Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spouse AND Business Partner

photo: Erica Marshall

This is going to be a series, I can tell.

Over these many years, I have worked with quite a few couples in business together. It's always been interesting, sometimes it's been great and on a few occasions it's been impossible. First, lets talk about how couples end up in business together:
  • The have a complimentary skill set
  • One person starts the business and the other finds themselves "helping out" all the time
  • There are two distinct parts to the business and each takes on a piece
  • An employee leaves and a spouse ends up taking on that role, unplanned
What makes it especially interesting to work together is:
  • You don't get the same amount of "alone" time
  • You have to decide how to appear to others: The Madison's vs Dick Madison and Ann Madison
  • You need to think about how you communicate in front of others
If we were to just take these three points they would probably feed into all the other possible issues and concerns that people have when they're in business together. Let's just start with the first point:

You don't get the same amount of "alone" time

I know many couples who love the idea of always being together and working towards a common goal. In a way, that's something that I, myself have grown up with. It makes sense to me in many ways. It really solidifies a relationship. But, if it's the only life you have, and you tend to not have many friends and interests as an individual, this can be problematic.

Men in fact have many more complaints about not having a life on their own in this situation. From my experience, they men have a harder time making friends outside of their professional life. It's not completely down gender lines. I think that when two people find themselves in business together, you can pretty much count on the fact that one is much more social than the other. That's the "normal" polarizing that happens in any intimate relationship. If you are the one who has more of a social life outside of the business and relationship, you may get a lot of resentment from your partner who does not. Instead of getting caught up in that, try and support then in having their own outlets, of their choice.

Without time alone for each partner, whatever personal conflicts you have will have no place to be worked out. We all need other people to talk to about what's going on. That's what a best friend is for!


  1. This is completely true in my situation!! My husband has very few friends, whereas I'm very outgoing. He's actually benefiting from working with me in that he's able to meet more of my friends and have a more social life than when he worked for someone else. He doesn't often get along with coworkers.

    I'm still encouraging him to seek friendships outside of my circle (mostly small biz folks, and mostly women), but it's hard for him to do. When he gets out on his own, it makes us both happier (and saner!) though. :)

  2. Very timely! I read this when you first posted it, which happened to also be the day Nik and I launched First Bytes.

    I look forward to your further wisdom on the subject. :D


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