What happens when you are both spouse & owner.

Benefits and Challenges of Co-Owning a Youth Activity Center with Your Spouse

Often youth activity centers are owned by teams of two. We know these teams to be comprised of friends who are business partners, parents and children or siblings, and married couples. Let’s take a closer look at owning a youth activity center as part of a married team and bring together details that many of you are already living.

To thrive and prosper together, couples need guidelines to make everything (marriage and business) work. Couples can find co-owning a business increases tension. Because both of you are deeply involved in the business, you share the joys. You also, however, discover the challenges can easily strain your relationship.

There are definitely benefits and challenges in these situations. When venturing into business with a spouse, it’s no secret that the best results come from a business relationship based on being open, accommodating, understanding and patient. Hmmm. Sounds a lot like what is best for marriage too!

What are the benefits of co-owning with a spouse?

Your spouse is probably the yin to your yang. You’re likely expecting great things from your working relationship because you:

  • have already established trust
  • know each other’s schedules so it’s easy to keep plans in sync
  • share an aligned vision for the company
  • have financial status awareness
  • can make decisions more easily and quickly
  • show your employees you’re in sync with each other
  • can easily involve your children in the business
  • have the potential to make more money as a family unit
  • can easily cover for each other
  • can go to conferences together
  • can build a business as strong as your marriage

What are the challenges of co-owning with a spouse?

While there are many benefits to working with your spouse, there are also some challenges. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • There is never time away from the business
  • The line between work and personal life is blurry
  • You lack an ‘office’ filter
  • One source of investment and income
  • Alternating power struggles
  • Added stress to the marriage
  • One source for insurance and benefits

Starting a business with your spouse

Every couple is different! For some, being married business partners just isn’t in the cards. But for those who DO ‘partner’ with spouses, it is probably most important to understand and accept the frustrations that come with the territory and must be overcome in order to be successful.

“If someone had asked me years ago, would I work with my spouse, the answer would have been, ‘absolutely not!’  However, for me and our situation, the answer now is obviously yes! Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely pros and cons to it and things that we have learned to make it work for the two of us!”

Full disclosure

Be courageously candid with your spouse about business and personal goals. Have this conversation early and often. Write a business plan and a life plan so what you’ve discussed is clearly articulated and documented. This is a great process for learning about your spouse but you may learn even more about yourself.

Prevention is easier than intervention

Working together can cause your relationship to thrive as your business grows. It’s best to establish ground rules first thing so you start your business off on the right foot without major disruption to your marriage.

Respect and trust your partner

Reality is that no real couples agree on everything. Often disagreements actually become stalemates where each spouse has strong – but opposite – feelings. Stalemates must always be resolved in ways that work for both spouses and the business.

Since you won’t always agree, you should set up guidelines that will help reduce conflict. Don’t become one of the 60% of businesses that fail due to low trust and poor communication between spouses. Allow the trust you develop in your personal relationship to flow over into your business. Also, respect each others’ roles. That means that if Spouse A deals with payroll for the gym and someone asks Spouse B about it, B directs that person to A. They not only respect their spouse but expect the roles they fulfill in the business.

Leave disagreements at home

No one wants to work for two people who constantly bicker. Homelife arguments must stay at home so you and your spouse can present a unified front to employees. Anything short of support for each other sets a negative tone at work and undermines any authority either of you has established.

Keep shop talk and decisions at work

It’s just natural for you to talk about what is on your mind when you’re with your spouse. But the better you can be at keeping discussions about work matters at work, the better off your home life will be.

Make a rule that dinner-table decisions are not allowed! Enjoy going home and concentrating on what you enjoy doing together. Business should never be allowed to consume your personal life.

‘Own’ your chosen business areas

One of the most important organizational components to co-owning is staying out of each other’s hair. You probably (hopefully) already do this at home so you know how it works. Apply the same strategy to work. Take ownership of the areas of the business that you know you love and/or have a knack for. Decide if you’re both owners or if one of you is the owner and the other the manager. And remember that there are tax implications, no matter how you structure it.

It’s important that you’re not constantly crossing hands when you’re down in details and making decisions. When 2 opinions or approvals are needed – or matters are business-critical – spouses can easily put their heads together. A huge challenge can be confusion over which spouse is the ‘boss.’ This can be different for every couple but must be defined and communicated to staff. Roles must be defined and then spousal owners must stick to their decisions.

Set your own work hours

You may co-own a gym but that doesn’t mean you have to spend all of your working hours together. Since you’ve already claimed your business areas, setting working hours to take care of those areas should be a no-brainer. It’s likely that one of you will relish the quiet of non-class hours for managing the business-end of your gym and the other will be more operationally focused on instructors and coaches and the transition of students in and out of the gym during class times. This is great because it isn’t recommended that any couple be together 24/7!

Treat your spouse like everyone else

It is best to treat your spouse as ‘every other co-worker’ when you’re at work. This sets a good example for employees and a professional culture for your workplace. This also makes it easier to keep the lines between business and home clear.

It takes balance

Create a business partnership where you and your spouse thrive. You know that your marriage requires constant attention. You’re not willing to sacrifice your marriage for the sake of your business.

Business = challenges. Focus, boundaries, and attention will enrich what your business relationship brings to you and your spouse. Setting and following your guidelines ensure that you grow together instead of growing apart, that you grow a business and keep your passion alive. If you have balance as a couple you will naturally have a balance at work. The best part about this is that you can listen to each other and talk to each other through decisions.

Challenges come when you don’t see eye to eye about goals for your youth activity center or the manner in which it should operate. One of you may be very passionate about the business because of children’s involvement there and have a strong desire to be heavily involved. The other may prefer ownership to lie in documentation only and ‘help out’ in specific areas of the company such as maintenance, upfit, and repair.

If one of you has a career outside of the youth activity center, it can often contribute benefits, insurance, and additional (usually significant) pay. An outside career can, however, limit the availability of your spouse to contribute significantly at the center. It is important to note that even couples whose responsibilities at their centers aren’t divided equally, do have equally weighted opinions when it comes to making big decisions.

Your commitment to being a couple

Make sure that you’re not all business or your commitment will ring hollow. Business concerns can creep into home life but are less likely to have a negative impact if you:

  • Schedule fun time together
  • Delight your partner
  • Enjoy deep conversation
  • Take couples break from business

Your marriage will be more resilient if you nurture it and your business will reap benefits too.


Many co-owning spouses believe that working together has made their marriage stronger. This doesn’t come naturally. It takes work. You celebrate together, solve problems together, and you are there for each other at all times no matter what, not because you are business partners but because you’re married. And couples with solid business foundations have marriages that are built on strong foundations as well.

Your success as partners is simply up to you to find the secret sauce between you that results in success. When it comes down to it, you want to remain happily married – despite your business partnership.

Ready for a work/life partnership that just fits? Work with oune of our Product Coaches and check out a Live Demo with Jackrabbit Class!

Schedule my live demo now!

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