February 24, 2021 7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
I’ve written in the past about the decision my husband and I made to join forces and work together years ago. As best friends and life partners, we initially made the decision because my husband had spent far too many years selling his soul and time over to corporate America. We wanted a lifestyle where we could end our work days together and head over to school to pick our kids up for the day. One of the reasons “family” is a core value of my business is that my husband and I take a lot of pride in working together and creating a thriving business together. But more importantly, we understand that the family we’ve built together is a priority we must cherish and take seriously.
For any women entrepreneurs reading this right now who are considering bringing their husband into their business, let me just tell you: The time is now. Although 2020 was a tough year for women entrepreneurs, I do have a lot of optimism heading into 2021. With my coaching business this year I’ve seen an increase in the number of women who want to grow their businesses, not just to increase revenue, but to achieve lifestyle freedom with their spouse.
Of the hundreds of women I’ve mentored over the years, I find one of the questions I’m continually asked is: “How do you work with your husband without wanting to kill one another?!” The funny part about that question is a decent percentage of the time, the woman business owner I’m speaking to will then follow the question up with, “My husband and I have thought about working together for a long time but have never taken the plunge.” I understand the hesitation, but I can tell you the benefits far outweigh any fears you may have.
I personally would love to see this trend grow, because I truly only have positive things to share when it comes to working with my husband.
And no, that is not to say the decision to add my husband to my payroll didn’t come with a few speed bumps and learning lessons those first couple years. Like anything worth it in life, it took some adjustment. But we did it. If there are four big takeaways I can share with you, these would have to be them.
Verbalize whether you are speaking to your spouse as a colleague or as a wife
This sounds so simple, but it is by far the most important. Just think about it. You’re going to be spending a lot of additional time together, including most likely traveling to and from work together. Although this exercise may sound silly, it really does help set a clear divide between your relationship as husband and wife, and your relationship as business partners. Because the two relationships are very different and should be treated as such.
There are times where I need my husband to listen to me talk about my work, not as my colleague but as my husband. In times like this, I’ll simply say, “I’d like to ask you something as my husband.” As soon as those words come out of my mouth, John knows that in that moment our business isn’t the focus — I need his perspective without any concern for business growth or the marketing plan. This is a rule we often make on date nights or anniversary trips too. You must actively decide the times as a couple when business is completely off the conversation table.
Designate a neutral spot for difficult conversations
When we are at work together, John and I are cognizant of the fact that we work in an open office setting with our employees sitting just feet away from us. At home, we have our two children with us. At first we weren’t really sure what to do. If we couldn’t have private, important conversations about work at work, or at home, then where were we going to have them?
My advice: Find a neutral location for these private business discussions that works the best for you. For John and myself, it’s the car. Since we drive to and from work together in the same car, it’s the best time to catch up just the two of us and map out a game plan for whatever is being discussed. All one of us has to say is, “We can discuss it in the car,” and we know it will be brought up and resolved. Find what works for you and just roll with it.
Respect each other’s work cycles and work speeds
Just as you do with your other employees, you have to respect the fact that your husband might work differently than you! I for instance often work at a very fast pace and I could probably talk about work nonstop if I really wanted to. My husband is totally different. He works at a slower, very thorough pace, and he also needs to shut his work brain off when we get home for the day.
It took a bit of trial and error, but this is the best technique I have on tap from over the years. If we’re at home and fully entrenched in home time, but a work idea is pinging around in my brain, I’ll simply say this: “Are you in a head space where I can ask you a work question?” If John says “no” I drop it immediately and file it away to ask him at work the next day. Here’s the thing: We cannot pretend that work and life don’t flow together. It’s impossible to leave all of work at work and all of home at home. But, everyone, including your spouse, deserves the time they need to decompress, engage in self-care and be with their family. Make sure you have clear communication set up so you don’t trample over each other’s boundaries.
Ignore the extra “noise”
What I mean by this is pretty simple. There are always going to be people who make snarky comments, or try to put your husband down for “working for his wife.” Surprisingly, even in 2021 John is still on the receiving end of these comments. I’d lie if I’d say it has never gotten under our skin. We are human! But at the end of every day we get to say we spent the day working together and building a business with one another. It’s hard to beat that.
One of my favorite quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt: “Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”
A very happy Women’s History Month to all the women entrepreneurs, and of course, their amazing life partners who help make it possible.