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the top tens

This Valentine’s Day, here are our 10 suggestions for on how to be successful ‘co-preneurs’Nebelsee/Getty Images/iStockphoto

My husband and I have been running a successful business together for almost the entire time we've known each other. In fact, we set up shop a year before we were married. After close to 15 years, two kids and a thriving business, we've learned a lot about what it takes to be happy and successful at home and the office.

Here are our 10 suggestions for on how to be successful 'co-preneurs':

1. Set goals for work and life. Goals are the map to your future. Sit down together and write your personal and business goals and your plans to achieve them together. I'm often as excited to reach one of Andrew's goals as I am reaching one of my own.

2. Respect your spouse's strengths – and weaknesses. Recognize the strengths you and your spouse bring to the table when defining your roles and respect the other person's expertise. And never make the other person feel bad for their weaknesses.

3. Define your roles. Marriage is a partnership of equals, but in business there can be an uneven power dynamic. Define your job descriptions with your partner including specific roles and responsibilities.

4. Get organized. You have your business roles and it helps to define your family roles too. For example, in our family Andrew is the hockey coach and all things sports, but the travel and family schedule are my department.

5. Hire a team of experts. The most important people in your business are your lawyer, banker, accountant and hairdresser – and not necessarily in that order! Experts have been key in guiding us along our path, often acting as an outside voice of reason.

6. Communicate openly and honestly. Trust is the foundation for any strong marriage and important in building a business. When in doubt, call a meeting or book a lunch to discuss the issue openly and honestly.

7. Keep the romance alive. Time is one of the biggest challenges when starting a business with your spouse. Make time for romance daily – a smile across the boardroom table or a stolen kiss at the front desk can go a long way!

8. Schedule time together away from the business. It is important to schedule vacation time as a couple to relax, re-energize and remember why you love each other. In fact, I'm writing this article while enjoying some time with Andrew in Jamaica!

9. Be each other's cheerleader. You are a team, but you also have to be truly happy for your spouse when they accomplish a personal goal. When I won the RBC Women of Influence Award, Andrew was the first one to jump up and applaud. That kind of support is the foundation that our business and marriage stands on.

10. Appreciate the benefits. Owning a business with your spouse may present challenges, but the benefits of working together are worth it. Flexible work schedules, doing a job you both love and working beside a business partner you trust are just a few of the wonderful perks!

Tamara Barker Watson and Andrew Watson are the owners of Whitestone Developments, a construction, renovation and excavation company in Lakeside, Nova Scotia.

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