Working with Your Spouse
Many people who start their own business may be thinking, is it a good idea to work with your spouse? The answer is not as simple as one might think. At first site some people may say, are you nuts!? Other may immediately say, of course I want to work with my spouse, I love him/her so what’s the big deal?!
Well….as in marriage there will be a honeymoon period when working together, whether as colleagues or as co-owners of your own company. At first everything is new and exciting, and hopefully growing or moving in the right direction. But suddenly, it creeps up on you, different ideas to move forward or to handle a tough situation may find you on opposite sides. Suddenly you need to discuss a business issue, in a business way, i.e. a professional way (often with minimum or no emotion) with your spouse, without taking it personal. And after that discussion you go home and look at the same person you had a very tough discussion with earlier in the day, and must not feel peeved that he/she disagreed with you about a problem that had to be solved or a move in a direction affecting the future of your job or company. Not so easy (all the time)!
Throw in the dynamics of children and family and the possible scenario’s for a business discussion that escalates into a personal discussion that escalates into ……becomes infinite. It is not easy to look at your spouse and see a business person when you need to and to see your partner when you need to. The lines often cross during the day or in the evening when you are (quickly…yeah right!?) discussing an issue that came up at the office earlier that day.
So what situations can you get into that could sets off a disagreement that may escalate into a “spousal” argument rather than a very tough, yet necessary business problem solving sparring and how could you deal with the situation?
- Let’s get the big elephant out of the room first. If you work together and you make a flirty comment to or about the opposite sex (which is totally fine in some cultures but an absolute no-no in others) you are asking for a personal response rather than a business response. Best solution….simply stay away from this.
- Discuss together what your objective in life is. What activities and skills turn you on? Try to find an overlap and recognize what you are good at, and not, and what your spouse is good at, and not. Steer away from areas (if possible) you know will be creating conflict.
- Determine who will be Captain!! Most important decision before you start working together. Sharing the burden is a fallacy! Like in an airplane or on a ship, there has to be one who makes the final (good or bad) decisions.
- Determine what position each of you will have, or at least what type of position. Will it be line management, i.e. giving orders and outlining strategy and to do lists, or will it be a support function like accounting, internal sales or alike. Will one report to the other and are you and your spouse 100% OK with that? If you can’t take simple orders from your spouse and it gets you upset or drives you up the wall, don’t set yourself up for that, its a guaranteed recipe for disaster.
- The strategic direction of the company is a key factor for longevity of the company. If you have opposing views, this could lead into a daily feeling of unhappiness about the future, which could transition easily from business problem into personal problem and even depression. A suggested solution is to create an SBP aka Strategic Business Plan. Whether one or the other creates the original draft, make sure the final SBP is “negotiated” between the two of you and at least to a certain extent a “good” compromise. Don’t go for the compromise if you vehemently think the plan is no good. In that case try to convince with examples and scenarios why you think it is no good. But in the end one of you two may have to settle for “I agree to disagree”.
- Different opinions about product assortment, flavors or packaging design and colors could create a feeling of “you never listen to my ideas”. Here again it is important to “negotiate” a workable compromise if possible. But there will always be a moment of “don’t argue just do it!”. Where it is important that as per point 3 someone makes the final call.
- When I grew up it was an absolute no-no for my Mum and us children to call my Dad’s office during office hours unless it was lunch-time or it was extremely urgent. people could do their work and concentrate. Nowadays you get thousands of emails from a lot of people you don’t know and don’t want to know and in addition you may get emails or calls or texts from your children asking what they should eat for snack, what they should dress today and so on. Make sure there are some basic rules to keep the “non necessary non-business” distractions if not to a minimum then at least at bay.
- Look at what star-sign your spouse is, whether he/she is single child, eldest, middle or youngest child and what personality (Type A go getter personality or more a follower). Compare who and what you are with who and what your spouse is. Often opposites attract but it can get dicey when you need to make crucial decisions that could mean the future of your company. At that point you don’t want to make a decision to please your spouse if it could sink the company. But at the same time you want to do the right thing without jeopardizing your marriage. That’s why it would be good to know before you work together how you operate and how your spouse operates.
- Which brings me to my final thought (at least for now). Compare the MO (Modus Operandi) of your spouse and compare this to your MO. If you like to plan ahead and sit down to discuss an issue or a problem, but your spouse comes by every few minutes to interrupt your work-flow and train of thought to discuss an issue or problem, even if it is a little issue or could be solved later (i.e. not a high priority) you and your spouse will run into getting frustrated and subsequently this will trigger the “business face” versus the “personal face” discussions again. If you can settle for an MO to communicate and to solve issues and plan that you both can live with.
This list of thoughts and ideas is by no means complete and exhausted. Please feel free to leave a comment to add to the list of perils to avoid when working with ones spouse. If you do go ahead working with your spouse, good luck, it can be a very gratifying and exciting experience, provided you know what you want and how you want it as well as what your spouse wants and how she wants it. Yes…I’m hearing you think…yes….just like with sex! On that note time to finish and good luck!
- Know Your Spouse (herbertmtowo.wordpress.com)
- Corporate Job or Self-Employed? (40parklaneworld.com)
- 10 Ways To Wreck Your Marriage (lowercaseliving.wordpress.com)