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Tina Shaire’s Zolene Diary: 5 Ways to Keep Your Marriage Thriving When Your Spouse is Your Business Partner



My spouse is my partner at Zolene. Though he has a full time job, and he is largely involved in Zolene day to day. My husband and I get along fairly well, but I must confess, working with him setting up Zolene has been more challenging than I had envisaged. I guess it helped that we had built our marriage for close to 8 years, because co-owning a business with your significant other can shake the foundation of any marriage… if not handled well.

There are advantages of working closely with your spouse, though. It is a rare opportunity to work with someone you implicitly trust; someone you share similar interests with, your best buddy; someone whose strengths and weaknesses you know, and vice versa. The irony is that these same advantages can become disadvantages.
I am no marriage expert; in fact we pretty much quarrel and argue like every other married couple, but here are some of the ways we create balance.

Make sure your marriage is stable first and foremost
Our marriage is first built on our faith in God, values which we share and uphold, such as love, trust, peace and friendship. We have had our fair share of quarrels and in fact still do, but we have become better, built a stable marriage and we try to learn from our every experience. Starting and running a business is challenging in itself and can destroy a happy marriage, let alone an already unstable marriage. By unstable I mean on the edge of divorce or an extremely pressured union.

Ensure respect and admirations are upheld in your private and public life. Your employees will never respect you, if you don’t respect each other.
I decided to never have an argument with my husband in presence of domestic staff, employees and even our kids. Most men are big on respect, and we ladies just want love and attention. Try not to forget yourself in the midst of the storm.

When there is a misunderstanding beyond what you both can handle, you must seek help from someone you both respect, who shares same values as you both. Or get books that speak to your area of need and read through. I do not subscribe to keeping your problems to yourself and ‘dying’ in silence; neither should every Tom, Dick and Harry be an umpire in your affairs.

Divide and Conquer
Respect your strengths and weaknesses and divide responsibilities accordingly. You both need to determine and respect what you are each good at. Just as important as finding your strength is determining your weakness and then handing off those duties to someone who is better suited for the job. Do you complement each others’ skill sets? For instance, my husband is very meticulous, commercially minded and detail oriented, while I am the conceptual, creative, and free spirited. My background is law and now culinary arts, and his background is finance; as such he manages the financial aspects of the business, while I focus on crafting the menu and general set up of the restaurant.
He manages the business behind the scenes, while I am client-facing and managing the business at the front end. Even with all of this we still quarrel! He said to me, “you cannot own a business without understanding the numbers”. So yes, I have had to understand by force. I have done a few accounting courses and I am more intentional with it now. And I accuse him of not allowing us be more adventurous with our menu, pricing etc. He likes what he likes and is not interested in exploring too much especially with food. He says to me, “we say we are an African restaurant, what is a salad doing on our menu” and I am say, “excuse me, I am first #fitfam before I’m African…. I am certain we have many people like me out there too”.

Good Communication
Nothing will test your communication skills more than partnering in a business with your spouse. Everyone is good at sharing ideas and wanting others to listen. The issue really is with listening to each other. Listen not to build a response in your brain but to genuinely seek to understand where the other person is coming from and learn something you may not have thought of yourself.

I am the opinionated one and sometimes I just go on about how I want things done, then I come back to earth when he starts to say, “are you listening to me”? We both decided to make a committed effort to not interrupt each other and pay more attention. It is amazing how well two people can get along just by listening. Don’t get caught up in your own head space. Listening is an act. You must learn to listen! No second guessing, trust each other to make the right decisions in the circumstance.

Love birds mingle time
It’s very easy to get caught up in the business and fight about everything else. Simple questions like “how was your day?” starts getting replaced with, “did you send that letter to the bank? Have you generated that invoice? Have you contacted that vendor?”
I was so obsessed with the day to day of the business that I failed to see that my husband had become so stressed, because he has to work his day job, as well as attend to his side of our business. We both started to fall ill and the health of our relationship both with ourselves and with the kids started to suffer. So we decided to make time for ourselves and for our kids a few hours in a day. And if in that hour or 2 the chips fall, we let those chips fall where they may. We fix it when we get back.

We just had to take a stand. So we decided to go to the movies, just do stuff apart from working on the business. We used to like to eat out too, but now when we go out, we cannot help but start another business related conversation, just by spotting something else in another restaurant. This bit is still work in progress; so help us God!

Forgive and forget
Because we are humans, sometimes inappropriate things are said in the heat of an argument and it is important to give each other the benefit of the doubt and forgive. The way we have been able to build our home and now our business is by forgiving each other repeatedly. Especially when an apology is in place.

I hope you have garnered a few tips if you desire to follow through on co partnering with your spouse. It is not for everyone. If you both desire it, with some intention, it will work out.
All the best.

Photo Credit: © Matthias Ziegler | Dreamstime

Tina is a qualified commercial lawyer with nearly a decade of experience in law. She is the head chef at Zolene- a contemporary African restaurant dedicated to creating good food memories through a touch of western influences on our most loved Nigerian and African dishes. Zolene focuses on the rich and diverse Nigerian/African cuisine with a touch of western Influence. We are located in the booming and rapidly expanding Ikoyi in the metropolitan city of Lagos. Zolene as a restaurant is committed to making amazing food memories and our address is #26 Mekunwen Road, Ikoyi, Lagos. Kindly follow us on social media @zolenedining.

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