Running a business | Managing your business | 4 min read

Top tips for owning a business with your partner

Managing a relationship with your partner can be challenging at the best of times, so what happens when you decide to buy a business and begin working AND living together?

To get the best tips on how to be in business with your partner, we apke to Amira Willingham who owns and operates Hotondo Homes in Ballarat with her husband Adrian and friends Brenton and Lisa Simpson.

Married for over 15 years, Amira and Adrian have been through a lot together, from becoming parents, to working together in their wall and floor tiling business and then for the past five years partnering with the Simpson’s to open Hotondo Homes Ballarat.

Setting boundaries

“When we first started the business we made a conscious decision there would be no overlapping of roles to ensure we created a cohesive and productive workplace,” Amira says.

Part of working together is about setting boundaries, and understanding the lines between your business partnership, and your friendship. Knowing who is responsible for what will help you work professionally and efficiently, and avoid stepping on each other’s toes.

Amira recommends putting strategies in place to ensure work doesn’t impact other aspects of your life together. “Our work stays at work and we have regular director meetings to guarantee we’re all on the same page,” she says. “Outside of the business we keep our friendship as it is – our families are very close and we love spending time together with our kids.”

For a couple that works and lives together, disagreements can escalate quickly, and part of the challenge will always come down to issue resolution. Planning and understanding will help you mitigate any major disputes – but above all Amira recommends remembering that you’re working towards the same goal.

“Are we always going to agree? No, of course not. But we know any advice or criticism is coming from a good place and is never a personal attack. If there is an issue, we tackle it head on before it gets out of hand,” Amira says.

Being at home

It can be easier to set boundaries and responsibilities at work, while leaving the bustle of the day behind and ‘switching off’ at home can be a more challenging.

To keep their family relationship strong, the Willingham’s talk about their daily highlight and lowlight over dinner, which Amira finds helps them shift their mindset from work to home. She believes simple discussion and taking an interest in their children’s lives is critical, and it’s also a fantastic opportunity to teach their kids some important values.

“I love that our kids see how hard we work to get where we are and achieve what we have. But at the same time, Adrian and I are dedicated to spending as much quality time together as a family as possible, whether that’s just having dinner and watching TV together, or taking trips away,” she says.

The Willingham and Simpson families - owners of Hotondo Homes Ballarat
The Willingham and Simpson families – owners of Hotondo Homes Ballarat

Us time, me time

Spending time together away from the demands of your business is important when working as a couple. In addition, finding time alone to do something that’s just for you, that helps you relax, and gets you away from the day-to-day will help you find balance, and enjoy some much needed ‘me time’.

Amira and Adrian say that while time management can be difficult, making time themselves and each other, has been critical to their success.

“I think being self-aware is extremely important,” says Amira. “We can get so caught up in our day-to-day lives and what everyone else is doing that we forget about ourselves. The reality is, if we’re not okay, nothing else will be.”

Finding a balance

Amira wears many hats in the Willingham household from wife, to mother, to business director, and she’s adamant that a strong mindset and flexibility are key.

“I try not to stress, but rather take things as they come. There are days when my personal life will take precedence over my work and vice versa,” she says.

The best advice she has for couples in business together is that it’s all about communication.

“Talk to each other! Understand how your professional and personal relationships work and set clear boundaries as if you were in any other workplace. Don’t be afraid to reach out for professional support if you need it. Most importantly, manage your time! Make sure you’re investing time into your relationship, not just your business,” says Amira.

Looking for other tips on working in business? Keep reading for some tips to improve your work-life balance.

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