How can we make our
family-business work better?
The unique challenges of being in business with your family
As I’ve said elsewhere, many family businesses start with the profession of the business owner. The electrician starts an electrical contracting business and the accountant starts an accountancy practice. A little way into the life of the business, the founder of the business, along with the spouse of the founder starts to appreciate that it takes more than being a great accountant to build a great accountancy business or being a great electrician to build a great electrician’s business, and the business flounders.
The family business is born when the spouse decides that “enough is enough” and enters the business as well, not least, to sort out the chaos created by the founder, in order to protect the interests of the family. (Read about my husband and wife coaching here). Over time, such family business can grow to become multi generational organisations with brothers, kids, uncles and cousins involved in the business.
70% Of all businesses in Australia are family businesses and a large percentage of those can be classed as husband and wife family businesses. In my experience there is wonderful opportunity in being in business with your spouse. It holds the possibility of providing for your family very well and there is a great opportunity to grow as a couple. But waking up beside your business partner in bed every morning also comes with a bunch of unique challenges.
What’s so especially challenging about family businesses?
- It’s especially difficult to ‘leave work at work’.
- Sometimes the spouse who joined as the admin and finance partner (the wife often) can feel like they’ve sacrificed their career for that of the operations partner.
- Sometimes the admin partner has joined out of necessity rather than from skill, training or experience in this field.
- Relationship dynamics can get in the way of business partnership dynamics.
- If the business fails it can wreck the marriage as well.
- Uneven power dynamic can cause tensions in the office and at home.
- Issues of hierarchy may creep into the relationship.
- Hiring can be an obstacle for husband and wife teams.
- Investing in a husband-wife business looks risky for outside investors
Do you experience some of those challenges in your family business as well? Most husband and wife partnerships do, but there is no reason why you can’t can’t learn to move past those challenges. In my experience, the key is clarity. Clarity about your respective roles, who does what and who is responsible for what, clarity about the Purpose of the business, clarity about direction and long term goals.
Such clarity has to be discovered and built. My Five Steps to Discovery Process is all about discovering and building on that clarity, check it out and take the first steps towards your own clarity. The Five Steps Process is mostly free and without any obligation, sales or nonsense, just clarity, insight and practical next steps. More here.
When you get it right, when you get a husband and wife family business really working, there is nothing more satisfying. The two of you will develop your relationship to an entirely different level, the business will thrive and your family life will start to feel like a true partnership… I promise you
Tools, surveys, further reading
Here is a great info graphic about how to make a success of being in business with your spouse on the Business Families foundation website
You may also want to have a look at the website of Family Business Australia. There are a bunch of great resources and information there as well. Follow this link
How do you compare against Bey and Jay?
Complete the Beyoncé and Jay-Z Family business survey to find out how you compare against the most famous husband and wife family business partnership in the music biz. It’s fun and takes just a few minutes and if you and your spouse complete the survey it will lead to some powerful conversations that will open the door to new opportunities in how you work together.
More reading and resources for husband and wife family business owners:
- I have a comprehensive list of resources for family business on this page here
- There is a page with videos and other resources dedicated to mental health and personal wellbeing for business owners here (also especially family business owners)
- I’ve written about my own experiences in family business here
- I’ve written about some of the challenges for husband and wife business partners here
- I wrote about how to make family business work well here
- Here is a LinkedIn article about husband and wife family businesses I wrote
- And also an article on Medium.com about waking up beside your business partner every morning
- And of course don’t forget to take the Bey and Jay Family Business Survey and find out how you compare to the King and Queen of the music business here