The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Working with Your Spouse
Our first encounter was at was at a training event. In truth a non-event would have been a better description.
Our second encounter was in an elevator. And my unplanned elevator pitch “Do you work here?” was to become my one liner, because by the time we were outside the building I had discovered this goddess standing in front of me had recently returned from overseas, was also a financial planner, just moved to Kirribilli and like me also loved to travel.
Jump forward 3 months on a semi daily basis we were working together i.e. I was a junior adviser and she a senior advisor. Meaning in the hierarchy of banking, I was to refer larger investing customers to a more senior staff
Twelve months later we were married and jumping forward another ten years I'm now running my own financial planning business and in need of a qualified, committed employee whom I could whole heartedly trust, Who could fill such a position and expectations? I know.... my wife.
Many of you would advise me against my decision, along with giving me many valid reasons. Others would congratulate both my wife and I, while in the same breath ask us “how on earth we do it?” Our answer always the same “You just do!”
If you have your own business you're already well aware of the many risks and benefits of working with your spouse.
With this in mind and with the clarity of hindsight (approaching twenty years of marriage and eight years working together) the following is my Good, Bad and Ugly list of what us brave souls who work with their spouses will most probably experience.
The good news is…..
- You’re in this together. Meaning that together you will live and breathe your goals, your hopes, struggles and success together, in both life and business. Just as in marriage you are in business together. For richer, poorer, in sickness and in health, you are not alone, your spouse will be right there beside you. For anyone in business just knowing you have this level of support is often what gets you through the dark times.
It’s interesting to note that successful business also have exactly the same ingredients and characteristics as successful marriages. They have trust, appreciation, acknowledgement, pleasant surprises and the sacrificing of ones ego for the benefit of the other. Implement these ingredients in business and so too will your relationships by their very nature be enhanced along with experiencing something more enriching than just tasting success on its own.
- Your business is transparent. The truth is results always require action. “An inch of action always goes further than a mile of good intentions”. The good news is working with your spouse will be held accountable to your actions, in business and at home 24/7 and 365 days a year. You each have a very good idea of what each other is doing, or not doing.and by knowing so you will be more motivated to do the work required i.e. action!
Strengths, weaknesses, outstanding and completed tasks quickly become apparent and allow each spouse to contribute to the solution and again by doing so, deliver a better outcome for all. As we both like to say “so nothing falls through the cracks”. It is this doing, reviewing, doing again and holding each other accountable along the way that we have come to have greater confidence to achieve both our businesses and personal goals, on time, on budget while staying on track.
The bad news is……
- You’re in this together. Having your own business is not for the faint hearted. Your very livelihood often depends on the success and cash flow of your business and income when you have your own business can be lumpy. And if you’re in an unhappy marriage you’re and in business together it’s going to be very difficult to escape your spouse. and live in a world like that in the line of the famous Eagle’s song, Hotel California “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”.
Most people think business owners have more freedom. The reality is, your heart, your hopes, worries and fears are taken with you everywhere you go, 24/7. This is unlike being en employee who is paid to work 9-5 and gets weekends, public holidays, sick leave and annual holidays. Working with your spouse remember they too are experiencing the same fears and worries as you are. So the risk is you and your spouse never get the opportunity to turn off. Investing your time, energy and emotions into your business with your spouse heightens the risks of social alienation, burnout and placing importance on the wrong priorities.
- Your business is transparent. Simply put you can’t hide. If income is not coming in, your spouse will know about it. The same goes with increasing outgoing expenses. The same goes with doing the work or not and the ability to do designated roles competently. In business both spouses have a personal and financial vested interest in the business success, as such it become very quickly apparent who is dragging the chain and or who’s pulling it for the others discomfort.
Just like any other office staff frustration, niggling, arguments and ultimatums i.e. ego’s can rear their ugly head in day to day business. Unfortunately when you're in business with your spouse these frustrations often carry over into home life. The risk is if these events become too much of a regular occurrence, even if with the best of intention; this can undermine the confidence and competence of the spouse being blamed and indirectly fuel resentment, hindering the bigger goal of both a happy marriage and business success.
The ugly news is…..
- You’re in this together. If out of frustration or resentment our intention becomes to hurt or hinder each other, we more often end up hurting ourselves. When we refuse to forgive, it’s us who ends up carrying the burden of resentment not the one we resent. When criticize others we are feeding our own insecurities instead of overcoming them. Right now the risk of divorce in Australia is one in three. On average 70% of small businesses fail in their tenth year of business. 20% of business fail in year one, 30% fail in year two, fifty percent fail after five years in business. So even a long term business has only a 30% success probability or less than one in three. That’s a lot of risk for a marriage to be exposed to and involves both spouses, their finances, hopes, dreams, sacrifices and more.
- Your business is transparent. Being in businesses with your spouse means that your relationship is always on show, to staff, clients and suppliers. Add to this and whether we like it or not, others are constantly judge us by what we say and how we act. If in front of others we undermine, demean, micro manage and in short belittle our spouses, this reflects poorly on our own character. I know of no one who wants to be associated with others who hold themselves higher than others, or believe they are entitled to do so..
I wouldn’t be running my own business if I wasn’t an optimist… In fact I would say being an optimist is essential, especially in the profession of financial advice.
So if after reading my Good, Bad & Ugly list, you too like me still see the glass half full working with your spouse. I offer you these additional self learnt tips to keep you and your spouse from killing each other (that’s a joke) on your journey to business success and living your ideal life….. Till death do you part.
- Check your ego in at the door. That goes for when you turn up to work and every time you return home.
- Listen more. We have two ears and one mouth. Use them in this order.
- Find a personal passion outside of work and your relationship. We each give ourselves a day off each week while the other is in the office.
- Have a financial goal you are both working towards and celebrate (in a small way) your important milestones along your way to achieving your bigger goals.
- Have a F#ckit bucket! This is a small cash amount each week $50 we allow ourselves to spend each spend without accountability, this doesn’t blow our budget and allows us to treat ourselves without judgement.
- Take your work and relationship seriously, but not yourself. Enough said.
- Let each other contribute and play their strengths in the relationship and business. Support them in pursuing their strengths too. At home I vacuum and iron, wife mops and clean the bathrooms. The result a spotless house and chores done in half the time.
- Invest in each other, hold each other accountable and do it with regularity. This means your physical health, new experiences, emotional support and small welcoming surprises.
- Business and working with your spouse can get very boring very quickly if you let it Mix up your daily/weekly routine. Try a new restaurant, go for a new walk or picnic at a different location. Explore and discover more.
- Get your priorities right. Success is a marathon not a sprint. Money is not the priority, financial security is the result of making a priority the things that add value to you, others while making the world a better place.
If you are stuck in a funk or you’re lost in a cloud of complexity feel free to contact me. Most often in life we just need someone to talk things through and to lighten our load a little. The following articles may also be of help
This post was written by Peter Horsfield, as such they are his personal views. Peter helps you to focus on what’s most important, the right strategies at the right time. To learn more about How to become Financially Independent visit Peter Horsfield Smart Advice
General Advice Disclosure
Sources of this information are considered to be reliable but are not guaranteed. Information published in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and not as specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in this document is General Advice and does not take into account any person's particular investment objectives, financial situation and particular needs.
Peter Horsfield in an Authorised Representative and Investsure Holdings Pty Ltd ABN 16 050 286 630 as trustee for Horsfield Family Trust ABN 55 609 068 513 is a Corporate Authorised Representative of Infocus Securities Australia Pty Ltd ABN 47 097 797 049 AFSL and Australian Credit Licence No. 236523