When it is fine to sleep with your Co-worker!!

Normally never, except when you form a company with your husband/partner. I did and what a ride it has been. It’s like one of those big roller coasters in a theme park called startup circle. Everyone tells you a lot about it, “Oh my god it’s scary”, “I would never do it again”, “I almost died on it”.

And then you find yourself queuing up for this ride of a lifetime – may be because you like adventure, maybe because you hate your husband/partner and are looking for new reasons to fight or maybe you love him too much and believe that your relationship is that rock in the sea which can survive any storm.

Whatever be your reason, there is no denying that this is a storm! (btw I am talking about the starting a company with your partner. Sleeping should be easier :-))

If you follow weather reports than perhaps you know there are different categories of storms. From category 1 hurricanes to category 5. The higher the category the deadlier the damage. There are different parameters that define which category of a hurricane you are facing. It goes a bit like this:

Category one

You know your partner for many years, probably your mothers changed your nappies together and you have already worked together in the past.

Category two

You know your partner for many years but you never worked together and you have a loving relationship.

Category three

You know your partner for a long time and you find it hard to agree on many essential things in life, eg who should make the morning coffee.

Category four

You don’t know your partner for a long time but you come from similar backgrounds eg culture, language, country and are currently in the honeymoon phase of your relationship (see the red flag swinging? Wait for the category five!)

Category five

You and your partner come from completely different cultures, countries, background, language and upbringing. You just met, fall in love, get married, move to his country and start a business together. This was us!!

My heart starts to race as I write this. Dominic is what I have been told a “Zuri boy” and I am a rather unconventional Indian. Still, we are different in every aspect. Language, food, culture, mindset, behaviour, and yes, when it comes to doing business we are poles apart.

Starting from what business we should do, to the name of the company, logo, products, supply chain, brand communication, marketing, sales, even accounting, we have and still argue about everything. And surely it has developed our relationship in a way that it wouldn’t have if we were not business partners in addition to being life partners.

Having a business with your partner surely has implications. Now whether these are positive or negative, I leave it to you.

We started working on Elephant Cross when we were both in full-time jobs. This meant sacrificing our private time for the business. This is easier said than done. Especially, when it goes on for more than a year.

Conflicts are part of any and every job that involves more than one person. This is normal. But when it’s with your partner, it is not normal. Depending on your personality and your relationship this could be quite different for different people. Both of us are very passionate about our work, at the same time being kind to each other has been of utmost importance to us.

Which means, when we disagree which we often do, it is extremely challenging to express this. On one hand, we feel very strongly that we are both in the right, but on the other hand, we are not able to tell the other one that you are a fool. We didn’t do that in our corporate jobs either, but surely, we were much more assertive in putting our point across.

Our cultural backgrounds have also left a lot of room for conflict. The Swiss way of doing things with meticulous attention to detail is exhausting for an Indian mind-set that wants to run fast and learn on the go.

All this can push your company and relationship to a crisis like situation. Similar to the category 5 hurricane I mentioned above. Like in any storm, survival hugely depends on early warnings and adequate preparation before the peak of the storm hits you.

(so Dominic, I hope you are reading this ;-))

So, here’s our survival kit.

End the illusion: I believe, like with most problems in life, acceptance leads to the transmutation of suffering. It is important to accept that separation of business and private life is an illusion. Your partner will never be only your business or only your life partner. He/she is always both. Don’t believe me, try a small experiment. Next time you are having a business discussion with your partner crack a funny mother in law joke. And see how he/she immediate turn into your life partner.

Your private life will never be just your private life: Put it to test. Next time you are having a nice weekend hike with your partner and very cool idea regarding your business comes to your mind, try not to tell this to your partner till Monday morning.

Play your strengths: If you are lucky, you and your partner may have different areas of expertise. Separation of roles and responsibilities can help reduce conflicts. If you are unlucky like us, both are good at everything (including being humble) then maybe agree to have a time separation. Meaning, for 6 months’ let things run your partner’s way. When it doesn’t work try the next 6 months your way.

Take that break: One of the best things we did ever since we started our company, was to take a two-month vacation this year. A reset is essential. Even though we could not resist talking about our business a lot of times, there is something about being away from office and home. It gives you the energy that can’t be found in daily routine.

Count your blessings: All said and done in most cases your partner would be the best co-worker you could ever have. Ask yourself how many of your co-workers have you loved the way you love your partner. If you find one, then you should have married this one.

Finally, quit before you quit: This is not an easy ride. You will have many heartbreaks, hurt feelings and frustrations on the way. But it is important to know for yourself what is your priority? If it is your partner, then quit your business, before it quits your relationship. And if it’s your business, then don’t start the business with your partner.

In the end, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. I have enjoyed running my company with my husband. Of course, I wish things were more my way. But then who said it’s over? The next annual off-site, we will change the business strategy!