Love + Business = Failure?

Here at Fuckup Nights, we’re no strangers to love: People have met their future spouse at Fuckup Nights events (there have even been a handful of marriage proposals!).

Plus, the first thing that most people think about when they think about failure is a failed relationship. And despite the fact that Fuckup Nights doesn’t focus on that type of failure, we’ve heard more than one failure story related to falling in love… or out of it.

Whether it’s going through a divorce in the middle of a financial crisis or investing carelessly in cryptocurrencies based on a romantic partner’s not so great advice, love often plays a role in some pretty major fuckups. And although some people might think that mixing love and business is a recipe for disaster, we decided to take a look at the pros and cons of starting a business with your romantic partner.

The upsides (there’s more than you might think!)

One of the biggest upsides is trust. Business partners that are also romantic partners have already established trust within their relationship. The shared values and priorities that make a romantic relationship successful are also a great foundation for a successful business relationship, and this pre-existing connection means that businesses run by couples are less likely to go down in flames because of business partner betrayals, a story we’ve heard over and over again at Fuckup Nights events.

Plus, according to a survey conducted by the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of South Florida, working with your romantic partner makes it easier to create an emotional culture/atmosphere, which boosts employee morale. It’s been shown that employees who feel warmth, affection, and connection at their workplace perform better.

Not to mention that couples that own a business together have the flexibility to adjust for other obligations and are able to spend more time together. Having the opportunity to watch your business (hopefully) grow and prosper alongside your romantic partner can be hugely satisfying.

The downsides 

Remember the benefit of getting to spend more time with each other that we mentioned earlier? Well, that might not always actually be a benefit.

The excitement of seeing your loved one after a day spent apart helps maintain a healthy dynamic—as the old adage goes, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” When you live and work with your romantic partner, there’s hardly any opportunity for absence.

Plus, the clear divisions between personal and professional that exist in most relationships tend to blur, with work often becoming the main focus of almost all conversation. It can be hard to focus on romance when your partner is trying to review line 15 of the P&L over dinner. Carol Roth, an entrepreneur who worked with her husband for 10 years, found that these blurred lines also occasionally led to problems from the business morphing into problems for the relationship, while problems at home sometimes found their way into the office.

So what’s it really like to run a business with a loved one?

There’s no shortage of examples of couples that have built businesses together: from Dolce & Gabbana to small business owners around the world. For Julia and Kevin Hartz, co-founders of Eventbrite, the key to success lay in making sure that even though they worked at the same company, they were focused on different things:

“Like anything, it’s a co-founder relationship, and in our case, we had to be extra sensitive about it because there was this extra personal relationship important aspect about it…. We had this law that we would divide and conquer, and wouldn’t work on the same thing at the same time. It just so happened we had complementary skills so that was an easy thing to do.”

According to the couple, prioritizing keeping their interpersonal relationship strong was a smart decision that should be used by other co-founding teams, whether they’re in a romantic relationship or not.

Natasha Case and Freya Estreller started a small business selling ice-cream sandwiches in 2009. After an extremely successful weekend at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Coolhaus was officially born. After five years of leading the business together, Freya left Coolhaus to found a company that makes ready-to-eat alcoholic jelly shots (cool, right?) According to Natasha, this change has really enhanced their relationship:

“We have more of a boundary now — we are excited to catch up at the end of the day about the updates of our two brands instead of already knowing exactly what happened in each other’s world.

Final Verdict

While people tend to think that starting a business with a loved one is a formula for failure, we think that resilience and growth come from the way we respond to situations, rather than the situations themselves. Starting a business is going to be challenging no matter what, but tackling these challenges alongside a loved one might just be the extra push needed to overcome them, and getting through the tough times might even help strengthen the relationship. Here at Fuckup Nights, we’re intimately familiar with the benefits of sharing the failure, and who better to share the failure with than your life partner?

 So why not give it a try? What’s the worst that could happen? You’re probably going to fail anyway. 

 For better or for worse, for richer or poorer, to love and to cherish, till bankruptcy or failure do us part.