Saturday, May 14, 2011

The 9 rules to avoid divorce when working with your wife

Or – how come I’m still married while being the CEO of a start up…

Starting a company with your wife can be the best thing in the world or… the worst. In our case (I co-founded HouseTrip with my wife Junjun), we’re lucky, it’s great. But that’s because we try to follow a set of pretty defined rules:

  1. Define your respective expertise
    • I am good (well, hope I am) at being CEO and Junjun is good at being CFO. We respect each other’s territory and do not question – much – the other’s decisions in their area of expertise.
  2. Clear cut division between work and personal life
    • Every evening there is a point when we tell each others "no HouseTrip anymore" and literally will stop any mention or thoughts about HouseTrip. Being constantly "at work" is perhaps the sneakiest danger to avoid.
  3. Do not question each others in public
    • Because you want to show a "united front" to the world and also because being questioned in public is generally not well received by the questioned party...
  4. One person needs to have the last word on strategic decisions
    • Being hierarchically at the same level is a utopia and a recipe for immobilism and arguments; someone needs to take the lead.
  5. Remain professional in the workplace
    • Would be quite traumatizing to our employees if their 2 bosses kept cuddling each others at the office :-)
  6. Have a similar level of commitment to your work
    • It can't work if someone is taking it easier than the other.
  7. No jealousy nor competition
    • We are both working towards a greater goal: being jealous of each others' successes is not only unhelpful but also destructive to the company. We want each others to succeed professionally because that's good for both of us.
  8. Be very honest with each others
    • If there is one competitive advantage that couples have over other founders is the depth of knowledge we have on each others and the level of truthfulness we can have with each others. Junjun knows me extremely well and therefore knows where I need to improve: trust me, she is not afraid of telling it to me straight!
  9. Have a clear shared vision
    • Managing a startup means many sacrifices: we need to know why we make them and strongly believe they're worth it!

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