discuss issues and respect each other. Take advantage of the different skills each partner brings to the business. If illness strikes, don’t just ‘fold your business’ work out a way to keep it going, if that is what you both truly want.