Entrepreneur, Mother of 4, and CEO and Co-Founder of CorpNet.com, Nellie Akalp, shares three tips on how to handle the challenges of a healthy marital relationship while running a business with her husband and business partner, Phil Akalp.
When you’re an entrepreneur, business and home life can become intertwined beyond recognition. Smartphones never leave our side – buzzing with each new email no matter if we’re spending family time with the kids or on the way to dinner with friends. But finding separation between work and family can seem exponentially challenging when you’re running a business with your spouse.
My husband Phil and I have been business partners and happily married for over 13 years…soon to be 14. We sold one of our first companies to Intuit back in 2005. And today we’re running CorpNet.com, an online document filing service that helps other entrepreneurs start, protect, and manage their businesses. Throughout these 13 years, we’ve seen some highs and lows ⎯ and we’ve struggled to keep our sanity and have some fun along the way. Here are three things we’ve learned to help us strike the right balance between being healthy, happy marital partners as well as business partners:
1. Leave business behind at the dinner table
With four young kids, it’s virtually guaranteed that we won’t be discussing company matters over dinner. After all, there’s simply too much to hear about when it comes to all the highs and lows of each child’s day. However, even before our children arrived on the scene, Phil and I worked very hard to refrain from discussing business matters over dinner. It was the one time during the day that we made a clean break from being ‘business partners’. I believe this simple rule helps us stay healthy and multi-faceted, both as individuals and as a couple ⎯ as we have a dedicated time to talk about, process, and listen to the interests and ideas of one another outside of our company.
2. Mandate date night (just like a business meeting)
When you’re running your own business, specially with your spouse, you’re going to move mountains in order to squeeze in a meeting with an important client. The same should hold true for your spouse (and this concept should apply whether you’re working together or not). Even to this day, Phil and I try as hard as possible to have our own date night each week. I know that schedules get busy, and it’s all too easy to put off time for yourself ‘just this week.’ But having this special time together is critical to recharging the batteries, both for yourself and your relationship. And again, if you’re discussing the company books or employee matters, you’re not recharging anything…
3. Accept that complete separation is impossible
Separating business and home life is important, but it’s simply not always going to be possible. And that’s OK. From time to time, Phil and I realise that the office is the only time we can discuss important issues free from interruption from the kids. When we do talk about home life in the office, we make sure to do so only when appropriate. And even more importantly, we try to foster a work culture where our employees also feel comfortable attending to some personal matters in the office when it’s necessary.
Running a business with your spouse is not for every couple. But for Phil and I, it’s been an exhilarating roller coaster and we have no plans of stopping the ride any time soon. With a little discipline, flexibility, and imagination, keeping a healthy balance as business owners and marital partners is more than possible and extremely rewarding!
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