Episode 547 – How to Keep Your Sanity while Working with Your Spouse
Partners from the Get-Go:
It was Great from Mike’s Perspective:
Ever since then, it’s been good AND bad working together. I think for me, it was probably more good than bad. I really enjoy having her around, helping and serving our community. I was probably more of a fan of it than her, because 1) I’m a pain in the butt and she’s delightful and 2) I’m the entrepreneur in the relationship. I’m ready to talk about this business, think about this business, and be in this business 24/7. Meanwhile, she’s a sane human being that doesn’t feel that way 😉
So to summarize my experience, I liked having my spouse work in the business because she could work on a Saturday at two in the afternoon or if I wanted to talk about the business Tuesday night over dinner, she could do that, although it was not the best idea. This is something that I definitely would not and do not do with my employees. I ended up using Nathalie as a crutch, so as opposed to doing things the “right” way, I always depended on handy Nathalie. It initially felt good for the business but then I don’t think that was healthy for our marriage or even for the business. But let’s have Nathalie’s perspective here as the spouse!
Nathalie’s Shift into Becoming and Entrepreneur:
Nathalie: I definitely feel like it was a spigot that couldn’t be turned off. Obviously when we started multiple businesses through the years- (in the first five years we had started two businesses and sold two businesses), it was a LOT. Coming from my background, which was not an entrepreneur, it was a huge paradigm shift for me. So not only were we newly married, but I was also now an entrepreneur as well and I had to take on a lot of new roles and responsibilities. I had to learn so much it felt like. We’ve worked very hard at creating boundaries to make it less overwhelming for me, which is ultimately better for you, Mike and the business.
Nathalie Transitions Out:
Mike: to be totally transparent, we’ve transitioned Nathalie out of the business. She still helps out here and there, but nowadays, it’s more fun stuff where it’s things she likes to do to help out. There’s no direct deliverables that are tied to Nathalie, like she had to “get x, y, and z done.” It’s more like “Hey, we’re gonna do an event” and she comes as my wife, more than as someone running things. We even hired an event planner to organize the event so Nathalie no longer has to be involved in that.
The Phases of Transitioning for Them:
When you’re first starting a business, it can be overwhelming, lonely, and scary. Having a spouse to help you in the business can be a huge support where they do a lot of work. They can also offer a lot of emotional support.
In phase two, once you have enough money to get everything done, you can start hiring, but if you’re still also depending on the free labor of your spouse, that might not be healthy. With a paid employee, you should be thinking about the tasks that you’re having them handle and if they bring in profits to make it worth it. This isn’t always the case when working with a spouse, and when having them work for free, the tasks they’re handling could easily be a waste of time if it’s not bringing in profits.
The third stage was really where it just became emotional. We had plenty of money to hire people, but I was still attached to having Nathalie available 24/7. I could expect things of her that another employee wouldn’t do and she wouldn’t quit- being married, we’re together for better or worse.
The fourth stage was getting her out but the mistake we made was trying to get it done in two or three weeks. The problem we realized was that she didn’t have a real job description. Nathalie had about 20 job descriptions that could take anywhere from two seconds to four or five hours a month to do. We mistakenly thought that one person could handle all this, but in reality it was really two or three people that filled her job description.
In hindsight, only the first phase was good for the business when we were just getting started. Having a spouse in the business with you can be both wonderful and frustrating, so it’s so important to have boundaries as Nathalie mentioned. Also, be very open about when to transition the spouse out of the business and what that will look like.
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