Matt and I have worked opposite each other at the same desk for the last 7 years - me working on my design business and Matt working on his software / cabinetry / building system. Working in the same space but independent of each other has been great. You get to do your own thing but there is always someone else to bounce ideas off when required.
In April this year when we decided to go all in with Tiny Office we combined our expertise and started working with each other rather than just next to each other. Working with a loved one can be the most exciting and rewarding experience, it can also be a shit fight.
Matt and I have been lucky and most of the time we enjoy working with each other. When things are going well it’s incredibly exciting and building the first Tiny Office together has been awesome. What wasn’t awesome was the endless battles we had, one of note was about which platform is best to build the website (he wanted to code it and I wanted to use my beloved Webflow).
It's funny thinking about it now - but I would never have had such heated agreements with colleagues in any of my other jobs - ever. But when you work with your partner it's very easy to forget you're at work and not in the kitchen arguing about not emptying the sink after doing the dishes (that is part of doing the dishes by the way - you empty the goddamn sink!)
It can be super exciting and really overwhelming going into business with a friend / family / loved one but there are things you can do to help mitigate any potential problems.
First you have to have a clear understanding of what's best for the business. I have found it incredibly hard to be objective, especially when it comes to areas that I’m the expert in (like the website battle I mentioned earlier). You have to take ego out of the picture and ask ‘what is best for the business?’ You may not like the answer but if it's the right one the business should benefit.
You need to be REALLY clear about what you're feeling at the time you're feeling it. Dealing with issues when they arise is the only way to keep on top of things. I quite often have to interrupt mid conversation and announce that I don’t understand something or don’t agree with what's been said. You obviously don’t want to be a dick about it but being able to discuss pain points on the spot means they very rarely go further than that conversation.
You have to hold each other accountable. As shity as some of those tougher conversations can be, not having them is always going to be more painful. Festering resentment will do way more harm than addressing the problem at the time.
Having a healthy understanding of your strengths and weaknesses is really important. I know for example that I have an anxious attachment tendency, so in a heated discussion I need more reassurance, I want to bring Matt in closer to talk it out. Whereas Matt is more of an avoidant type of guy. Being aware of this has made our professional and personal relationships so much stronger because we can now empathise with the other person and can give them more of what they need to feel safe and secure.
It is inevitable that conflicts will arise at work. They do in every job. The best thing we can do is prepare for them by investing in understanding each other more.
Really try to be objective, listen to the other person before forming a response in your head. Give them a break. Be nice to each other. Slap him on the bum when he is bent over doing something - not advised for all workplaces obviously but at the end of the day I married that bum waving in the air!
We are lucky that all of the time we invest in making our professional relationship better has positive flow on effects into our home life. I used to dwell on arguments and upsets but now they are resolved fairly quickly - it doesn’t mean they are any less painful but it does mean that you can kiss and make up quickly.
At the end of the day we have to go home and parent and 3 and 4 year old which is by far the hardest thing either of us has ever done!