Four tips on running a business with your spouse

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Pandemix, a food and pastry business, was established at the Litang family’s home during the lockdown—by accident.

When husband and wife Jun and Jo-anne Litang ran out of roti for their shawarma, they decided to make their own from scratch instead of buying. The simple act of baking their own bread brought them a lot of joy. Soon, they were baking banana bread and chocolate cakes.

Pandemix was officially up for business on May 1, initially selling to close family and friends. Mrs. Litang was in charge of baking while Mr. Litang took care of the legwork. As months passed and the venture got bigger, the couple faced more challenges in managing it together.

“Men handle things differently from women. Men think, ‘That’s okay already…’ As a woman, you want everything to be organized and documented,” said Mrs. Litang during “Partners in Life: At Home and in Business,” a recent webinar organized by incubator and accelerator StartUp Village.

It’s possible for a couple to run a business together, said the Litangs, who shared tips on how to do it smoothly and effectively.

1. Be professional.

Even if their business is home-based, the couple maintains boundaries for work. The Litang family, for instance, knows not to disturb Mrs. Litang when she is in the kitchen. “Baking is precise… When you’re counting and your child suddenly calls on you, you lose track of how much salt you had put in,” she said.

Mr. Litang also supports how invested Mrs. Litang is in the business, giving her space while she’s researching and taking online classes on baking. “I let her do what she wants to do,” he said. 

2. Listen effectively to your partner.

To avoid being stuck in an echo chamber, keep an open mind to the thoughts of one’s partner. “Sometimes, you feel like everything that you do is correct. If you don’t listen, you won’t know what’s wrong and right,” said Mrs. Litang.

Active listening is a technique wherein one consciously tries to understand the complete message being communicated instead of just hearing the words. Pay full attention while one’s partner is talking and show interest through body language, such as nodding occasionally. Provide feedback only when one’s partner is done talking; make sure that it’s honest and that it acknowledges the points that were raised.

3. Be a pillar of support.

Every business has its highly stressful moments. Mr. Litang recalled how his wife came back home crying one day, not knowing what to do when a cake that she was delivering got ruined on the way.

These situations call for a partner that can be strong and rational amidst the chaos. “That’s what I teach her, that you shouldn’t panic when there’s a problem… I tell her, ‘Relax. You won’t be able to do [your task] if we’re like this. You need to focus,’” said Mr. Litang.

4. Put each other and your family at the center.

Being focused on work doesn’t mean that family becomes less of a priority. As a gesture of love, Mrs. Litang prepares food for her family whenever she can. She also ensures that they all eat together during meals, with no business talk at this time.

This dedication was put to the test when remote classes first began for their ten-year-old son. Thinking that he could manage on his own as he had always done, Mrs. Litang went on with her usual work schedule. But when Mr. Litang brought up how online learning required constant parental supervision, the couple immediately made adjustments.

Now, Mrs. Litang frees herself up during her child’s offline learning hours. “By the afternoon, I should be done with all of my baking. I do it either the night before or early in the morning,” she said. — Mariel Alison L. Aguinaldo