If you believe Siri, there are over 1.2 Million husband and wife business-teams in the US. Maybe you are one of them?
Having a trusted partner is invaluable. Keeping management in the family makes life easier, especially if your skill sets are complimentary.
The advantages are obvious: shared commitment, aligned interests, mutual trust, and common goals. Together you have a significant vested interest in the operation of the business; this is your living and often, the business defines your lifestyle.
Spouses protects each other. They counter balance each other’s strengths. One couple described his relationship this way: “I’m the balloon, she is the string”. He was the visionary; she kept the business grounded. A perfect situation.
What happens when differences occur?
Theoretically, a partnership means each has equal say in the direction of the business and share critical decisions. Most of the time, differences are minor and a decision either way doesn’t really matter. Yet, a series of little or not so little frustrations can build to an emotional overreaction.
What if a new idea sounds great to one spouse and places undue burden on the other? What if one wants to expand and the other thinks that is too risky? What happens when there is a deadlock? Who can break the impasse so we can move on?
The answer for my clients is: “Let’s call Len.” Because I understand their business, and lack the high emotional investment, it’s easier for me to see the underlying issues. I start by asking questions to get to the root issue. Once I understand both Mom and Pop’s positions, concerns, and worries, it’s usually easy to work out an approach.
The answer for my clients is: “Let’s call Len.”
As long as each party got their day in court and have been given a full hearing, a decision is better than no resolution. We all know in a marriage, you’re gonna win a few, and you’re going to lose many more.
Not all my compromises are perfect. Good enough, is often enough, to diffuse the negative energy so we can all move on.
During one very heated discussion, I asked “Pop” if we could take “walk out in the parking lot” to share my thoughts. I knew he wouldn’t like my next recommendation. In carefully chosen words, I suggested, he needed to lose this one for the good of the business. While I agree to much of what he was saying, she really needed to “win” this one. Offering that unpopular suggestion in private worked. I earned his trust and life went on. Decades later, that family business is highly successful and now being run by the third generation.
I never underestimate the power of emotion. There is a lot riding on making sure the business thrives. Emotion fogs up many business discussions. A working couple never fully escapes the occasional disagreement.
Sometimes you just need Judge Judy to settle an issue so everyone can move on. I keep my judicial robe in the truck of my car just in case. 😉