I've heard so many stories of people saying they'd never have their husband or wife in their business, tales of how they don't even discuss business with their other half. And yet I have found over the years that both my husband and my daughter are a great asset to my business. I'm not just talking about the times when it's all hands on deck and I've needed them stuffing envelopes or collating documents ready for stapling together. Both of them have also been a great sounding board for me. It didn't start out that way, though. In the early days my husband used to really irritate me because all I wanted to do was to get something off my chest but he felt it necessary to tell me what I should have done. And with my daughter I used to feel like telling her that at 10 years old she didn't know anything about business!
When it comes to contributing, obviously our business can contribute financially, but we also contribute through our mood, our energy levels, what we have time to do with and for the family. I used to work so hard that even though I contributed more to the family financially than my husband did, I was always too tired to cook, clean or just sit and chatter, having a giggle. The result? My contribution to the family was not what any of us would have hoped for, with a dark cloud hanging over me most of the time.
You don't want that in your life, I know. And this is where involving your life partner in your business can actually work for you. Ask yourself this: when did you last hide something about your business from your family? Did you spend money on a course and conveniently not get around to telling your husband or wife? Have you invested in a website or some platform to support your business such as a customer relationship management system, but you've not got around to telling the other half about the investment because you know it's a lot of money?
But how can we make it work? It's all too easy for the conversations about our business with the other half to turn into arguments, disagreements, and territorial behaviour. I'd recommend these 3 steps to keep you sane, keep your relationship healthy, and keep your business yours.
- Always remember that's it's not personal, it's business and so you need to remove the emotion and stick to the facts. When you don't like something that your life partner says about your business or about your actions in your business, breathe, let go of the emotion (there it is again) and consider the merits of their perspective to your business.
- Identify what strengths you each have. In our family I'm very creative, great at coming up with ideas, as well as being pragmatic, and I'm analytical too. Now the analysis is where our skill sets overlap as my husband is also very analytical, whilst also having a much stronger financial head than me, and he always looks for the negative in things, the risks. Our daughter, who also looks for the risks, always offers alternative ideas and ways of thinking. As a result of us knowing our individual strengths it means that when we discuss my business we listen to each other's points of view and this leads to my business benefitting in the long run.
- Whenever you find yourself wanting to hide things about your business from your life partner take that as a warning sign for yourself. There is a reason why you are putting on the business invisibility cloak - and it's usually because you know you're making decisions that are either not helpful to your business, or not helpful to your family. That's the very time you need support. Which means it's the very time to get talking ... and listening.
It can work, and it's worth the efforts you will need to put in. Remember, this approach may take a few false starts, you may still have a few arguments to get to the point where you can get your life partner to take on their non-executive role, and that's ok - it doesn't mean it's time to give up, instead it means it's time to check in with why the conversations are not working. Which of you is struggling, and how might you approach the discussions differently so that you can turn this into a benefit for you and for your business. My own personal experience has been that it was worth the process of finding out how my husband could support me in my business - even though some of our arguments were not great (I will always remember the one where I suggested divorce over a difficulty with my printer! Hmmmm just as well he didn't listen to me!) What things help you to involve your life partner in your business? Leave a comment below.