“What are your best tips for better working with my business partner who is also my husband, especially when we don’t see eye to eye?”
My client co-owns a business with her husband in which they both work. She feels the division of labour is unfair and resentment builds up and then explodes. Her partner doesn’t like his list of jobs increasing. He doesn’t really see the problem and is reluctant to talk about it.
She feels misunderstood especially in the amount of her own workload and commitment to the business. The burden falls on her for dealing with people, computer work, admin and accounts which she’s tried to get his help with but it wasn’t being done accurately and then it took her longer. Often she had to wait on him before she could do her part which just made it easier to do it all herself. The time she spends doing “invisible” work is not appreciated and not given the same kudos as his work that can more easily be seen.
“What’s the best way to keep patient when negotiating especially when tired, and when things don’t look like they are going to change? And how do you negotiate when you feel on the back foot, when your partner doesn’t really understand or seem interested in the work you’re doing?”
Hmm. A couple of thoughts. Firstly, my client and I know each other quite well and we share a lot of personality traits, nearly-OCD and a liking for both control and things being done properly, i.e. our way LOL. I have talked to her about the possibility of outsourcing bits of her workload and getting some local help with the hard-labour physical bits of it so that she has more time for the office and admin and marketing and accounting type of task, but this isn’t easily possible due to the employment rules and regs in the country where she lives and also to her relative geographical remoteness.
But I noticed for the first time when I was reading this that there are some things which could perhaps be outsourced from the office work and done remotely by a VA. Which means her other half has a choice, to do them himself or have the business pay for them to be done so that my client has an easier life.
In a two-person business, usually the workload cannot be identical, but as far as possible I think you must try and organise it so that the workload is of equal value to the business and to your relationship.
The strength of any partnership is your chalkiness and cheesiness, your yin and yang. There would be no point in both of you being identical or capable in the same ways. The ship is just top heavy then. You have to find ways to play to your respective strengths, get your workload to feel equal or equal-ish and then outsource everything else as far as possible.
The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber has a good system for this, where two brothers write down what roles they will each play in their business and include things in that list that they are prepared to do for now but not forever. And they sign off on that pledge until such time as the business can find other ways to get that done. I’d definitely be re-reading the book and trying to get that organised in your business.
Next, I’d be trying to sort out a means of clear and clean and frequent communications. By this I mean don’t let anything build up and fester. Ever. It is so much worse then and leads – as you say – to explosions. I don’t want you to be so tired either so, for me, that has to be a priority, getting more and better quality rest. You’ve been at this business long enough now to find ways to do that for sure. Start-ups are different, though they don’t need to be either, frankly. But they are.
Clear and clean communications are so much easier when you learn how to communicate well, how to speak openly about how you feel without blaming or pointing the finger. Another human being doesn’t make you feel anything, you decide how you feel about their behaviour and what they say. Learn how to ask for your own needs to be met, or his proposals for firstly seeing it as important because you do even though he doesn’t agree, that’s just respect by the way, and then helping the two of you to find a solution for the business which will also, by the way, benefit your relationship. Perhaps that’s the carrot? Who wants a wife who is tired all the time??
I think different personality types have to be recognised and appreciated. You have come into each other’s lives for a reason, learn whatever those messages are. You could learn to relax more often and more easily, he could learn to be more efficient now and again. And people who love one another try to get this right for the sake of that love, though none of us roundies can or should ever try to squeeze ourselves into a square box just to appease when negotiation is still on the table.
- Appreciate what you do have.
- Count your blessings.
- Love and accept yourself and each other exactly as you are.
Love and boundaries and confusion arising therefrom are hard enough in a relationship, let alone in a business. I used to know lots of life partners who worked together in business. I find I only know one or two now and that would be worth exploring, wouldn’t it? Who do we know who’s in business successfully with their other half and what tricks have they learned that we can borrow?
But I have always known business partners – two male friends, two female friends or one of each – whose common interests brought them together. And the dramatic tension of their differences made their businesses great. For a while. Then the human beings that they were couldn’t hack it anymore. And their different personality types or values tore them asunder. I’m am not being overly dramatic here for the sake of the tale. As their accountant, I saw and was involved in some very very painful partnership splits, and in some of those splits the dramatis personae never recovered their original friendships before it became too late, and that’s a terrible price to pay.
Sometimes the very thing that draws us together, attracting opposites, which is so good for all types of relationships, all too soon drives us bonkers and apart in the end. Try to appreciate his cheesiness to your chalkiness and vice versa. Try to organise it so that matters are fair and of equal value as far as possible. Set up a formal system for airing grievances and addressing them together as business partners, Mr & Mrs CEO of Your Biz PLC, and not as husband and wife. Don’t take business “home”, even if you live there, so that’s another boundaries opportunity.
You will get good at this in time. I think you are comparing his output to yours and finding him wanting and clearly, from your description, that’s the truth as well as your opinion. Address the truth, the business problem, a.s.a.p. and don’t punish him for being different from you. Vive la difference! You are a grafter. He isn’t. Your style isn’t better than his, it’s different, that’s all. Yes, I can quite imagine why it gets on your wick, but would you want to change the man you fell in love with?
I’ve seen couples split up over less. I don’t see this happening to you; your personal lives are too great together, which means happily that this is purely and simply a business problem, so treat it as such and deal with it only during office hours. If you keep looking for solutions to the problems the business has, you will find them. If you keep trying to change your husband to be more like you wish perhaps that he was, more like you, that’s not a path I’d recommend or follow myself. If men were more like us, we wouldn’t love them or fancy them. End of. That’s a path fraught with the very worst type of dangers. Don’t go that route unless you are absolutely sure you have no alternative. I can see many, many choices for you, many sledgehammers to crack this nut when all you two need is a few little taps. Speaking of tapping, have you tried EFT on these feelings? That would help enormously. Once the feelings are out of the equation, I sense that the business solutions will simply present themselves.
Good luck! I know you can do this.
PS Since writing this about a month ago, my client has let me know that magic and miracles have opened up in this scenario with her husband expressing a willingness to do something that neither of us ever thought we’d see. Which just goes to show that any of us can change anything whenever we want.
The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, subtitled Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What To Do About It is required reading if you have the sort of business which would benefit from systems. Even if you don’t, or don’t think you have, do read it anyway. Even though it is a tad out-dated, it speaks to how we got ourselves into such a mess in the first place. I shall make no apologies in recommending this book more than once or reminding you to re-read it when you have forgotten its lessons. It is an easy read, the story of Sarah and her pie shop. I wish I had read it BEFORE I sold my accountancy business, not after! And, if you like it, there’s a version of the E-Myth for everyone these days: Managers, Accountants, Contractors, Dentists, Physicians, Attorneys, Architects, Optometrists. You name it, MG has adapted his book to fit your profession. Ka-ching!