Your Spouse, Your Business Partner – Part II


Getting Started

A young couple sits together at a laptop.Last week we discussed how to determine whether or not you and your spouse would make good business partners. If you’re reading this article now, we’re assuming you’ve decided it’s worth further investigation. Before launching your partnership you must take a few steps to turn your one-accountant show into a family affair. The following five points will help you get started:

1. Define your partnership in a business plan.Hopefully you have already created a business plan for your accounting practice and can just revise those portions that are impacted by the partnership. Consider what might change as you and your spouse begin this partnership? Note your revisions and refer to them when necessary.If you don’t have a business plan, now is a good time to determine the direction you’d like your practice to go by creating this detailed document that you can refer to often as you move forward. A complete business plan usually includes the following: Executive Summary, Company Description, Descriptions of Products and/or Services, Market Analysis, Marketing Plan, Operating Plan, Management Summary, 3 to 5-Year Financial Plan, and Exit Strategy. While that may sound long and ominous, it will help you and your spouse develop a strategy that will guide you as you further develop your accounting practice.2. Clearly delineate your responsibilities.If this partnership is going to increase productivity and efficiency you must determine who is responsible for what. Last week we asked if your skills were complimentary. That should make the delineation a bit easier. What do you do best? What does your spouse do best? Start there and then divide remaining tasks, determining which tasks should be shared and how.3. Determine where and when you will work.Now that you have increased your work force by one, will you have enough room to work in your house? Will you both be working in the same office? When will you be expected to work and for how long? It’s important to discuss and then document these expectations so that you know how your schedules will coordinate.4. Decide now how you will work through disagreements.You’re married so you’re accustomed to working through disagreements, but when you are business partners it doesn’t always work to ignore each other for a couple days in order to cool off. You must determine how you will handle professional disagreements so they don’t hinder your productivity, even if that means calling a truce until you can meet with Client A or finish payroll for Client B. Deciding beforehand how you will manage these disagreements will save you both headache (and money) in the end.5. Create an exit strategy.No one wants to anticipate the failure of their partnership, but without an exit strategy, you could experience more financial loss and marital stress than necessary. Expect the best and plan for the worst. And while an exit strategy should be covered in a business plan, we recognize that many don’t actually complete one. If you don’t have a business plan it’s important that you at least create an exit strategy that determines when you’ll know it’s time to throw in the towel. And this is especially important when spouses become business partners. You don’t want to sacrifice your marriage for the business. Included in your exit strategy should be those indicators, financial and otherwise, that your partnership is not working and should be discontinued.

Partnering with your spouse can be a lucrative venture. To prepare for success you must first define your partnership and the expectations you both have for the business. Once you do you may discover that through your business partnership both your practice and your marriage grow beyond your wildest dreams.

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