Ep #20: How to Work with Your Spouse
If you are a female entrepreneur, and you are either working with, or want to work with, your spouse, there are some absolute fundamentals we need to address.
What you’ll find in this episode:
- A marriage operates very differently than a business.
- You need to have clearly defined roles in the business for each of you.
- Have a clear definition of who does what and who owns what and what decisions each of you make.
- Decide how you will communicate and have a scheduled, dedicated assigned time and a clear agenda; no after-hours discussions.
- Talk about how you’re going to disagree; decide what the process will be.
- Have clear values, a clear vision and a clear manifesto.
- Have a conversation about how you want to be as leaders and managers of this business.
Featured on the Show and Other Notes:
- Kris’ previous podcast “Create a Job Description”
- If you’d like to work with me in my group for female entrepreneurs, I’m doing 20-minute consults right now with women who have their own business who are generating a $1M or more in revenue and who want to work through specific challenges. This group launches soon and will consist of very small groups of successful entrepreneurial women meeting weekly for an hour for coaching. Come and ask questions about the challenges you’re facing as a female entrepreneur and I coach you through those to find solutions. It’s powerful to be with others like you and to know you’re not alone. Go here and set up a time to meet with me.
- If you like the podcast, please post a comment or review on Apple Podcasts.
- Reach out to me by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you haven’t joined my email subscribers list, you can do that here.
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Hey, everyone. I’m Kris Plachy, and this is How to Lead for Female Entrepreneurs and Founders because the best way to grow a business is to grow the person who’s running it. Let’s go ahead and get started.
Hello there. How are you? Welcome. Thank you so much for tuning in to How to Lead for Female Entrepreneurs. I’m Kris Plachy and I’m super excited to talk with you this afternoon or this morning or today or tonight, whenever it is that you’re listening. Today, I want to talk to you about being in business with your spouse, and specifically, I’m talking to you women who started your business and then you decided to bring your spouse or your partner or your boyfriend or your fiance into your business and your partner is now a business partner, or maybe they are an employee, right?
It’s interesting because I actually didn’t realize it, but I have about five of my current clients who are married to their business partner or their spouse works for them. Now, every single one of my clients, with limited exception, also is sort of the person who started the business, so they started their business and then they brought their partner into their business. And it’s interesting how these themes just kind of come up. I’ve always known that this is a thing and, I mean, it can be incredibly powerful to do business with your spouse. It also can be very challenging. Sometimes it seems like it’s more challenging. It comes in themes.
So I thought it might be handy to spend a little time talking about just some observations that I’ve made through working with different clients and talking with different people about being in a partnership or in a working relationship with your spouse when it’s your company, and some things you want to keep in mind and some absolute fundamentals that we have to address if we want to do the best we can to ensure that this partnership and that this relationship as business partners or boss and employee are functional and go well, okay?
So the first thing is, is that a marriage operates very differently than a business, and who we are in a marriage may not be who we need to be in our business. How we interact with each other in our business may not be how we should interact with each other in our marriage or business, right? We have behaviors in our marriage that are part of the relationship that we have with one another, which obviously is just an extension of who we are as individuals. But I think it’s fair to say that every marriage has its functional and dysfunctional elements to it, and when we come together to share space and effort and combine our skills to get work done, we have to remember that we are working together for the business. We are not married in that moment. We are now both ambassadors of or officers of this business.
Whatever the ways are that we communicate outside of the business, it’s very likely that there are some habits that we have that are not constructive to how we show up, especially if we are the founders, business partners, owners of a business and all of our employees are watching us and how we interact with each other. If we have these kind of weird interesting habits, which we all have as a married couple, there may be some of those that are not constructive in the business. So first of all, if that’s you and you’re already kind of noticing like, “Oh, we’re not communicating very well at work,” I don’t want you to think you’re alone. It’s very common.
The second thing I want to say to my clients, potential clients and women out there who have a business who maybe you haven’t brought your husband or spouse into your business, your job is not to provide your husband or business a job. Your job is not to provide your husband or boyfriend or partner a job. Your job is not to give them a place to be in your business. Your business is not a place where they can come if they haven’t been able to be successful somewhere else. Your business is not a soft space for them to land where you can just take care of them and they could make an income and they can feel good about themselves. I’ve watched this happen not just with spouses. I watch mothers do this with their children. I watch friends do this with their friends, women have businesses, they have a friend who’s on the rocks, and they give them a job.
Now, if you want to do that, that’s your business, and it really is your business, you could do whatever the hell you want, but that’s not your business’s job, is to give other people a place to land because they can’t make it work somewhere else. So let’s just not lie to ourselves. If we bring our partner into our company and they’re not very good at whatever they did before, let’s just be honest with ourselves that that’s likely going to show up in your business, and now you’re their boss, okay? And if there’s one thing I know about women who are female entrepreneurs is you don’t suffer fools easily, right? You have a lot of high expectations. So you’re sort of putting yourself on a little bit of a train here of a potential wreck if that’s the way that you thought this was going to go. So you just have to tell yourself the truth. And if you haven’t entered into the partnership yet, I really want you to think about it.
I also want for all of you who are either considering this or are already in it, if this is your business, be thoughtful about why you want to give part of your business to somebody. If it makes financial sense, I understand that, but we don’t have to give our business to people. We don’t have to give people 50% of our business and ask them to work in it. They don’t have to be a partner. They really could work for you or vice versa. There’s no right or wrong, but I just want you to really like your reason for why you would ever enter somebody into your business as a partner, whether it’s your spouse or your boyfriend or your sister’s mother’s brother from high school, okay? So how we act in a marriage is not necessarily how we act in a business or vice versa or how we should, all right?
Secondly, everybody needs to have a job. Everybody needs to have a role. So if you are both partners, equal partners, one of you should be… you either have to both be co-CEOs and you both have to have your own unique job description. One of you could be the CEO and the other COO. You could both be principals, you could both be founders. Whatever you choose for your titles is totally fine. It’s how well you’ve defined the role that matters. What is your role and what are the responsibilities with your role?
Now, I’ve done a job description podcast that I would refer you back to, and that’s also part of the first few weeks that we spend together in my group program that’s starting here in a couple of weeks. That’s something that we do. We get that really dialed, because I can promise you if your roles are not clear, you are, again, on that train of collision because at some point, there will not be clarity about who’s doing what, and the best time to get that dialed is when you’re not emotional about it. So we need to sit down as adults and look at, “This is your job, this is my job. Let’s write the job description,” okay?
Then we have to talk about how well or how we will communicate. You need to have a scheduled meeting. If this is your partner, you should absolutely be having a get-on-the-same-page meeting or a weekly meeting or an update meeting where you are doing your briefing and you’re reviewing the key metrics of your business, and that is the meeting where all of whoever are the high level leaders in the business are meeting, and then probably the two of you need to do that. That is not at eight o’clock at night when you’ve just got the kids to bed and you’re crawling into your bed. That is not when you have that meeting. It is a dedicated, assigned time with a clear agenda of what you will always address and talk about as partners.
If your spouse or partner works for you, then they need to have a one-on-one. If they report to you directly, they need to have that one-on-one with you. And again, it’s at work, during work hours. If they don’t report to you directly, they need to be having a one-on-one with their boss. Everybody in your company should, right? So you have to have clearly defined agendas for your meetings, clearly set time for that meeting, and that meeting is when you do that work, okay? So we need to have clearly defined roles, we need to have a clearly defined communication strategy of when you guys are meeting, we need to know who’s doing what, who owns what.
We need to talk about how we want to manage our business. So if you’re both partners, you’re both going to have leadership and management responsibilities. You have to have synergy between you on how you’re going to lead and manage. That’s why we level set in that vision exercise, the values exercise, the manifesto. We get really clear about the experience that we want our employees to have because we want to be clear as managers about what we want people to experience by working for us. So the two of you have to be dialed on that. You have to be clear about how you’re going to handle challenges with human capital, not just decisions related to your finances or your marketing or your customer service, but how are you going to address things that happen internally? What are both of your expectations?
I also want you to talk about how you’re going to plan to disagree because you’re going to. And again, the best time to figure out how you want to disagree with one another is when you’re not disagreeing, right? So we need to have a sit down and say, “Okay, we know that there’s going to come a moment, moving forward, when we’re going to disagree. How do we want to have that?” Because here’s what happens when we disagree as a married couple, you get quiet and you ask a lot of questions, right? And that doesn’t work, or vice versa, or we both yell or we both ignore each other for three days. What happens? That isn’t how we can operate a business.
So we have to make an agreement, first of all, that we’re going to disagree. We just have to tell each other the truth, “There will be things that happen in this business that we disagree about. How are we going to disagree? And my recommendation is we disagree between 8:00 and 6:00, and we have a strategy. We decide now what will the process be for disagreeing? Will it be that we sit down and we both write down what our concerns are and we talk about them? Will it be that we ask a coach to help us talk through them? Will it be that we each give each other five minutes to talk?” I mean, you could make it up. You can have it be whatever you want, but let’s agree now and promise ourselves that we know what’s going to happen.
When you start getting into the emotional co-dependence that happens because you’re married and you bring that into your business, it messes everything up because now you’re going to… This is typical, but I’m stereotyping, but typically speaking, as the woman in the relationship, you’re going to be taking responsibility for your husband’s feelings. That’s not your job. It’s his job to take responsibility for his feelings, it’s your responsibility to take responsibility for your feelings, right? As co-leaders of a business, we have to demonstrate leadership. We have to demonstrate lockstep. We have to have clarity about what we’re doing. We can’t be constantly disagreeing.
When two parents argue all the time, the children get stressed out. The same thing happens in a company, and the last thing you want is that the employees in the company know how you two deal with each other and they start to use that against you. They start to sort of say, “Oh, well, if you say that to so-and-so, then you know what’s going to happen over here.” Like they’re all involved in your relationship. You’ve got to decide if you’re going to go into a business together, you’ve got to be grownups in this business. You have to be adults, emotional adults, as well as financial adults, and time adults, and management adults, right? And we can’t bring the drama, if we have any, in our marriage into the relationship that we have at work. I know that sounds la, la, la, la, la, right? But I honestly think it could be an incredibly powerful tool for a marriage also, because if you can agree that this is how we want it to work in our business, imagine how that will help you communicate in your marriage.
I do think there have to be rules. Even my husband and I are not in business together and there are times where we’ll go out to dinner and one of us will say something about the kids or something, and the other one will say, “I don’t want to talk about the kids. Can we just not talk about that right now? Can we just not be parents for two hours while we have a little wine and some roasted Brussels spouts?” Or we’ll ask how was our day, or what happened with one of… My husband is a physical therapist, so I’ll ask him how his patients were, he’ll ask me how my clients were, and I might say, “You know what? It was a great day, it was a long day. I don’t really want to… Can we just talk about where we want to go on our next vacation?”
Sometimes we just have to have boundaries. Not just sometimes, we have to be able to say that to each other. So if we go out to dinner and we’re in business together and one of the partners wants to really talk about something that happened in the office today, we have to be able to respect it when the other one says, “You know what? I don’t want to rehash that right now. This is time for just you and me.” So the relationship in the marriage, I think has to come first because the business can run in different ways. The marriage needs you both, right? But I believe that the way that you protect the marriage is you get the business relationship really, really clean. Otherwise, it’s blurry, it’s uncomfortable. There’s going to be friction if you don’t plan for it ahead of time. It just gets worse, right?
So we need to make sure that we recognize that what happens in a marriage is different than what happens in a business. We need to recognize that you both need very clear jobs, roles, goals, responsibilities. Everybody should know what you’re responsible for, everybody should know what he’s responsible for. We need to make sure we know what you own, what decisions you make, and what decisions your spouse makes. We need to know that you are meeting consistently, that you have a set agenda, that that’s clear, and you honor that time. You don’t blow off your meeting with your spouse. That is a business meeting. That is not like if-I-can-get-to meeting. It matters. We don’t have after hours discussions. We don’t crawl into bed and say, “Hey, did you call that client back? I know he was really pissed off today,” because you’re getting into bed, right? Getting into bed is not the time to talk about business ever, but especially when you’re business partners.
We need to talk about how you’re going to disagree. We need to plan that you will not always agree. How are you going to disagree? What agreements can you make now about how you will disagree? You’ve got to have clear values, a clear vision, a clear manifesto because that anchors a lot of the work that you will do together. And lastly, we’ve got to have a conversation about what we want, how we want to be as leaders and managers of this business, what do we want to say about leadership and managing, and the culture, and the vibe, and employee experience. You two have to be lockstep on that.
So I appreciate that some people are in business with their spouse or partner and it’s never a thing, and that’s great. I think we could all learn something from those people. I do find that most of my clients, there’s always a thing, and it doesn’t mean that there’s anything broken and there’s anything wrong with either one of you. It just means that typically speaking, if there is friction in a relationship with your spouse or partner at work and you are in business together, it’s because you are not clearly communicating, you haven’t set clear expectations, there are not clearly defined roles and responsibilities. I could usually tell you it’s one of those three or all three of those. So if that’s you, just take a minute and think about what you could do a little differently to spearhead this so that it’s more neutral and more clear that everybody has a voice and there’s some better boundaries around the relationship as well as the partnership.
As I’ve mentioned on my previous couple of podcasts, I am currently meeting with women like you who would like to go deeper into the work that I do on this podcast and be a part of the group for female entrepreneurs. We meet weekly for coaching. This isn’t a mastermind. This isn’t a “how to make more money” group. This isn’t a group where you come and you report back on your goals. This is a group where you come and you ask questions about the challenges that you’re facing being a female entrepreneur, and I coach you through those to find solutions. It’s incredibly powerful to, first of all, be with other women like you, and second of all, to know that you’re not alone and that there is a place you can go to get the answers that you’re looking for, to get the support that you need, and to move forward.
Most of the women that I meet with before they start working with me have really been spinning on some of the same concerns and challenges, in some cases, for years, right? Things like, “I don’t know how to manage people. I’m not any good at this. This is too hard. This is too overwhelming. I don’t see a way out. I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to hire people. I don’t know how to fire people,” and you just do and spin on that. And I promise you that if you’re finding the value in this podcast, imagine if you and I could actually talk about it and apply it to you. That’s what we do in the live coaching group.
Again, we meet weekly for an hour. You have the opportunity to work with a very small, intimate group of other seven figure earning business owner, females, female entrepreneurs, and I also would like to say that we have a good time. We do laugh a lot.
So if you would like to be one of the women that works with me in my next group, just go to krisplachy.com/appointment and schedule a 20-minute consultation with me. We’ll talk about you and your business, and we’ll talk about me and what I do with women like you and see if there’s a fit, and we’ll go from there. Thanks for tuning in today.
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