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SPI 598: How to Run a Business as a Couple with Finley Robinson

It’s becoming more common to see couples not just starting a family but also starting businesses together. From Airbnb rentals to travel content creation, more options are available for couples nowadays to build a life around their goals and passions. But is going into business with your spouse or partner a good idea?

Finley Robinson is taking over the show today to talk about his experience working with his wife, Brooke. They run B•TRIBAL•FIT together, and Finley has come up with a three-point process for couples considering this kind of lifestyle: simplifying your priorities, having the discipline to stay in your lane, and finding your own balancing act. You’ll get an in-depth exploration of each of these points in this episode. Finely also shares how he and his wife handle the “wow” and the “how” that have made their business a success.

This is another installment in our Teaching Friday series, where we invite members of the SPI Pro community to share their expertise with our listeners.

So how do you run a business as a couple? How do you keep work separate from the other parts of your lives? How do you make sure that the relationship isn’t affected? Listen in on the show to find out!

SPI 598: How to Run a Business as a Couple with Finley Robinson

Pat Flynn: Hey, hey, it’s Pat here. You’re about to listen to something a little different on the show today. It’s not our usual Friday format where I follow up on Wednesday’s episode. Don’t worry. Those aren’t going away forever. Just a little break to bring in something even more special. In my opinion. And this episode in the next few are a part of our teaching Friday series, which we do with our SPI Pro members.

We have an incredibly talented pool of people within SPI Pro. Why don’t you give our Pros, the spotlight and teach you here on the podcast every once in a while. It’s just one of the perks of being a part of Pro, in fact, is this possibility with each episode, you get to hear a different Pro, teach you something special from their area of expertise.

Without further ado, I’ll let them take it away. Oh, and if you want to find out more about SPI Pro and be a part of it, you can go ahead and apply at SPIPro.com.

Announcer: Welcome to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, where it’s all about working hard now. So you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now your guest host, he’s the only male in his entire family whose name doesn’t start with the letter J, so he answers to just about anything. Finley Robinson!

Finley Robinson: Well, welcome to the SPI podcast, wherever, and whenever this may find you. My name is Finley Robinson, and it is a privilege to get to spend some time with you today. I’m gonna share some of my story and the life and the business that I am building together, alongside of my wife. See about a year ago, I decided that everything that I had been hearing and learning from Pat and his team over the years, as I’d been listening to them and following them, I was doing it.

I was gonna pull the trigger. I was gonna go all in and my wife and I were gonna go full time into our online business together. But lemme tell you, when you leave your job from 20 years, that you’ve been working at the same place for 20 years, there’s a lot of people who have a lot of questions for you.

They don’t understand. They wanna hear the story for themselves. And so I had a lot of time to sit down with various people from different generations and explain to them what I was doing. And here’s what I found. When you sit down with someone and you share your story, they don’t have to say a word for you to know exactly what they are thinking.

See a person’s face and body language, most of the time, can tell you exactly how they feel before they even say anything. When I sat down and told my friends and people in our community, what I was doing to quit my job, to go work full time alongside my wife, for most of the older crowd, I got a looks of confusion and fear.

Why are you doing this? This isn’t gonna work. For most of the younger crowd, I got a whole bunch of looks of awe and inspiration. I actually couldn’t believe I was doing it. And then for my peers, I got looks of concern, man, are you sure this is the right time? But also there was a sense of pride you’re actually going for it.

And it got me thinking why the different looks from the different generations of people. Well, because working alongside your spouse has a very different level of acceptance and understanding depending upon what generation you’re from, what I have found as a generalization, which isn’t always fair, but can be helpful, the older generation was often taught you should never work with your spouse, with your partner and to be fair, historically, most jobs that people would work were at nine to five companies and you would share the same office space and the opportunities for friction or burnout were often there.

Into my generation, I’m I’m in my early forties now, it seems a little more acceptable, but is probably less frequent than it is currently. See, there’s a generation entering the working years now, and it is way more acceptable and honestly, what I’m watching is I’ve spent a lot of time with people and kind of, you know, a decade or two behind me, this idea of working alongside your, your spouse, working together as a couple on a business is actually pursued and sought after.

Now to be fair, there’s many more ways that a couple can actually work together today to generate some income and have this lifestyle that they are pursuing together that is independent from a nine to five job that we’ve traditionally thought of as you know what work is. But today, when you think about all the various options for side hustles, for Airbnb rentals to influencers, you can have your own retail space locally or online.

You can be a traveling YouTuber. I’ve seen creative duo agencies online creators. See couples today, have more options than ever to explore using their gifts, chasing their dreams, fulfilling their passions and their calling, and to create an income and a lifestyle is actually tied into their family and them together.

So here’s what the question then becomes. Is this a good idea? Is it a good idea to work with the person that you are paired most closely with? Or does this historical idea, the looks that I got from people that I talked to extensively, is it a bad idea to work with your spouse to work with your partner? Well, as someone who’s worked alongside his wife for 20 years, first in a part-time capacity, and now full-time, my answer is, it depends.

It actually depends on a lot of things. And that’s what we’re gonna talk about together. A little background, hopefully some context as to why I’m here and, and what my experience is. My wife is super talented. Like crazy, off the charts, talented. She’s creative, she’s winsome, she’s warm, she’s artistic, empathetic people feel like they’ve known her for years after talking to her for 10 minutes. It’s amazing.

She started and been profitable at three different businesses in our 20 years of marriage. First, she was a painter and then she was a photographer for a long time, and now she is a fitness creator and has her own online website BTribalFit.com. The only problem is my wife, as talented as she is, she would do all of this for free. She would just give it all. Actually thinking through how to turn her gifts and expertise into a business is not something that she would ever consider. But that’s where I’ve come in. See, I’ve heard of couples and partnerships like ours, as framed as, as having two different types of people in this partnership relationship.

One person is the “wow” personality and the other person is the “how,” honestly it doesn’t take a PhD to figure out who is who in our family. She brings the wow. And I bring the, how. I help bring strategy and systems to her gifting. A lot of times I sit down and think through scale and figure out how to leverage technology or different ways that we can create a business around a lot of her gifts.

My contribution isn’t nearly as exciting or sexy, but honestly it’s necessary for both of us to contribute in order for our business to work. But here’s the kicker. We’ve actually been able to do this, to create a profitable business that we are both living on at this time without breaking our marriage.

Now, there are some things that have almost broke our marriage, but that’s a whole different podcast. To be honest, I would say from our experience that working together has actually strengthened our relationship and it’s brought a special kind of joy and bond that we now share because of it. So back to our question, is it possible to have a successful business and healthy relationship together?

My answer is yes. What I’ve experienced and witnessed in other people, I would say, yes, it is possible to have both. But how, what is needed? What do you need to consider? And what do you need to embrace, if you are going to be this kind of couple on this kind of journey together? Well, I’ve got three different checkpoints for you to consider for anyone who wants to explore this further.

First, checkpoint number one is the need to simplify your priorities. Second, the discipline to stay in your lane. And third, you’re gonna have to find your own balancing act. And we’re gonna look further in depth at these three ideas for the rest of our time.

So here we go. Checkpoint, number one, if you are a couple who’s considering this or has embarked upon this kind of journey together, you’re likely a person with dreams and goals and gifts and desires. But the first challenge that you’re gonna face is that of your priorities. I actually have a love, hate relationship with the word priority. I think that everyone uses it because of its power and what it means to something this needs to be your first priority.

I think we’ve actually lost so much of its punch because when everything is a priority, nothing is. See, if we have a lot of priorities, we say we have a lot of priorities, what we actually don’t have a lot of is honesty. Cuz when you make 12 things a priority, that means nothing is. And so the first challenge, the first checkpoint that a, a couple is gonna face is that of your priorities.

The question is how do you only have a few true priorities and commit to seeing them through, to completion? Sometimes your priorities are gonna be different and you are gonna have to have an honest discussion as a couple about what your true priorities are and what they should be. So my first action step for a couple on this journey together, who’s dreaming about this, you are going to have to make sure and write down and clearly define your priorities. Priorities pivot when they’re not written down and defined. You’re having a conversation, hey, did you send the proposal and oh, by the way, what’s for dinner? Hey, who’s picking up the kids? And did, did you get back with that person about the brand deal?

It’s so easy to have your priorities for the day, the week, the month move all over the place. If you don’t write them and define them. You can never do as much as you dream in six months, but you can do far more than you think in five years. You know, most couples think that they’re high capacity and their ability to do it all at once is a great asset.

The truth of the matter is what we have found is actually costing you cost. It cost me more in the long run when I don’t sit down and simplify my priorities.

First, once you’ve made progress on this, once you’ve established your set of priorities, the second thing that you have to do is you have to take the position of someone who is serving the greater good serving the team to see those priorities actually met.

When you’re working on something together as a couple, if you view your partnership as leverage for you to get more of what you want to get more financial success or recognition, or to, to move to a direction that you want your family to go, if you were looking at your partnership as something that you are going to get out of it, you’re never gonna get there. You’re set up to fail.

You have to view your partnership together as something that you are contributing to as a team. You have to take the position that says I’m gonna serve in the capacity that I can to see that our dreams and goals and priorities are met. So when faced with a mountain of priorities, all these different things on the table, the first thing you have to do is you must simplify what they are and you have to take the position of a servant in order to meet those dreams and goals.

This is the first checkpoint that you’ve gotta decide are you willing to go down this path? Checkpoint number two, the different gifts that you bring. You see in my family, we get close to dinner and my wife and I have a steering contest as to who is actually gonna get up from whatever, working on and go make dinner.

And I found myself a few nights ago in this very situation. It was around six o’clock my wife and I, neither of us had thought about dinner and we looked each other and decided who is gonna do what at this point. I drew the short straw. Actually, that’s not true. I kind of like whipping it up, I like the challenge. But I decided, Hey, I’m gonna look in the fridge, look in the freezer, I’m gonna pull off something that I’m gonna cross my fingers and hope magically makes five people happy at the same time about 30 minutes later, I’d thrown something together for dinner. And as my daughter was sitting there just eating dinner by the spoonfuls, she turns to me and she says, Hey dad, how are you, just so good at everything? Honestly, I don’t think I deserve that much credit about her statement. But in fairness, the prospect of her opening up the fridge and making her own dinner or eating leftovers was, was greatly improved by what I made for our dinner that night. So I told her, in fact, I’m actually not good at everything.

She asked me further dad, but what can’t you do? Well, I quickly and decisively said, I’ll tell you something. There’s something I can’t do at all. I am a terrible dancer. I have bad rhythm and I have no confidence whatsoever. I would honestly, I would rather speak to a room of thousands of people than be in the center of a dance circle at a wedding.

That is very true. And the fact that I can’t dance, honestly, isn’t that big of a deal. Except for one fact, my wife is an amazing dancer. She kind of wishes I was a lot better. She was on the dance team at an SCC school in college. She moves like a goddess and I move like a tree trunk. It’s honestly an ability that I will never have.

In fact, my wife and I are so different in so many ways is laughable. I’m not good at everything, but it seems like the things that I can’t do or don’t do well. My wife actually has an amazing gift that blesses me and brings so much to our family and to be fair, my natural skills and abilities are a benefit to her.

So what’s the point, why do we share this? Most couples are drawn together for two different reasons. They have similar values. They see the world in a similar way. They care about the similar things, but they actually have completely different gifts or skill sets. They come together because they’re a lot better together than they are separate.

Honestly, when it comes to a business project or a sad hustle goal, what they are gonna bring is each a unique perspective and different skillset to the table. Now, if anyone out there has dreams or ambitions about being the next Chip of Joanna Gaines, it’s probably not gonna happen. However, the partnership that couples have in their relationship is usually built in, to a degree, to start a business, run something together so long as they both stay in their lane of gifting.

The problem is we usually have two different ways of looking at our partner’s gifts. We either see them as an incredible asset or something that is deeply, deeply annoying. And when it comes to a couple’s dreams, their ways of solving problems, attracting new business, developing relationships, or even spending money, they are going to have a very different approach than each other. And you can either see that as an asset or something that is annoying. A couple’s differences can either force them to work together and communicate on a deeper level or each of their gifts and views are gonna be invalid and they’re gonna be ignored and overlooked.

So if we’re asking the question, can you work together? Can you pull this healthy relationship in successful business off together? Well, my suggestion, my next step for you is to take a small step back and have an honest look at your individual skills and see if they’re complimentary enough to run a business together.

See the idea of taking an intentional step back is to look at a situation or circumstance differently than you usually do. I know whenever I have been asked to hang a picture on the wall, you get up on the ladder, you climb up, you can’t tell if it’s square, unless you climb off the ladder and walk to the other side of the room.

So an intentional good step for a couple who is already doing this or considering doing this would be to take a small step back and to spend some time learning about each individual person’s gifts. Take an assessment, read a book, learn and be purposeful about how each person thinks. Operates works feels, and then give your strengths, the name, find ways to compliment each other when you see, uh, the individual gifts that you have working out in a great way. Taking a big step back is gonna make you appreciate the contribution that each other makes towards your life and your business, instead of being annoyed. You’ll see it as an asset. When you step back and give it a name.

The next step might be a little bit hard. Once you understand it, and once you’ve given it a name, you’ve got to stay in your lane. Which for a lot of people is really difficult because when it comes to building something together, it requires a lot of trust and humility. If you have a tendency like me to try to control everything, that means you don’t trust your partner.

That means you don’t trust their instincts. That means you don’t trust your collaboration together. But if you think that you have all the answers and your way is always the right way, you’re not actually allowing them to flourish and to use their gifts. It takes trust to stay in your lane. If you wanna continue this metaphor, you have to allow someone else to carry the baton down the path that you are not walking on.

You’ve gotta pass it to them for their time, for their gifts in order for your life and your business to work well. So when it comes to partner. And life and business together. You’ve got to name and define your individual gifts and you’ve gotta trust enough to be able to step back and allow the other person to stay in their lane.

All right, quick review of our three checkpoints. First simplify your priorities. Second, have the discipline to stay in your lane. And third, couples like this who are wanting to explore this idea and this life together. Have to find their own balancing act. See, this never ending challenge for work and life balance that we talk about when we have separate lives gets even more blurred and more convoluted whenever our life and our work and our relationships are all thrown together in one big snow globe and just shaken up.

Couples like me and my wife, there’s very few hard lines between what we call work and what we consider the other parts of our life. There’s actually a ton of blending that happens throughout our days and our weeks. And balance is really tricky. Balance is something that you can lose, but we actually oftentimes take it for granted.

One of my mentors early on in my professional career had a saying, and it stuck with me since the very first time that I heard it. He probably said it to me once a year for 15 straight years, because it need repeating that often. And here’s what he would say. He’d say, “Finley, balance is an illusion in time.”

I’ll say it again. Balance is an illusion in time. His point was this at any given moment, we are out of balance with some other part of our life while you’re away at work. You’re not with your. When you’re working out, you’re not landing new business clients when you’re enjoying a hobby, you’re not spending time with your kids.

I think the second part of his statement has always been helpful. If balance is an illusion in time, balance is actually only achieved over a period of time. Over the course of your seasons, you need to have hours, days, weeks, and months, for your investment in your body, your mind, your family and friends and relationships are all each given the priority and the focus that they need balances only achieved over a period of time.

So what about couples who work together? The first thing that I would say couples need to know is that blending your worlds together has some pretty significant upside and some downsides. What we have found, is that riding together in the car, eating a meal, drinking coffee, or even laying in bed, we’re present to talk through dreams, plans, strategies, all the different scheduling, things that have to happen.

But the problem is we’re available actually at a really high frequency to be coworkers on our work, there’s sometimes where I’m just not in the mood to talk about something, but my wife is she’ll bring something up that all of a sudden she feels is super urgent, but for me, I’m going, we can put that off to another time.

I’d rather focus on our kids’ game or whatever it is right now. We’ve actually got in a fight, we were to track meet and we’re waiting between events the other day. And I wanted to show her something that I had made. And she’s like, why are you bringing this up right now? I totally should have known better.

See this availability and proximity doesn’t always mean that someone is open either mentally or emotionally to talk through what it is that you wanna bring up. So you have to be aware of that. There’s a lot of tension that availability can actually create. So what do you do about it? You have to find the appropriate time and the appropriate space to talk about work things and to talk about family things and to talk about other things, you’ve gotta be able to connect in ways that aren’t just centered around your work or your projects together.

Each person is gonna have their better times of day, their better work hours and the way in which their mind works in which they wanna talk about the various parts of your relationship and your business. See, the temptation can be to always be moving the business forward cuz you it’s up to you to do that.

But the truth of the matter is your relationship, the relationship part that isn’t tied to the business actually needs space to flourish as well. You’ve gotta put away the laptop and you’ve gotta play with the kids. You’ve gotta have a separate hobby that isn’t just the business that you’re working on together.

You’ve gotta invest in friendships outside of your business world, just in your community, something that isn’t transactional, something that brings a, a deeper kind of grounding or community to your life. You’ve gotta spend time doing things that you enjoy and make sure that your relationship stays alive and isn’t just centered around the business that you are building together. You gotta connect in different ways than just what you guys are working.

So, if you wanna find a healthy balance between your work and your life together, you gotta know, it can only be achieved in the long run over a period of time.

And the health and success of both are gonna be determined by how much intentional time you set aside for each thing. So back to our original question, is it possible to have a healthy relationship and a successful business that you guys have blended together into this thing that you call your life? I say absolutely.

Is it easy? Absolutely not. There are definitely some intentional things that couples need to do in order to make sure and ensure that you don’t sacrifice one for the other. You have to understand, you gotta simplify your priorities. You’ve gotta be disciplined to stay in your lane and you’ve gotta find your own balancing act that works for you.

Again, it’s not for everyone, but I truly believe that can be done in a way that builds a life of business and relationship that brings deep connection and great joy for anybody who wants to jump on this journey together.

We hope this was helpful sharing some of our journey and story, and I hope some of our experience was beneficial for anyone who is considering or has jumped into an endeavor like this.

If you wanna connect any more, I’d be happy to do that. You can find me on pretty much all the social media platforms @FinRobinson. And then my simple website right now with the various projects that I’m working on is FinleyRobinson.com. Our main business is called B•TRIBAL•FIT. You can look it up. Brooke Robinson is my wife’s name. She is pretty much the wow factor, but I’m also super biased.

Thanks again for having me hope this was helpful. And as Pat always says, Team Flynn for the win.

Pat Flynn: Thanks for listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast at SmartPassiveIncome.com. I’m your host Pat Flynn. Our senior producer is Sara Jane Hess. Our series producer is David Grabowski. And our executive producer is Matt Gartland. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. The Smart Passive Income Podcast is a production of SPI Media. We’ll catch you in the next session.


Smart Passive Income Podcast

with Pat Flynn

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