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Mixing business with love

By - | November 24th 2012 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Dating your business partner can either consume your love, or bring down the business, writes Anthony Kagiri

Business and love are like water and oil. The two don’t mix well and when they do, it needs delicate balancing.

Either of these is hard enough on its own and mixing the two can be disastrous. Often, love clouds our judgment and comes in the way of sound business acumen. Business challenges, on the other hand, often come in the way of love, making many relationships to fall on the wayside.

Tough questions

Before getting into business with someone you are dating, it is important to be clear of the risks that come with it: What will you do when the person you love isn’t playing his part of the bargain? What happens when they can’t meet their loan obligations? What do you do when your lover misuses company finances? Can you differ in business and still remain lovers? Do the two of you share the same commitment towards the business?

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Livingstone Kamau is still recovering from the closure of his hotel business he had started with his fiancée who he refuses to name. The two had been dating for a year when they decided to invest in the venture. Since Kamau had a more stable job, he secured the capital through a loan using his payslip as security, but the two agreed to share the repayment of the loan.

“A few months into the business, she started defaulting on paying her part of the loan in the assumption that I’m the man, so I should sort out money issues. What made it worse was that she would often take business money and use it for personal needs,” says Kamau.

Kamau’s fiancée’s tendencies would eventually cripple their relationship.

“I couldn’t keep up with her and when I questioned her behaviour, she told me if I couldn’t take care of her I should move on without her,” says a dejected Kamau.

She would later disappear, leaving Kamau to repay all the loans. Whereas the experience revealed Kamau’s girlfriend’s true character, it left him with a burden of loans to pay. He now says he has learnt his lesson and would never mix love with business.


Businesses started on sound professional expertise have often been brought down by love. Emotions have a way of overtaking sound judgment and come in the way of business. It is, therefore, important to identify when the relationship crosses the line. When intimacy comes in your business partnership, you need to reflect. At that point, one can decide to check on the relationship, close the business, and concentrate on the love or set ground rules for co-existence of both.

Take James and Marylyn, for example. The two met in an MBA class at a local university. While discussing a group assignment, they discovered they had a similar passion for business. At the end of the semester, it was clear that combining their different expertise was a business opportunity worth trying.

“I come from a finance background, while James is a human resource person. This combination was attractive to the eye,” says Marylyn

The business was performing well until one year into the partnership when they started becoming intimate.

“It all started at a business trip in Mombasa where we were trainers in a seminar. An evening drink ended us up in his bed and there our intimacy was born,” says Marylyn.

Business trips out of town fuelled the intimacy for the senior bachelor and single mother of one. Whereas their romance was brewing, their business was taking a nosedive. 

“We often failed to prepare sufficiently as most of our time was taken over by our love life,” says Marylyn who regrets allowing herself to be involved with her business partner.

Their clients started getting dissatisfied with their work and in no time, their business went on its knees. The failure of their business weighed on their love and as tragedy would have it, their relationship also ended.

“I ended up losing a successful business and my lover. I’m almost certain either of them would have succeeded had we not mixed them,” says Marylyn.

Separate money

This doesn’t, however, mean love and business can’t mix. Only that the timing needs to be right. Mixing love and business is one thing you want to do when you have total responsibility towards each other. This is best when married. Then you bear the liabilities of your spouse and you can better hold each other to account.

If you decide to take both while dating, the first place to start is on financial management. Financial consultant Cheryl Broussard advises couples to separate business money from the rest of your money.

“Separate accounts will help you exercise your individuality and keep the business safe,” she says. What you use should be the profit money that you get after settling all your expenses.

Secondly, you need to set ground rules on how to manage the business and probably take different roles depending on each other’s strengths. You can hire professionals to run the business with you and separate the business from your love life. 

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