If love is a gamble, then married cofounders are certainly the betting type.
They’re facing a game of statistics stacked heavily against them. For starters, most experts say that about 39% of marriages end in divorce.
Now layer in the risky business of starting a company together. About 50% don’t make it past their fifth year, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And research from the Harvard Business School suggests that as many as 75% of venture-backed companies never return cash to investors.
Yet there are happily wed entrepreneurs who are beating the odds.
We asked a few of these couples—and their investors—for their tips to keeping their venture and vows going strong. Here are their six best secrets:
Squash the beef
Dr. Jeb Hurley and his wife, Elena Newton, started Xmetryx—a software line for remote teams—because they had a shared passion, and their skills just so happened to dovetail perfectly. But even with that, conflicts still arise. Clear, honest communication is this couple’s super fix.
“Be clear about expectations, and when your experience falls short, as it inevitably will because we’re human,” Hurley says, “put the issue on the table, and close the gap quickly. That is essential to building and sustaining a healthy, trusting relationship, especially one that crosses between business and marriage.”
No business talk in the bedroom
Nisa Amoils, a partner at Grasshopper Capital, says she has no qualms about investing in a company run by married cofounders. In fact, she says she’s come to admire one such couple for their take on keeping work at work.
“They have a rule that they don’t talk business in the bedroom,” she says. “It has sometimes led to them sitting on the floor outside their bedroom door in pajamas.”
“They also have date night at least once a week, and phones stay away the entire time,” she adds.
Nix the “decision fatigue”
Courtney Caldwell and her husband run ShearShare, which connects salon and barbershop owners to licensed stylists. She says the secret to their long-term success comes down to keeping with their routine, which grounds them and prevents burnout.
“We eliminate decision fatigue and start each day with the same discipline: We wake up together, meditate and pray together, work out together, eat together, listen to motivational e-books, sermons, or podcasts, and encourage each other with sticky notes on the bathroom mirror,” she says. “Moving at a consistent cadence but in our own lane actually intensifies the other’s strengths. And that’s where whatever we’re building thrives.”
Get a pep talk
They often say a good coach can improve an outcome, and a great coach can improve a life. That’s certainly been the case for Helena Hambrecht, who cofounded Haus, a line of aperitifs (low-alcohol cocktails) with her husband, Woody.
“We are firm believers that every pair of founders is better off with a joint business coach. Ours doubles as a couples’ therapist,” she says. “Our coach helps us navigate both roadblocks in the business and our relationship as cofounders. This is helpful whether you’re married or not.”
Back your bae
Married cofounders must be ready to pick up slack for each other, on and off the clock, says Slisha Kankariya, who runs With Clarity, an online marketplace for diamonds and rings, with her husband.
“It’s always important to have a good fallback whether it is at work or at home. In my case, my husband is my cofounder. So, we use each other as the fallback at home and at work and learn to prioritize based on each other’s needs and strengths,” she says, adding that married cofounders essentially have to operate as one unit. “When there are so many forces pulling you in different directions, there is no such thing as separation of work and life.”
Y’all do y’all
Vlada Bortnik says she and her husband decided to go into business together right at the same time they decided to start their family.
“It sounds completely crazy, but it made perfect sense for us and was a great indicator that our marriage, our family, and our work were in complete alignment,” she explains.
Today, she and her husband are running Marco Polo, an app aimed at connecting families and friends. In hindsight, she says while the move may have seemed “crazy” at the time, it was right for their family.
“We wanted to model for our daughters what it looked like to create something meaningful and to make the world a better place through our work,” she says. “In the process, we had to become absolutely clear about our priorities and organize our time accordingly.”