Couple-Preneurship: What to Do When Things Go Wrong

Illustration of a couple in conflict - Couplepreneurship: What to Do When Things Go Wrong

By Kenny Markwardt, Certified Two-Brain Fitness Business Mentor

My wife and I were sitting on a balcony in Mexico, overlooking the ocean as pods of whales cruised past on their annual migration south. We had just enjoyed a nice breakfast and were settling in to spend a few hours remotely working on the gym. 

As I’m prone to do before I sit down to work, I spent 15-20 minutes scrolling through social media. I’m used to waking up to 20 or more updates from the personal and business posts I’m involved in. The number seemed to have dwindled lately. Up until then, I hadn’t given it much thought, but now I was curious.  

I went to our gym page and started looking to see what had been posted by our social media manager lately. I had delegated that role a few months back and was trying to just let it go completely, so it wasn’t something I had been paying much attention.  

It was Feb. 17. The last post on the page was from early January.  

What the heck? How could this have happened? How could our social media manager have just completely walked away from the job?

I didn’t have to go too far to find out. In fact, the social media manager was sitting right next to me, enjoying the same beautiful view. Our social media manager was my wife, Jenn.

Conflict-Resolution Strategies

In all fairness, this story is just convenient for me to tell. I’m sure Jenn has plenty of her own tales in which I messed up one of my jobs at the gym. The point is that all couples will come into conflict in business, so I’ll give you some advice on what to do when things go wrong.  

In a normal situation, you can discipline your staff member, use verbal or written warnings, let the person go, etc.  

When it’s your spouse, it’s a very different story. So what should you do?

1. Calm Down

First, get some space and calm your mind. Go for a run or do a workout—separate yourself from the situation. During this separation, give yourself time to make sure you’re looking at things objectively. You have to treat this problem as an employee-to-employee situation. You cannot be mad about where your spouse fell short at work and then snowball that to include how you think he or she fell short at home. Those are separate issues and separate relationships.  

“You always overspend on the equipment budget every month just like you mess up our grocery budget at home! You just don’t understand money!” —that’s a quick way to destroy your marriage and your business relationship all at once.

2. Speak With Care

Second, watch your language. The terms you use in these conversations can have an enormous impact on the outcome. Use “I” messages instead of accusations and talk to each other in terms of the team that you’re both on. 

Things that work well:

  • “I’ve noticed … .”
  • “I feel … .”
  • “I think … .”
  • “Our business … .”
  • “We should … .”
  • “Let’s try to … .”

Things that work less well:

  • “You did this … .”
  • “My … .”
  • “Your … .”

It might seem trivial, but small changes in vocabulary will help keep the conversation calm, objective and team oriented.  

3. Stay Objective

Third, preemptively defuse the situation and come at the conversation from a position of clarity. This circles back to the roles and tasks exercise I recommended earlier in this series

If someone in your business is assigned any job, they need to know exactly what to do, when it needs to be done and what the expectations are. If they don’t know these things, it’s not their fault—it’s yours. 

For example, the head coach is supposed to have programming done and rolled out to the other coaches by 10 a.m. Friday regardless of whether the head coach is your spouse or not. There is nothing subjective about it if it’s not being done according to the standard operating procedures. Focus on staying in the guidelines according to the job and the conversation will be a lot easier. 

“Dear, I’ve noticed that coaches aren’t getting programming until Sunday evening. They’re supposed to be getting it by Friday at 10 a.m., right?”

4. Be Honest

Fourth, be willing to have open and honest talks about the career paths you both are on. If you’re just starting out and you’re both wearing all the hats because you have to, that’s fine. You probably won’t like every job you have to do, nor will you be great at every job you have to do. That’s an unfortunate reality as you get started. 

However, as your business evolves, you both have the opportunity to quit any jobs you don’t like and delegate them to someone else. Be honest about the things you want to offload. Make your own lists of things you don’t want to do anymore and work together to come up with a plan to delegate.  

This also applies to the uncomfortable situation of firing one another. It can be really awkward, but it doesn’t have to be. If one of you is continually underperforming and you’ve had a series of clear conversations related to this underperformance, there is no harm in asking a question: “What do you think about delegating this role to someone else?” 

5. Bring in a Third Party

Fifth, consult with an impartial third party who understands you and your business. This is where a mentor or counselor can be incredibly valuable. 

This person should be able to take an objective look at the situation and give you advice. The person is removed from your relationship but close enough to your business to advise you appropriately on how to move forward constructively.  

Simplify and Succeed

Resolving conflict with your spouse within your business can be really, really challenging. Don’t make it more complicated than it has to be. You can both be calm, mature leaders together. It just takes intention. 

By sticking to the recommendations above, you’ll be able to maintain both work and home relationships successfully. 

Other Media in This Series

“Couple-Preneurship: How to Work With Your Spouse”
“Couple-Preneurship: How to Hire Your Spouse”
“Couple-Preneurship: What to Do With the Kids”
Podcast: “Working With a Spouse: The Secrets to Ending Stress”


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.