Do You Work With Your Spouse?

Posted by on May 31, 2012 in Blog | 3 comments

Do you work with your spouse or for a family owned company?  How has it impacted your business and your personal life?

Some of my clients work very well with their “significant’ other and their lives are enriched because of working together to reach a common goal.  For other families and businesses, it’s just a nightmare.  I have friends that work for family-owned companies and some feel like they are a part of the family – – and they love it.  Others cringe at the inevitable and very public family squabbles.

Here’s a link to a recent article a came across on this subject.

The article is good, per se.  It certainly lays out all of the pro’s and con’s (even a few I never thought of) but it leaves out the emotion and complication of working with family.

Here’s what I’ve heard other people say…

“I could never work with my spouse I because I need my own identity.”

“I could never work with my spouse because then I feel like work would never end.”

“I could never work with my spouse because I have to be the boss and (he/she) won’t listen to me.”

“I could never work with my spouse because I don’t want to sleep with a co-worker.” (yes, someone once said that to me)

“I could never work with my spouse because I’m afraid that they’d grow tired of seeing me all of the time.”

I was blown away by the raw emotion in the statements above.  It seems to me that for most people there is a real element of fear surrounding working for the family business or employing a family member.  I have found (and this is no way scientific) that women in particular are afraid of working with their husbands because of loss of control or identity in the workplace.

What is your take on the subject?  Do you work with a family member our your significant other?  Would you consider it if you don’t?  Do you shy away from working for family run companies or do you thrive in them?



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  1. I did work with my husband for the first 7 years of our 12 year relationship. If this is something you are contemplating, I’d like to suggest a couple things for you to consider beforehand:

    1. How solid is your relationship? If your relationship is tried & truly solid, odds are good you with survive the hard times & come out the other end of the venture (be it successful or not) – still together.

    2. Do you both share the same business goals & dreams? If you do not share the same business goals, can you still support the venture? Is there something you have always dreamt of doing instead? Can you work toward that as a secondary goal in your free time? If you are giving up your personal life goal/dream to support your spouse, chances are, as the years go by you may become resentful that you gave up your dream to support theirs. Be true to yourself, even part-time to prevent this from happening.

    3. How well do you really know each other? Odds are, you will see a side or two that you never knew your spouse had! With a little luck this won’t be a bad thing, but if it is, there is a possibility the relationship will not survive.

    4. Personality types. Is either of you a control freak, bossy or short-tempered? Or passive, subservient, timid? Can one be the boss & one take orders? Can you both sit down with equal authority, discuss issues & make the best decision for the business as well as your personal goals? Can you both check your egos at the door & work together for a common goal?

    5. Do you share the same financial goals? Are one of you a saver and one a spender? Can you find a middle ground where you both (individually & jointly) get what you want out of the business financially? I have found that a woman’s sense of security is often tied directly to having a financial base to fall back on. Will you get a percentage of profit to manage as you see fit? Or will it go into a joint fund you both can access at will? If your husband “doesn’t believe” in life insurance, for instance, how will finances be structured to assure the survivor won’t be left unemployed & homeless if he dies?

    6. Can you separate business time from free time, or is one a 24/7 workaholic & one a free spirit? Work this out ahead of time, so you don’t get overworked or let each other down.

    7. Do either of you quit when the going gets tough? Or, if the business dwindles to a one-person operation, will your spouse resent you leaving it to bring income in from another source? Will they then feel all the money the business earns is theirs, and no longer jointly held?

    These considerations can not only make or break your business, but also your marriage! Looking at them beforehand can help you make an informed decision & have a plan that truly works for both of you, regardless of the business – or relationship – outcome.

    • Great insight Debi, I know we will all benefit from really studying your comments.

  2. I often “employ” my husband when I need an assistant for portrait sessions, so this post and Debi’s wonderful comments are certainly helpful. The more we work together, the easier it seems to get. He is becoming more familiar with the “photographer” me and what I am looking for, and I am learning how to communicate more efficiently what I am trying to accomplish with his help. People often comment on how well we work together, which is always great to hear because I pride myself in providing a positive experience for my clients! Thanks again for the tips, ladies!

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