ACCORDING to Forbes, couples who own and run a business together are called couple-preneurs. I am one half of it … the better half, of course! Many wonder if it is not too much being with each other all the time. As far as I am concerned, the answer is simple: NO!
It is about growing together and learning together, and ultimately becoming better human beings. Honestly. As couple-preneurs, one has to be ready to compromise whenever and wherever needed. The relationship and the business are equally important. It is not a dreamy journey though, and does get ugly.
But what seemed like a compromise initially came to me in the early days of marriage. It is a funny story, for me at least. We had just gotten married and were enjoying being tourists in Bali. Then one day my mister, Raheel Pasha Khan, casually tells me he would call it quits at the multinational company he had been working at for years. The word soon was added with a calculated pause. Who announces such important things on their honeymoon? The idea was scary. What was he thinking? He wanted to have his own business.
Like anyone normal, I was already thinking about how we were going to have our ends meet considering there would be no steady income. We had just gotten married. Hello! And my income had no value as journalists do not get paid well.
The biggest challenge working with the spouse is to draw and respect a clear line regarding who is the boss. Otherwise, in times of roadblocks, things tend to go a bit messy.
“I want to have my own business, and that is exactly what we are going to do all our lives hopefully,” he said. There was no discussion at that point and the coming days and months seemed so dark suddenly.
We had arguments. We fought. A lot. Of course! We were not kids anymore chasing our dreams and not caring about our finances.
The year flew by really quick. Raheel was able to get me onboard, on the same page. I was beginning to understand his dream. He took an exit from the company he was working at, and immediately after it in April 2018, we started coming to our new office. Back then it was just us and two employees. One of them would handle accounts, and the other would look after operations.
One the first day, we honestly had no idea what we were up to. It would be an agency model, yes, but what services would it provide? Would we be able to make money? How soon? Things just fall into place when they have to.
We spent the first two months building our own event property which was a seven-day multi-brand exhibition in the last week of Ramadan. It got us to hire people as we needed them. It also enabled us to market ourselves and get access to numerous clients. Today after four months of the event, we happen to have four specialist divisions under our umbrella. The team is bigger, and the clientele is building up too. No one knows if we would one day be counted as a successful model one day, but that is all part of the game, right?
The biggest challenge is to highlight the clear line regarding who is the boss. Someone needs to make the final call. Otherwise, in times of roadblocks, things get messy. I find that clearly defining roles and responsibilities in the partnership, and respecting those, can lead to sanity in work life.
Earlier, I had major ego issues. I would wonder why he was always picking on me? Who does he think he is? Boss? Well, yes, but he is a husband too. We go home together. He cannot pick on me. He is in trouble today!
This can be a difficult phase when you are in business with your spouse. After all, if the person you love suddenly questions you or even rejects your idea, it suddenly makes you feel worthless. This is your husband or wife, after all.
What I didn’t understand back then was that whatever he would say was a part of my training, owing to the experience he had and being a senior too. As a couple, we believe that the attitude we maintain at our workplace enables us to communicate to our team that although we are husband and wife, there is no bias when it comes to work and accountability.
Just like in a marriage, it is important for couples to maintain respect for one another. As married entrepreneurs, you should understand everything both of you are doing is for the betterment of the business and ultimately for a good future.
It is alright to question your partner and feel that things could have been handled differently. But this does not mean that you embarrass your spouse in front of the employees. We have been there, done that, and it is not helpful at all. At times if you feel that it may get ugly, take your partner aside and communicate your thoughts to him/her in a civilised manner.
Disagreements in the office are inevitable and it is okay. But it should not affect the love or respect you have for one another — let it not ruin the precious bond. Couples in love should know how to communicate effectively both at and outside work without shouting or losing it. Accepting mistakes and rectifying them is absolutely normal and in no way does it show one down.
But sometimes, it is okay to play the clichéd wife-card. There have been times when I was against some idea. We argued in front of everyone, and he still went on with it. And once it backfired, I was usually like, see, the wife is always right. And he laughed. And then we were both laughing. We know one thing: I get to learn from him, and he gets to learn from me. So we are equals in that regard.
The more we work together, the more we realize that we love working with each other. As if there could not be a better picture than this one. Having our own business allows us to travel together, face challenges together, learn together, and create memories. But had we been in different industries today, it would have been boring to really explain our hits or misses to each other, or even be able to schedule a lot of things together.
For me, support is everything, and there is nothing like a pat from my husband. At times, when I know I have done something good, I am found staring at his face to see some happy expressions. Show appreciation for one another. Congratulate your spouse on their tiniest of achievements, both professionally and personally. If we won’t be their rock on the hard days and cheer them on, or celebrate their hits, who will?
I was always an impatient one. But just like shaadi changes people, so does business. Have patience — a successful business is not a guarantee. Besides, good things don’t happen overnight. As a couple-preneur, patience is key. Think of all the longs nights, extra hours, over-worked days, personal and financial sacrifices that you need to put in, in order to take your business somewhere.
So take it easy as working together has its own rhythm, and soon enough it seems fine to not be able to remember anniversaries and birthdays, or even take time out to have some us time. The couple is one team, building something for their own benefit and future ultimately.
You know how people speak of work-life balance and how it can be so stressful to manage both? Since we started this venture, our lives have been all about integrating our family with our business. We don’t let the stress of the business disturb our marriage, and if we disagree on something at work, we ensure we are done with it before we enter our home.
When we are home, we try to do things together — as if seeing each other all day is not enough — like binge shows, enjoy our favorite junk food, or go out on a movie-date. It is so therapeutic. But remember, couples do not get to enjoy these all the time. There are days of the other variety aplenty.
The life of an entrepreneurial couple isn’t a piece of cake — and there are challenges to overcome as one team. But, by showing respect and setting time aside for your work and spouse, you can strengthen your relationship.