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Edition 149 – Significant Other

One of the most fascinating observations I make in my work with family businesses is the dynamic that is at play between husbands and wives inside those businesses.

I’m reflecting on this today as yesterday was my own wife, Trish’s birthday and it gave me pause for thought about the dynamic that we engage in together in our own family business.

In Edition 88 of Growth (Identity Crisis – Wednesday 27th September, 2018), I talked about the differing roles that Technical Spouses play and Support Spouses play in Family Business. In our business, my wife is the Support Spouse, a role that is crucial to the success to our own business.

From my own experience, and the observations of other partners working together in family business, here’s why I embrace the whole concept of husbands and wives working together:

  1. Often the Support Spouse sees things the Technical Spouse doesn’t – because technicians are bogged down in the minutiae of their work and the Support Spouse spots the obvious.
  2. No one will ever have your back inside your Family Business like your spouse. No one!
  3. You chose that special person because you wanted to spend the rest of your life together. Why does that have to only be after hours, on weekends and asleep?
  4. Spouses working together often act as great sounding boards – whether it’s a new idea, or a moment of doubt that needs supportive intervention.
  5. There’s often a communication style at play that would work with no one else, nowhere else. Sometimes “the look” can be helpful, or a timely warning, or both.
  6. There are times where it requires a big effort to clear up a major project before the deadline passes. I’m yet to see a spouse pass up on the opportunity to help their partner out to make sure “we” got it over the line.
  7. Having your partner in the business, performing the Support Spouse role, can allow the Technical Spouse to get on with their work without being waylaid by the day to day tedium of administration, HR or plain and simple “stuff”.
  8. When you have a good win, you can celebrate it together, immediately, with someone who is genuinely proud of your efforts.
  9. If you’re a strong personality, there are times where you need the peacekeeping efforts of your spouse to help your team see through the noise and the pressure and keep aiming for the future.

Now, whilst all those are positives, it’s not all beer and skittles either. Whilst we’d worked together in our former business for a number of years, we’d never worked with each other. For those of you wondering, the difference between the two is that working together meant we were in the same office each day, but not working with each other on the same things.

In working together, we’ve had to each learn:

  1. Patience.
  2. The ability to listen to each other.
  3. The necessity to create boundaries between our home life and our business life.
  4. An understanding that you can’t work side by side all day, every day – and need to have your own space.
  5. A special type of language.
  6. Courtesy.
  7. The ability to thank each other, sometimes for the very little things.

It took a little while, but we’ve got it sorted now. Just like plenty of other successful husbands and wives in family business have done – and thrived in their journey in family business and in life, together.

This Week’s Tip

A simple thank you goes a long way to strengthening the bonds spouses have inside a family business.