Should spouses run a company together?

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Dear Norm,
My wife and I have been married eight years, and I love her to death. A couple of years ago, we started a consulting company, which is doing well, but the challenge of living, working, eating, playing, raising children, and sleeping together is taking a toll on both of us. It’s hard to keep business and personal considerations separate. How can spouses run a company and still maintain a great relationship?

Dear Rich,
I also work with my wife, Elaine, who is our vice-president of human resources. We tried working together shortly after we were married. She quit after one day. Twenty years later, she decided to give it another shot, and things have gone extremely well. “You have to establish guidelines,” she says. “There has to be a clear division between work life and married life. You have to figure out what you can talk about and when; how you’re going to function in each role; what’s acceptable behavior and what isn’t. But that type of arrangement won’t work for everyone. I’m not sure you’ve been married long enough to pull it off. Eight years into our marriage, we would never have been able to do it. If you can’t set down clear guidelines both at work and at home and stick with them, maybe you should think about having separate businesses.”
Yours truly, Norm

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