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In it together: When your life partner is also your business partner

In the past few years, a high proportion of our clients’ businesses have been owned and run by wife-and-husband teams or life partners. The relative degree of day-to-day involvement for each partner may vary, but both are typically equal owners and directors of the business.

The dynamic between two life partners can be fabulous when applied to a business partnership.  But it can also cause a lot of issues both in the office and in the kitchen!  If your life partner is also your business partner, chances are you’ll face specific challenges such as:

  • If you live together and work together as business owners, when do you step away and have some ‘you time’?• How do you prevent a rational business discussion becoming emotional and spilling over into your private lives?
  • When two people are equal business partners but one dominates the business relationship, how do you ensure the other has their fair say, gets their ideas heard and feels equally empowered to drive the business forward?
  • What happens to the business if the personal relationship is under strain or even fails?
  • When you have children, how do you share the responsibilities of running the business and raising your family?
  • How do you push yourselves to meet the objectives and targets you’ve set – who is holding who to account?

If two people have made a life and business commitment to be together, is there room for a third person (me!) in that dynamic?  It takes experience, sensitivity and a lot of pragmatism to be an adviser to business owners who also share their lives together.  As a trusted adviser, I help you to build a better business; if that is the means to a better life for the whole family, then I’m doing my job.  But I don’t confuse my role, no matter how much ‘personal stuff’ my business owner clients bring into the office.

Having said that, one client noted, ‘Being a husband-and-wife business team is brilliant in the sense that we are sharing the creation of our family’s future.  It does, however, have the risk of being very intense and impinging on “family time” – particularly now we have two young sons.  Having Ian involved in the business and available to us as a sounding board and a source of guidance has been invaluable.  I only half-joked when I once described him as providing “marriage guidance advice”!’

A business partnership is analogous with a life partnership or marriage in that the two of you (hopefully) share the same goals and have very similar values, so that how you support, encourage and get the best from each other at work is natural and positive.  However, it isn’t always that easy and the pressures of business life can create strains that are better eased by working with an independent adviser.

Over the years, Henchards has successfully helped many couples plan, lead, grow and even exit their businesses.  If you sense that you and your partner would benefit from additional support, talk to us today.

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Downloads

We’ve written a number of guides on selected business subjects that will set you and your business in good stead for whatever future you may choose.

These are free for you to download and to make use of in your business, so please help yourself.