5 Tips for Success When Your Business Partner is Your S.O.

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Boll & Branch founders share their tips for a successful marriage and business partnership.

Launching and owning a business is similar to acquiring a new mate in marriage—you're with each other all day, every day and have to navigate the highs and (less-than stellar) lows of the relationship. It's a balance, right? But what happens when your business partner is your significant other? Doesn't that seem like it's bound to have a few extra layers of (emotional) complications? To feed our inquiring minds, we chatted with Scott and Missy Tannen who launched the fair trade bedding brand, Boll & Branch.

Starting as frustrated consumers seeking a quality product in the home textile arena, the Tannen duo went on a twelve-month journey to learn about every facet that goes into making quality, organic and fair trade bedding from the ground up. So, what does it take to launch a thriving business with your S.O.? Here are the couple's five tips for success:

1. Divide and Conquer

They say opposites attract and that can be a good thing when building a brand with your better half, especially when it means you can tackle the many facets of running a business. “Having varying skills is crucial. You would never pick a co-founder that has the same talents as you. Just because you're married, the rules shouldn't change. You both need to bring something distinct and valuable to the table for it to work. I (Scott) look after the business, marketing and operations while Missy heads up our product design and development teams. We work very closely together but have done a pretty good job of dividing-and-conquering. As Missy often says, she wouldn't let me pick out the linens at home, so she definitely wouldn't let me pick them out for the rest of the world!"

2. Separate Work Life From Home Life

Owning a business basically means you'll never be “off duty" and that can have repercussions on your home life. “Launching a brand is a ton of work. The biggest challenge we faced is that we aren't just business partners, we aren't just husband-and-wife—we're also parents to three daughters. When you're passionate about what you're doing and highly driven, it is hard to balance it all. We wanted to make sure that a family dinner did not become a board meeting," says Tannen. So, if that means no work talk after a certain hour or once you step through the front door (or out of your home office), turn it off and focus on the personal relationship you have together.

3. Be Honest (But Respectful)

“Being together since we were set up on a blind date in college, we know one another well and perhaps even better than we know ourselves sometimes," says Tannen. This honesty in their personal relationship has translated to their interaction as business partners. “Whether it is keeping each other focused on high-priority tasks or understanding when we hit a point of diminishing return, we can probably be more honest than the typical co-founders can be," he continues.

4. Remember What Brought You Together

Starting and running a business will have emotional highs and lows, just like a marriage, but it's important to never forget why you were initially attracted to your S.O. Remember that you love and respect the other person—so, in a nutshell; be nice! “You (hopefully) truly love each other and want each other to succeed. Succeeding together is an incredible feeling, but failing together can also be a tremendous learning," says the Boll & Branch co-founder.

5. Share the Success!

Starting something from the ground up is a little bit like raising a child and when done together, reaps the best rewards. “The pride we feel (about our brand) is that much better because we have done it together. And, we both realize that neither of us would have been capable of accomplishing what we have on our own," say the founders.


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