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Edition 107 – Be My Valentine

In a great many of the family businesses that I know and have worked with, there are multiple family members working in the business. Most prevalent is the numbers of spouses that work with each other.

Over my 30 years of working with family business, I have observed a significant link between the health of the business and the health of the relationship between the spouses. When spouses work well together, respect each other’s opinions and (don’t laugh) actually like each other, it leads to a harmonious business environment that breeds financial and personal success. On the other hand, when spouses don’t get on, it can be a recipe for disaster in all aspects of the relationship and the business can end up being ignored at best, collateral damage at worst.

If you were to ask me why some spousal relationships work inside of family business and why others don’t, here’s my observations:

  1. In periods of self doubt, support, encouragement and generally being a sounding board are critical to navigating through the rough patches.
  2. Spouses that trust each other implicitly know that decisions are made for the betterment of the family, not the individual.
  3. Disagreements over opinion or direction can be held robustly and respectfully.
  4. If one spouse has a very firm opinion on an issue and won’t budge, it will make the other spouse ask “why” rather than assume it is for personal advantage.
  5. The impact of the unspoken word or gesture can be critical in conveying an opinion that says “stop and think”.
  6. If things get heated, there is less chance it will be taken personally.
  7. There is no self editing. If you think your spouse has been wrong in a situation inside of the family business, you can tell them so dispassionately. Often, the complete lack of political correctness in those situations can nut out the issue and seek a better resolution.
  8. An open and ongoing discussion of shared goals and ideals is critical to success.
  9. If one partner has a hair brain idea, they can often be dealt with quickly and firmly – and not let to take on a life of their own.
  10. Often, the non technical spouse in the relationship (refer to Edition 88 – Identity Crisis) can see things the technical spouse is completely blinkered by.

Working with your spouse inside of a family business can be both challenging and rewarding. It is a fascinating dynamic and one that you must continually work at, and continue to respect. Whilst my wife, Trish, and I worked together for a number of years in our former business, we didn’t work directly with each other, day to day. Now that we are with each other every day, I have learned a lot about our relationship, what I took for granted and, on more than one occasion, how I should speak with her. It has been a wonderful experience.

So, on Valentine’s Day, let’s raise a toast to spouses working together in family business and to their ongoing personal, financial and business success.

This Week’s Tip

“Valentine’s Day happens once a year.  However, you’d be amazed at how a simple thank you to your spouse in family business can do a lot to creating a harmonious home and business environment.”