Upon an urgent request of a colleague, I created CEO Couples. When the same friend and her son were working on their passion project, things unraveled. As much as she loved him, the business relationship was suffering.

Why is so difficult to maintain a friendship, marriage, or relationship with a family member while partnering at work? I grew up in a family business and I know the situation well.

While it is gratifying to share a mutual mission,  vision, or project with a person you feel a kindred connection, it is incredibly challenging.  Carrying forth a family business where the history is steeped in tradition, accomplishment, and legacy is quite another. In both cases, the close ties become challenged when adding the pressure of success, the strain of communication, and the everyday challenges of trust, reliability, commitment, and follow-through.

What is a CEO Couple?

A CEO Couple is a joint business endeavor between a married couple, friend, colleague, or family member The types of businesses range from medical practices, entrepreneurial start-ups, retail, restaurants, hospitality, home-building,, and contracting. Any new business endeavor with a partner qualifies as a CEO Couple.

What are the joys of creating and sustaining a business together?

Sharing a common dream develops a sense of shared passion and experience. Savoring accomplishment with someone you are close to sweetens the deal.

What are the pitfalls of working with our partner or friend?

What about the stressors and strains in the process of building, with its ups and downs, trials and tribulations- feast or famine?

5 Relational Principles for CEO Couples

Often relationships we form at work become like family. When our partner is also our work family- it can make things very interesting. Where one often enjoys the diversity each type of family gives,  it seems like it all becomes one entity.

1. Create Clear Boundaries– Determine what is okay and not okay within the work/life dynamic.

2. Enjoy Time Apart.  When couples work and live together, it will be important to have intentional time together to communicate about the business and time apart to enjoy the other aspects of life. Creating time together and apart will inevitably be required to keep each area of life unencumbered.

3. Prioritize Your Personal Relationship. Whether you are married, a friend or a family member, your personal relationship is most important. You wouldn’t want to be doing business together if it wasn’t already strong. It will be important to keep the love or friendship growing and alive separate from business transactions.

3. Keep Clear Agreements – Trust is built on reliability. If one commits to a deliverable, accountability is required.

4. Nurture Your Work and Partner Relationship 

Nurturing our work relationships is similar to nurturing our family relationships. The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace is a helpful guide and resource regarding motivation through appreciation.

Intentional quality time and presence, words of appreciation and gratitude,  small unannounced gifts, handshakes, hugs, appropriately shared, and acts of service take on a workplace meaning.

Brene’ Brown created BRAVING as an acronym for building and maintaining trust:

Boundaries- Reliability.Accountability. Vault (Confidentiality) Non-Judgment and Generosity are the gold standard for work/life relationships.

5. Build a Great Team I have adapted the principles from the Gottman Institute for business partners and teams.

The joy of common pursuits and business endeavors is possible when met with relational intelligence.


Dare To Lead, Brene’ Brown

The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, Gary Chapman and Paul White

The Gottman Institute gottman.com