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She’s the Boss: The Challenges Behind Hiring Your Husband

Should you hire your husband to work in your accounting firm? Being the boss of a family-owned business has its pros and cons. Loren Fogelman reviews these and reflects on her own experience in her latest article.

Nov 26th 2019
Founder Business Success Solution
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I’ve worked side by side with my husband, Steve, throughout my career. Our work relationship led to our romantic partnership.  In the beginning, Steve led our agency while I offered direct client services. 

Everything shifted in 2009. On the verge of burnout, something had to change. At that time, I didn’t realize the solution existed outside of our agency. 

After 12 years of agency work, I heeded the call to move onto something else. Steve, eventually sold our agency, and joined my business. Yes, we continue to work together. He’s now; however, an employee rather than a co-owner.

She’s the Boss

According to the American Express 2018 report, 58 percent of all new businesses since 2007 are now women-owned. Basically, the wife runs the company for four out of every 10 businesses in the United States.

Mom-and-pop businesses symbolize the American dream. They lay the groundwork for a thriving community.

Like all things, the CEO profile for family-owned businesses is receiving an update. Women no longer stand in the shadows of their husbands filling secretarial positions. Mom now heads up the business, and pop fills the support roles at home and at work.

Couples frequently possess complimentary skill sets that benefit the business. He’s the sales and IT tech, while she’s the tax and accounting advisor. In those situations, there’s no overlap and you’re actually relieved he does those things for your firm.

Success is Messy

But, what happens when your skill sets overlap? That’s the challenge Steve and I faced. It’s been a journey of trial and error.

Starting up, I filled all the roles. As he gradually joined me, I passed forward the tasks I didn’t enjoy. That was my first mistake.

Getting those things off my plate freed up my time.  Since he didn’t enjoy those things either, this strategy failed.

Since speaking at conference keeps me on the road, we swapped roles at home. I gladly handed over the household responsibilities. That’s now his department.

Working with Your Spouse

Not all couples work well together. It’s easy to blur the lines between being the boss at work and partners at home. It’s a juggling act. But with clear boundaries, the benefits of working together pay off in dividends.

  • Trust. We all need a confidante; even King Arthur had a roundtable. I’m comfortable being vulnerable with him.
  • Input. We don’t always see things eye to eye. Therefore, I often run options by him before making a final decision.
  • Feedback. Sometimes I’m too close to the process. His input makes me aware of different aspects that I wouldn’t notice on my own.
  • Fun. We enjoy working together. Traveling together is a bonus.
  • Skill set. Since we share similar coaching skills, how do we differ? He now teaches communication, relationship and leadership skills to our coaching clients, especially for the couples in business together.

And yes, sometimes we disagree on things. Or my instructions are too vague.

Our role reversal has added a new dimension to our marriage. I’ve learned things about myself because of this change in responsibilities.  

You’ll eventually experience some similar challenges, too.

  • How clearly do you explain your expectations?
  • Does your husband prefer detailed instructions?
  • Are you utilizing his strengths or is he simply filling a position?
  • Do his mistakes become learning opportunities or arguments?
  • Are you a control freak and stifling him?

Don’t expect your business partnership to fix your marital issues.  Communication and trust are the #1 reasons for your husband to eventually call it quits and work somewhere else. Working together and living together can get messy.

A Resource for the Daily Challenges

Being at the top can feel lonely. Especially, when complex challenges arise. That’s why Steve’s my go-to person.

As my CSO, Chief Support Office, he listens to new ideas, shares his perspective on how to deal with tough problems and discusses business growth strategies.

Sometimes all that’s necessary is an attentive ear. As I talk it out, I figure out what’s really going on and how I feel about it. Other times, Steve and I work out a solution together.

Although we talk shop on a daily basis, we also meet weekly. Our weekly meetings focus primarily on “the BIG picture.” We review what’s working in the business and progress on the business.

Several times per year we’ll schedule a strategic growth retreat. Sometimes we’ll attend a workshop. Other times we’ll go away for a long weekend to update our growth plan. Getting away lets us accomplish more since the day to day distractions are eliminated.

A daily review before dinner gives us closure. If an idea occurs later in the evening, then we’ll discuss it.  So we’re okay flexing our rule about no shop talk after dinner.

Learn to Listen

Although I’m the boss, I do my best to keep an open mind. I don’t know it all. And I don’t want to know it all.

I value Steve’s ideas. His perspective is different from mine. I appreciate the “aha” insights that develop during our conversations. During one specific occasion, his contribution changed the entire course of my business.

An Unexpected Benefit

I frequently travel to speak at conferences. Whenever possible, Steve joins me. While he’s navigating the roads, I’m on phone meetings or making last minute updates to my presentation.

As my CSO, Steve manages all the venue details. Once he’s satisfied with everything, he’ll meet people and network in the room.

After my presentation is over, he’s by my side answering questions, setting up appointments and managing back of the room sales. He keeps things running smoothly. This allows me to fully focus on my presentation and post-discussions.

Sometimes we’ll build an extra day or two onto our trip, especially if it’s a destination location. It’s a way to combine work and play.

Hiring your husband can strengthen your relationship and grow your business. As a strategic partner, he’s available to discuss ideas and resolve challenges.  Yes, you’re the boss. On the other hand, he’s fully committed to your success. 

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