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HUSBAND-WIFE WORK PARTNERSHIP: WHO’S THE BOSS?

April 1st, 2012 | Posted by josantamaria in Articles

I hesitated to ask your advice about my problem because it is partly personal.  My husband and I have put up a financial investment consulting service two years ago after we retired from our respective corporate jobs in senior management positions.

We’re both in our late 50s and have two children who are both employed.  We had looked forward to fulfilling our dream and ambition to have our own business in the area of our expertise and enjoy freedom and autonomy from having to report to demanding bosses.  However, we find ourselves clashing on issues ever so often that I am tempted to leave him to our business and go back to corporate life as a consultant.  We both have strong personalities.  Sometimes we have shouting matches in the office and we end up not speaking to each other on our way home and at home.  Our children sense this growing tension in our relationship.  Instead of drawing us closer together, our business relationship is pulling us apart.  Frankly speaking, my last position was higher than that of my husband but we both agreed that he would be president of our company and I the managing director.

Since I learned that you and your husband work together, I hope you can share with us some useful tips on what we can do to strengthen our husband-wife relationship as we work together to grow our business and make it successful.  Please help us.

                                                                                    Distraught Wife

 

The pressure to survive and grow your own business have put strain and stress in your relationship with your husband that you now want out. Let me assure you that successful husband-wife business partnership and a strong marriage can go together but this can only be achieved through mutual efforts to remove the sources of stress and to be clear about your priority i.e., which is more important  to each of you:  your relationship or your business?

 

When husband and wife work together for 40 hrs. a week, individual differences become marked and these are bound to produce conflicts unless one is submissive to the partner with a strong personality.   You write that both of you have strong personalities and this leads to competition and conflicts. Since you had a higher position than your husband, this can unconsciously affect your manner of communicating with him through your words, your tone of voice, facial expression and body language.

 

Twelve years ago, I interviewed six couples who were very successful in their businesses.  All of them went through a rough time making their respective businesses grow and succeed.  At that time, the number of years they worked together in their businesses ranged from 12-23 years.  These couples recounted the many challenges they faced and the struggles they experienced because of the differences in their perceptions, in their decision-making styles and in personality and character.  The interviews I had of them and the experience of my husband and myself were published in a series of articles in the People at Work Section of the Sunday Inquirer in October 2000.  Later, these articles and several others published in the Sunday Inquirer were published in book form with the title, Managing Work and Career by New Day Publishers in 2003.

 

My husband and I both have strong personalities, too;  we’ve been working together for the past 27 years to continue to grow our HR training and consulting business.  The advice we and the six couples mentioned above, now give you in the form of tips did not come from business books or learned from a business school but from the “school of hard knocks” i.e., from our sweat and tears, laughter and joys to make both business partnership and marriage succeed and grow.    To paraphrase the priest officiating a wedding ceremony as he exhorts a couple contracting marriage – “only love can make things easy; only perfect love can make these a joy”.

 

When a husband and wife are able to harness their combined strengths and are able to work out their weaknesses, they have what is known as “couple power”.  As one author puts it;  “Joys shared are doubled, problems shared are halved”  when there is a successful union of two persons united in love.

 

Spouses who work together and share the same vision for the future share common victories that couples who don’t work together don’t experience.  They experience the exhilarating feeling of “We did it together!” when they get a contract signed or have conducted a successful seminar, or the bottom line shows a profitable operation.  They experience a greater sense of oneness and unity.

 

How to Make H–W Partnership Work and Succeed.   Here are some thoughts for you and your husband to reflect and tips to ponder on:

  1. Be sure that you are in a business which both of you believe in, are passionate about, and can do together.  This business must fully utilize the skills and experience of both of you.  If one has the technical skills, the other should have the skills needed to provide support.  If both of you bring your respective technical skills into your business decide what functional area is each one’s domain.
  2. Delineate your responsibilities.  Agree on the roles of each one.  Who has responsibility for what, and who has the final decision on what matters.  Give each other total responsibility in your respective area of expertise.
  3. Have a shared vision and mission for your business.  Agree on the values that will shape how your business will be conducted and define these values.  Which is priority: profit or customer satisfaction?  Speed or quality?
  4. Always plan together.  Agree on your goal or objective for the year or quarter.  Agree on strategies to achieve your goal and brainstorm on action plans.  This way you are walking along the same direction.
  5. Trust that your spouse is performing his/her role competently.  This promotes professionalism in your business relationship
  6. Open communication.  Openly express your thoughts and feelings.  And listen when the other does the same.  Listening must be done non-judgementally.  Look at the situation from the perspective of the other person.  If you disagree, don’t just keep silent or give your spouse the cold shoulder.  And do not shout, particularly in front of your staff.   This only arouses the defensiveness of the other.  Anger and resentment build up.  Remain calm and cool.  Do deep breathing, drink water or go away for a while then return to resume the communication in a calm manner.
  7. Respecting each other is very important in both marriage and business partnerships.  Love can’t make up for a lack of mutual respect.  Respect each other’s opinions, judgements and decisions.  Respect is shown in the following ways.
  • Attentive listening and putting one’s self in the other spouse’s place.  Listen to understand your spouse.  Avoid making judgements and confronting your spouse.
  • Never disparage or criticize your spouse in front of your staff or your client or supplier
  • Never criticise your spouse’s decision, or change or overrule it.  Support your spouse’s decision even if you don’t agree with it.  Bring up your disagreement in private, and then let your spouse be the one to change the decision he/she had previously made.  If not possible, let it be and learn from the mistakes and grow in wisdom together.
  • When one is working on and focused on something, or having a meeting with an employee or a client, do not just barge into the room or meeting and interrupt to talk with him/her or with the person he/she is talking to.  A good technique is to call the spouse by mobile phone or landline even if you are in the same office, to ask if you can ask/tell him/her something important.
  • Respect your individual differences.  See and be convinced how your differences complement each other.  For example, one makes quick decisions while the other is slow and deliberate.  See how this difference can be beneficial  to a good decision  with a time line.  Allow your spouse to work in his/her own style.
  • Respect your spouse’s need for privacy or to be by him/herself.
  1. Acknowledge your spouse’s expertise in his/her field of experience.  Let your spouse shine in his/her field of competence.  Don’t compete for the limelight.  Give affirmation and recognition to your spouse before your staff and your clients.
  2. Your organization should have only one head even if both of you put up your business together.   If a body has two heads, it will be a monster.  The head makes the final decision, after discussion with and agreement with the other spouse.

Your employees know where the buck ends.  Strive for unity in decision-making.  If there is unity, the direction comes from God.

  1.  Don’t mix your regular dialogue on personal and family concerns and your business meeting.  Do them separately.  Don’t neglect your children.  It is a mistake to make your work, your boss or even your god.   Continue to give your family quality time.  The practice of husband having a night out with their son or the wife with their daughter and focusing the conversation on the child’s interest and concerns is a good bonding practice and enhances family closeness .
  2.  When not attending business lunch or dinner meetings, take your meals together.  Take vacations together just to be by yourselves.  Don’t take the business with you.  Just enjoy.

Above all, make God your partner in your business just as He is a part and parcel of your marriage and family.  Pray before you do your yearly and/or quarterly planning.  Pray together everyday.  Thank God together at the end of the day, regardless of how the day had turned out to be.  Have faith in God, faith in yourself, faith in and deep love for your spouse, and be willing to accept your mistakes and to change accordingly.

God bless you.

 

 

Josie O. Santamaria

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