Yes, “couplepreneurship” is a thing. And before you stick your finger down your throat and make an overly exaggerated gagging noise, hear me out. Couplepreneurs, as you probably deduced, you smart thing, you, are business owners who are also romantically involved. Scandalous.
I’ve described Coleman (the other half of Li et Co) as my partner in life and business for some time now, but at first, telling people we’d launched a business, and oh, yeah, are lovers and live in an 80-square-foot van together, felt, well, kind of crazy.
This past summer, my fears were reinforce during a talk by angel investor Brian Cohen in New York City. He specifically called out business run by people in relationships as bad investments. I could feel my cheeks flush. Great, I remember thinking, what we’re doing really is crazy, unsustainable, and bound to break us up.
But, you know what, fuck that.
Sure, “couplepreneurs” may a bit of a cringe-worthy word, but it’s most certainly a thing.
Real talk: going into business with your significant other is kind of like running a three legged race…only, all the time. And sometimes one of you is blindfolded and wearing earplugs. It’s tricky to navigate, and can be frustrating. It’s also scary to think you might lose one of your bffs over business. But we’re finding our groove of working, living, and travelling together, and I can tell you, it takes some self awareness, communication, and yeah, sometimes a gin martini or two to make it work.
Here are six things I’ve learned about being a successful couplepreneur so far.
Ask before interrupting.
You wouldn’t barge into your coworker’s office without knocking–they’re focused in there–so why would you start running your mouth at your partner, even if they’re just sitting next to you working away. By using a phrase like “May I?” (taken from our university days working in restaurants) before barreling through our thoughts–no matter how brilliant, or how excited you might feel–gives the other person a few moments to wrap up their train of thought first. Plus, then you can both be fully engaged rather than feeling like you’ve been interrupted.
Talk through ideas.
You won’t always see eye to eye, but having these conversations about future projects, business direction, and goals needs to happen. If you disagree, it doesn’t mean your relationship or business is doomed. In fact, some of our hardest conversations to date have ended up with an bright, shimmering “ah-ha” moment. You need to be aligned and working towards the same things.
Pay compliments when due.
It feels awesome to know that you’re performing well at work. And when that compliment comes from your business and life partner? Yeah, nothing feels quite as sweet. Take the time to call out good work, recognize, and celebrate each other’s wins.
Pick a partner you actually like being around.
If you find tasks like grocery shopping together stressful, you might want to avoid a business partnership all together. Things will get intense. You spend a lot of time together. And you need to ask hard, uncomfortable questions.
Designated alone time can be tough.
It’s really tough to spend time apart when your lives are so intertwined. That said, I’ve found that solitary tasks, like writing, gives you the sense of doing something alone, even if you’re seated right next to each other. But, truth be told, we need to get better at having designated Lisa and Coleman time. Even if it’s just for a few conscious hours a week.
And same with designate laptop-free time.
If we’re going to treat ourselves to a drink out, we always bring our laptops. You know, just in case they have wifi. And more often than not, the bar does. And so we pull out our laptops and work, even if it’s just throwing down some jumbled brainstorm ideas. But laptop-free time is important. So important. We’re conscious that the tech and work talk needs to be shut down sometimes, but it’s a work in progress.