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Founding a company with your girlfriend: Road to break-up or success?

Founding a company with your girlfriend: Road to break-up or success?

It all started a few years back when I met my girlfriend Saara for the first time.

It was at Student Work (nowadays Clevry). They hosted an event there, and I was one of the speakers. She was working there.

Fast forward 12 months, she started to follow me on Instagram. I sent a DM to her. The rest is history.

As a salesperson, I started doing the sales work to get her buy in to the idea of starting a business together.

From the start, I was always planning some business ideas. And Saara was saying that we will never work together.

As a salesperson, I started doing the sales work to get her buy in to the idea of starting a business together.

Why it would be great to start a business together?

I did a lot of nurturing. Many meetings with her on the idea. 😉 Eventually, on the 6th of December in 2021, we wrote down our first version of the business plan for TalentBee!

This shows you that I'm actually pretty good at selling, and selling takes time. 🤣 The sales cycle to get her involved in the idea was around 15 months. But it worked!

Our discussions: "Will running a business together ruin our relationship?"

This was the topic we discussed most during the first 3 months of planning the business.

Saara is quite an emotional person, and I remember her crying many times: "What if I will lose my boyfriend?"

I realized there would be a lot of challenges for sure, but I try not to worry about things that haven't happened.

From all of those discussions, we decided a few things:

  1. We need to set clear rules.
  2. There needs to be relationship time without the work stuff.
  3. The fact that we are a couple shouldn't affect our team.
  4. We need to find a third co-founder.

Setting clear rules for the business & the relationship

To avoid some pitfalls, we decided to set some clear rules. To be honest, these have been super hard to keep on, but most of the time, we succeed in these.

Here are the rules:

  1. No business talk on Whatsapp 👉 That's only for personal stuff. All work stuff goes to Slack (we have succeeded in this around 80% of the time)
  2. No business talk in bed 👉 This is hard because that is where my brain starts to come up with new ideas, and it's so easy to mention those things aloud. We succeed around 70% of the time in this. A good solution would be to have a notepad by the bed where you can write things down and discuss them at another time.
  3. Make sure to have relationship time without the work stuff 👉 In my mind, we have succeeded quite well! This could be going to the gym together or having a dinner night without talking about work. The learning for this is that you also need to book time for this on the calendar.

Finding a third co-founder was the best decision ever

During the springtime, we worked on TalentBee by ourselves, just the two of us before Siiri joined our team.

Now when I compare it to the current situation, things are way, way easier.

I think the biggest thing regarding this is communication.

You have two roles: Being the CEO & being the Boyfriend

I remember sitting on our sofa in our apartment in Tampere in August.

Saara asked if she could speak to her boyfriend.

I said sure! She said that she has a shitty boss.

But kidding aside, the biggest challenge has been, for sure, communication.

I try to be the same Samuli whether I'm working or enjoying my free time, but still, there are differences.

The most significant differences are around communication.

You give other person feedback on your relationship, but at work, I try to do it even more, so it has been weird for Saara.

How about Siiri's perspective?

The stuff this far has been my thoughts around the topic. Lastly, let's hear it from our co-founder Siiri. What it's like to work with a couple? What are the good things & what are the terrible things?

💬 "If I must list a couple of things that I was a bit afraid that could happen when I joined TalentBee, these would be:

  1. Would you two be communicating differently to each other, than to the rest of the team? In our meetings, for example, could you keep the professional touch?
  2. Would you be having meetings just the two of you – talking about our business plans a lot without including me?
  3. What if you haven't really thought this through and would right away notice that it doesn't work – would we have to throw the whole thing to the thrash if you broke up?

Fortunately, these things haven't happened and I think you have done super well with everything this far!"

💬 "I think you two being a couple doesn't show as a negative thing to the rest of the team, at all. In my opinion, you have succeeded to keep these roles you mentioned, pretty clear from the beginning. And you have totally different kinds of strenghts as professionals – and you both are top notch experts in your own areas! So that might be the reason why you aren't stepping on each other's toes...

And without these facts I wouldn't have joined TalentBee to begin with. I don't believe in teams that don't genuinely match the right talent with the right roles, but prioritize personal relationships or other things irrelevant to the business success. I can say I really, really believe in both of you as individuals.