We became business partners shortly after becoming life partners. This was back in 2004, when we opened our first café in London.
We knew that running a coffee shop – or a roastery, or a farm, or an importing/exporting business – together would be challenging. Your marriage of two suddenly has three entities in it, and you don’t know whether you’ll all work together or you’ll demand compromises.
Fortunately for us, it turned out to be a success. Great chemistry and shared dreams pulled us together rather than pushing us apart, and made our business goals easier to achieve. Our coffee shop thrived. But it could easily have gone the other way.
Here are our tips for running a café with your partner – without getting a divorce.
Spanish Version: 4 Consejos Para Manejar un Negocio de Café con tu Pareja
Macchiatos for two at White Mulberries. Credit: White Mulberries
1. Divide Responsibilities
Don’t try to take equal responsibility for tasks just because you feel that it’s “fair”. We’re all better at doing what we love, so delegate tasks accordingly. If one of you is passionate about creating great recipes, while the other has a head for finance and marketing, that tells you where your contributions are needed.
Taking on different responsibilities, however, doesn’t mean that your vision shouldn’t be aligned. You need to be equally dedicated to the business. Sharing the same core values will keep you working together even when you’re tackling separate tasks.
Plan together, but act separately – a division of labour can be healthy.
2. Stay United
Disagreements are inevitable – especially when you both care about the business and are passionate about your ideas. But it’s important to show a united front when employees are present.
Having disagreements in front of staff is unprofessional, can lead to one or both of you feeling slighted, and gives said employees a lack of confidence in your strategy. Keep those discussions for private meetings.
A united front: Rana and Peyman of White Mulberries. Credit: White Mulberries
3. Show Appreciation
Whether it’s a new recipe or a successful event, always acknowledge it when one of you has contributed something great to the business. Let each other know that you don’t take each other for granted. Give praise in front of the staff. This sort of encouragement will be good for both your personal relationship and your business one.
Just make sure, however, to keep it appropriate for the situation. Don’t start snuggling behind the counter. You want to appreciate each other as business partners at work and as life partners at home.
Know when to appreciate each other as life partners and when to appreciate each other as business partners. Credit: White Mulberries
4. Close Up Shop
You’ll no doubt find it hard to not bring work home: when you’re so passionate about the same thing, it’s almost impossible to not talk about it. For us, our café White Mulberries is our favourite topic of discussion. But there are also times when we need to close up shop for the night – and keep it closed.
Work-related issues can be demanding and stressful. This kind of stress can distract you from the important people in your life, such as your spouse and your children. It can kill romance and make your home life less enjoyable. So try to minimise work conversations and have periods of time when you can’t discuss business at all – such as at bedtime, during dinner, or on trips away.
Find time to switch off and talk.
Living and working together has been challenging, but we couldn’t have done it any other way – and we wouldn’t choose to even if we could. The strength of our commitment to each other, and to our café, has only enhanced our relationship and our business.
We trust each other. We work together towards the same goals. We pursue our passion with our best friend. And that makes all of the challenges worthwhile.
Perfect Daily Grind is not affiliated with any of the individuals or bodies mentioned in this article, and cannot directly endorse them.
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