Working With Your Spouse Could Be Easier Than You Think with Blair Phillips
Success is often measured by net returns. But you can be making lots of money and still be miserable. Time is a commodity that is nearly impossible to purchase. Time with your spouse and family can never be replaced by money. My idea of success is making good money while having tons of time for my family. In order to have a work and home environment that is completely serene, you must create balance. Working with your spouse or significant other could be the missing link to make this possible.
Working every day with one’s romantic partner can be the entrepreneur’s most rewarding experience. My wife and I have worked together for 11 years. Things run smoothly and are very enjoyable. The largest contributor to making our business relationship work so well is that we both know our roles.
You have to be able to admit that you are not good at everything. Small-business owners tend to try to do everything themselves. That often leads to their being mediocre at a lot of things. When you identify your strengths and pass off your weaknesses to someone else’s task list, you can become really good at fewer things. In our business, I am really comfortable with handling clients. My wife is not as comfortable with it, so I do it. It is nearly impossible for me to sit at a desk all day working in Photoshop. I am terrible at sitting still, so I passed it off. I take all of the pictures, my wife does all of the editing. Check your ego and pride at the door, and stop trying to be good at the things you despise. Even if it means outsourcing a few of those tasks, it is well worth it in the end.
“Police officer” and “paramedic”
Establish who will be the “paramedic” and who will be the “police officer” in your business. The paramedic loves to help people. The police officer enforces policies. The personality of the police officer is more in line with his or her role. The paramedic’s personality is more in line with listening to and solving problems before the police officer needs to be brought in.
It is rare for a person to be good at both roles. Generally a person will cave at one or the other. In our business, my wife has a much harder time telling people no than I do. I have no problem at all standing my ground when I know we are in the right. You have to always remember that you are running a business. Everything you do costs you money one way or another. Larger companies often have a conflict resolution person trained to handle problems. This person generally never takes anything personally, and should have a warm, bubbly personality.
Agree on policies—and stick to them
Things can get really interesting when two people are equally invested in a business. They can really get tense when making decisions. In order for anything to work, both have to agree on those decisions. This is especially true when formulating procedures and policies. Nothing’s worse than when a client hears one thing from one partner, and something different from the other.
We learned early in our business that it was imperative for us to develop a policy and procedure for every possible scenario. Write them down so you can always reference them. This way, you remain consistent and don’t have to handle everything on a case-by-case basis. Never go behind your spouse and alter things, which is belittling.
Once, we had a minor snafu over an evening client appointment. I take my last appointment at 3:00 in the afternoon. There is a general understanding that I leave everyday at 5:00 to go home and be with my children. The client called, and I told her that the latest possible appointment was 3:00. She called back later and told my wife that she could only come at 6:00. My wife caved, and it made me look like a fool. Lesson learned.
While it can be richly rewarding to work with your loved one, don’t forget to set aside some time for yourself. Our personal hobbies help keep our excitement for each other alive. The time we are apart makes us miss each other. We’re excited to get back home and spend time together. Take turns taking a spontaneous afternoon off to do whatever you like. This brings so much enjoyment, leaving you refreshed and excited to get back to your family.
Step away from the business
We all get really busy and feel that there are not enough hours in the day. Your business will not perish should you take an occasional break from it. Vacationing was really difficult for us early on because we were afraid of losing business if we were not here. If you do not close the doors every now and then, you will grow to resent your life. Ask yourself: Am I working my job, or is my job working me?
Just as you have to adjust to the routines of people you live with, you have to adjust to those you work with. You have to learn to respect each other’s space. This is certainly true in a workplace that you share with your spouse.
My wife’s domain is our production office. This is where she spends all of her time. My domain is my studio and outdoor shooting space. It would drive me crazy if she came into my space and started moving things around. Everything is just how I need it. It’s the same for her. Agree that your spaces are not to be bothered by the other person.
I can’t imagine coming to work every day without my wife. We have grown into the perfect team. Each of us knows when to give a little more than the other and when to take a step back. Establishing and maintaining roles has been the most important tool for survival. We continue to attack each day as it comes with an open mind and a lot of love and respect for one another. If your heart and spirit are in the right place, you can make it work too.