9 Tips for Working with Your Spouse (Divorce – no; murder – can I think about it?)

By Nancy Friedman, Founder/President, Telephone Doctor Customer Service

Since we’ve been married,  my husband and I have had 4  successful startups. Three were his start ups and I helped him. And one was my start up and he helped me.

During most interviews I’ve done, the one question that comes up consistently, is: “Nancy, you’re with Dick 24/7/365. How on earth do you do that; how does that work?”

Without missing a beat, our answer is: “We didn’t know it wasn’t supposed to work.”  Buy IN Is crucial.

We did, as you might imagine, had and yet worked  through some of the tough times, and there were a few, not many, but yes, a few.

Here are a few tips that made all 4 of our start ups successful. And I might add these are in NO PARTICULAR ORDER. Nor did we have any of these written down ahead of time. They just ‘were!’

Successful START UP Tips for Working with your Spouse

  1. Honey, sweetheart, darling, love of my life, etc. are for use in the kitchen – not your business. Using our first name still showed our customers we’re a family friendly business. We certainly do have our pet names we use in the home (not to be given here…LOL), but not in the business world.
  1. Leave your ego at the door. If you went into business ‘together,’ that’s so important. If you were brought in later down the line, it’s still critically important. It just could be more difficult. Getting credit is important. We all need it. Or do we and is it? Or does it simply mean ‘we got it done.’ That’s something only the two of you can answer. We went with the ‘we got it done’ part. Sometimes it was his idea; sometimes mine. We drank to the idea. Not the person.

Did you see the word: “WE” in there? That’s a key word in working with your spouse – WE. Using it often helps maintain the idea. Even when it was one of our own ideas, we used the word “WE.” We took the applause together. Still do.

  1. Don’t ever, ever lose your sense of humor. Ever. There is humor in most everything and if you’re having trouble finding it, think of San Juan, Puerto Rico, or the Bahamas, or 9/11, or your friend with cancer. In the long run, it usually can be worse. Complainers and blamers don’t make great partners.
  1. Alone time is mandatory. Both alone, alone, and together alone. It’s back to ‘dating’ and spending time ‘together.’ Especially making the time ‘when you feel there is no time. We make time for what we feel is important. It doesn’t need to be hours and hours. Even a short dinner at a fast food restaurant can work. But a nice dinner with a glass of wine to relax and share good thoughts works well, too.

Neither Dick or I have any great hobbies like golf, tennis, bridge, hiking, and so many others that often keep spouses apart too long. Most of our dinners were “alone together.” We enjoy each other. Oddly, still do.

  1. Something bothering you? Do not ‘emotionally leak’ on your spouse. Or anyone in your business. Flat tire? Gained weight? Argue with kids? Whatever. If it didn’t involve the spouse, don’t take it out on the spouse. Emotional leakage is getting mad at Peter & taking it out on Paul. Not right, not fair, not fun. Don’t take the negative situation from someone/something else and put it on your spouse. And sadly, it’s easy to do, mostly because of our unconditional love for each other. Sort of “we know we can, they’ll forgive me.” Sure we will; however, we don’t like it. And it happens all the time. We don’t enjoy it when a customer ‘leaks’ on us, do we? Something happened to them unrelated to us and they take it out on us. They leak too. But we’re just not about to say, “Hey, stop leaking on me.”
  1. Working 24/7/365 is NOT for everyone. I wouldn’t push it on others. Sometimes it sounds like a great idea. Some folks are not aware of what’s involved with working with a spouse. And since most of us are not psychiatrists, we need to stay out of that suggestion. Even the best of couples working together can have issues. It’s HOW those issues are handled that makes the success. (That’s a whole ‘nother article.)
  1. Bringing KIDS into the fold? Not able to say good, bad or indifferent on this one. I can tell you what we did. And it worked. When our son said he wanted to come into the business after graduating college we said, “Sure that’s super. However, we need you to get hired somewhere else for a year to see how working outside the family business is. It’s not always reality.” While he wasn’t thrilled with the option, he went and got a ‘real’ job at a big company and one year later came back and asked that we hire him. We did and he’s been around ‘forever.’ We did have some ground rules. I wasn’t MOM and Dick wasn’t DAD in our 9-5 working environment. We were Nancy & Dick. Then after 5 we were MOM and DAD again. Could he deal with that? “Let’s find out,” he said. Again, it worked for us. No respect was lost by calling us by our first names. In fact, it made us closer.
  1. Never, never, never go to bed angry with each other. NEVER! No more needs to be said on this.
  1. Reread Number 8.
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Nancy Friedman, customer service keynote speaker, is founder/chairman of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training and a featured speaker at franchise, association, and corporate meetings around the world. A popular TV guest, she appeared on Oprah, The Today Show, CNN, FOX News, Good Morning America and CBS This Morning, as well as hundreds of other radio, television and print outlets around the world, including the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. The author of 9 books on her chosen topics, Nancy helps corporate America improve their communications with their customers & co-workers. You can see her 9 books here. For more information, log on to Nancy Friedman's website www.nancyfriedman.com or call (314) 291-1012. Oh yeah you can email her at nancyf@telephonedoctor.com. Nancy is a recent recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Hall of Fame Award - St. Louis Small Business Monthly