Home » William D King: Why You Should Never Work With Your Spouse on a Startup – And How to Know If You Should Work With Friends or Family

William D King: Why You Should Never Work With Your Spouse on a Startup – And How to Know If You Should Work With Friends or Family

William D King

Starting a company with your spouse will be one of the most difficult and demanding things you have ever done says, William D King. If you both make it to the other side, not only will you have built something special together, but also learned how strong your marriage really is (or isn’t).

That said, I strongly believe that starting a startup with someone who’s not your spouse is not only possible but also something you should do.

When I started my first startup with my college roommate Sara it was the best experience of my life. We were both learning how to run a company together, but more than that we were becoming better versions of ourselves. She pushed me further than anyone ever had before and I felt the same about her. If we had been married, I can’t imagine it would have gone as well.

We lived and worked together and partied together and were each other’s only social outlet for hours every day, every weekend, all summer long. There was no one else to help us or give us advice or even go out drinking with. We never argued about anything except how to run the business because we both cared so much about it. Sure there were other challenges that come with this situation, but overall I wouldn’t trade that month for anything.

Protect your relationship first and foremost

If you are married or in a long-term relationship, don’t do it. Work on the startup after you quit your job and it becomes just a regular company explains William D King. It’s hard enough to start and run a company with the love of your life, let alone have to do it side-by-side day in and day out.

Most businesses fail within the first few years so you’ll probably lose all of your money anyway, plus you’ll have a broken marriage on top of it.

If you’re not married but in a long-term relationship, here are some other things to consider: Do you fight about work? If so it may be time to break up because there’s no way working together will be any easier says, William D King. Do your friends and family worry that the two of you are spending too much time together? If so, you should probably think about how this will impact your relationship over the long term. Does either of you get jealous when your significant other spends more time with friends or family than with you? If so it’s definitely not a good sign.

The Best Situation:

Working with friends is amazing. You have friends to brainstorm with, you have friends who will help you build the product, and you have friends who can be your first users.

But just like with family there are some downsides: Do any of you feel uncomfortable asking for feedback on work? If so don’t even try to do it together. One of the biggest barriers to success with a startup is the fact that the founders don’t know how to delegate work. Asking for feedback will put you in that position. And it could end up hurting your friendship or worse (i.e., someone leaves the company and then feels like they were getting treatment unfairly. Because their contributions weren’t value). Are any of you uncomfortable telling the truth to each other? If so you will be in a constant state of discomfort because startups require complete transparency says, William D King. There’s no way around it – if you can’t air your dirty laundry then your relationship is not going to work over the long term at a startup.

Working with family has many of the same pros and cons as working with friends. You should think twice before starting a company with your spouse, but if you do decide to go for it then here are some questions to ask yourself first: How do things typically play out when you’re in conflict? Is this something that could destroy your relationship over the long term? Are you arguing right now about something to do with the company? If so you should probably not be working together. Do any of your family members feel like they are treated unfairly in the business? If so this will cause problems over time because it makes people feel like they can’t trust you.

Just like my friends and I didn’t want to spend every second together, hopefully, your friends and family don’t want to either. But if you are in a startup together they should at least be willing to put in 10 hours per week helping out.

The only possible situation that might work is one where two or three of you are co-founders, but there is still at least one other person involving who doesn’t have a family or personal relationship with the founders.

Conclusion:  

Having friends or family involved with your startup is definitely an emotional roller coaster, but hopefully, it will be worth it in the end. If you can get through the tough times and actually make a successful company then you’ll all be much richer for it down the road.