M&M 58: Tai & Talaat McNeely on Building a Business or Brand with Your Spouse

Starting a business can present many challenges. But have you considered building a business or brand with your spouse? Partnering with them could be one of the best decisions you could make.

In this episode of the Money & Media Podcast, Tai & Talaat McNeely talk about the dynamics of running His & Her Money when your business partner is also your spouse. The two of them had already begun 6 ventures together before starting His & Her Money. Tai & Talaat share insights and some cautions to consider when building a business or brand with your spouse.

Time Stamp

Intro – Tai and Talaat McNeely – Married entrepreneurs, partners in business, still friends.
2:30 Deciding to start a business together
6:55 Setting Up Legal Structures
9:40 Dividing the Work
16:30 Google Is Their Best Friend
18:25 Turning the Business Off
19:20 Operating Within a Partnership
22:10 The Future of His & Her Money

Deciding to Start a Business Together

Whenever you hear of or see a couple that is in business together, I think the question begs, “Why did they decide to start a business together?” For Tai and Talaat, it all started with a radio show.

Talaat heard the radio announcer talking every day about the projects he and his wife were involved in, and it struck a chord in Talaat; so much so, that he came home and told Tai that he thought they were supposed to do something together. He wasn’t sure what it was going to be, but he knew they needed to pursue it.

They spent some time brainstorming, and one evening at dinner, they were discussing the things they were equally passionate about. Helping others with their finances came up because they were involved locally with helping people “see the light of day with their money”. They decided they could help even more people if they took their passion online.

Tai had some experience in the online world, having blogged with her sister, but she was shocked to hear that Talaat wanted to go into business together. He was an introvert in many ways, so the idea of him stepping out and doing business online took her by surprise. Still, she was thrilled with the idea and ready to jump in.

This online financial services idea wasn’t the first time the couple had tried to start a business together. Before having children, Tai says they were willing to take a lot of risks as a couple, and they had tried at least half-a-dozen gigs together before starting His & Her Money.

Setting Up Legal Structures

One thing they are both adamant about is the need to be unified. They did establish a legal entity for the business; however, they are 50/50 in it, and their decisions are made together. This unity extends to their entire relationship, whether that’s personal finances, business, or any other decisions they need to make.

“We’re teammates…we’re in this to win it, together.”

Tai and Talaat chose to set up as an LLC because it seemed the best way to protect themselves personally. They filed in their home state of Illinois and are listed as 50/50 owners of the business. That extends to the bank accounts as well. (Talaat continued to comment during the episode how strongly he feels about keeping everything equal. They are true partners in every way.)

Dividing the Work When Building a Business or Brand with Your Spouse

Tai and Talaat are a busy couple, with a Youtube channel, a podcast, a website, an online course on how to budget, and personal financial coaching. With so much to do, how does a couple divide up the responsibilities in the business?

The first and most important thing to remember is that if you have a business with your spouse, it doesn’t have to look like His & Her Money. Tai and Talaat have figured out over the years how they need to structure their business to suit their personalities and individual strengths, but that doesn’t mean that it will work the same for you.

While Tai and Talaat seem to do everything together and often do, there are other couples in business where one of the partners is out front more often and one is behind the scenes. If you’re comfortable in front of a crowd or on a large stage, great. Take on that role. And if your spouse is more comfortable “backstage”, so to speak, let them work in the spaces where they feel most comfortable.

Tai is the money expert in their partnership, so she handles all of the business finances: everything from sending invoices to emailing potential clients and customers. Talaat, on the other hand, is the technical whiz of the two. He does all of the editing for their podcast and Youtube channel. They are both in all of their videos and podcast episodes. They are the face of the business together while staying true to their individual strengths in the daily work.

Let’s Talk Technology

We have established the fact that Talaat is in charge of all things technology related for the business while Tai handles the financial aspects and client correspondence. Even though they each have their own aspects of the business that they’re in charge of, they have to be able to communicate with each other. They need the right tools to do this well.

Google is their tool of choice for keeping up with their schedule and email. Tai stays on top of making sure that everything gets put into Google Calendar so that nothing gets missed. They not only use Google calendar for their business; they use it for their life.

Tai and Talaat are active in their church and with their children’s activities so absolutely everything goes into that calendar. And they take it a step further with color-coding. This helps each one to stay on top of what they need to do specifically. Tai is super Type-A and thrives on order so having everything on the calendar is crucial for her.

Not only do they live off of Google Calendar, but Google Drive is “their friend.” Tai admits to spending hours organizing their files in Drive so that everything is easily accessed and again, color-coded.

Turning It Off

I think that this is the one thing that may scare some people when they think about building a brand or business with their spouse. How do you turn off the business? Or do you?

For Tai and Talaat, they fully admit that they don’t turn it off. Their business is their passion and it fills them with joy to talk about it so they do. If one of them has an idea outside of “business hours”, they don’t hold it back. They get excited about every step they make and have no desire to stick to set hours for business.

Again, they both stress doing what works for you. Some couples may need to set hours that are off limits for business talk in order to feel like they have a “normal life” outside of their business. Just like each couple needs to find their strengths and work from them, each couple also needs to set a schedule that suits their family.

Operating Within a Partnership

The most important thing when partnering in business is operating as a team. Commit to your teammate and have their best interest at heart. Remember that the person is your spouse and be sure to factor in all the other things they do in a day.

You simply can’t operate in a traditional business sense when you’re in business with your spouse. Is your wife chasing kids around all day or up all night with baby? Does your husband do all the shopping, school drop-offs, and make dinner every night? Be careful not to demand more than your spouse is capable of giving considering everything else that’s going on in your lives.

There will be times that you have to sit down and have structured meetings when starting a brand with your spouse. If you want the business to grow and move forward, you may have times where you take off the husband and wife hat and put on the CEO hats. And yet, it still isn’t the same as a traditional business model. Just because you see each other all day, you have to plan and strategize and focus on the business at certain times in order to see the growth you want.

Tai is adamant about putting systems and processes in place from Day 1 so that when Day 365 comes around, you have a real business on your hands and you will feel relieved instead of stressed. Treat that business like a real business and not a hobby and you will end up with a real business.

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About Our Host

Joe Saul-Sehy is the co-host of the Stacking Benjamins personal finance podcast and operates the Stacking Benjamins blog.

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