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When you're not just business partners: 3 things to discuss before going into business with your spouse

If you're married to your business partner, you're not alone. Millions of businesses in the U.S. are jointly owned by spouses. It can be incredibly rewarding to build a family business, and when done well, your business and marriage can be stronger for it. On the other hand, if things go wrong in either your business or marriage, the other can suffer as well.

What makes for a successful couple-owned business? A lot of it comes down to good communication, beginning long before you decide to go into business together. Here are three important things to discuss before - and after - making the leap.

1. Boundaries

Setting appropriate boundaries is important in any relationship, and it's especially important when you also have a business relationship. How will you separate your work life and home life? How will you keep business conflicts from becoming relationship conflicts? Although it might be difficult, it's important to make sure you each still have some time apart.

2. The right structure for your business

Some boundaries will be determined by your business structure, especially when it comes to finances. There's more than one way to structure a family business, and you'll want to discuss the structure that works best for you. A partnership structure makes sense for many couple-owned businesses, but not all. In some cases, one spouse may even end up being an employee of the other. An attorney can help you understand the tax and legal implications of your business formation options. 

3. A worst-case scenario plan

What if your business fails? What if you marriage fails? Neither situation is pleasant to contemplate, but your business plan should account for both possibilities. This is one area where professionals can be especially helpful. Consulting with an attorney can help you make sure both of you - and your business - are protected, no matter what the future brings.

If you and your spouse have an entrepreneurial spirit, there's no doubt you're up for challenges and risks. Careful planning and consistent, good communication can help you succeed as partners in business - and in life

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