One of the hardest parts of marriage is navigating the slippery slope of hierarchy. Hierarchy is defined as “a system in which people or groups are ranked one above the other according to status or authority”. In other words….who’s the boss? In an ideal world or marriage there would be no boss, but a true partnership with both parties having equal say. Of course, that world just doesn’t exist. So in marriage, the spouses either fight it out until a victor emerges or come to a compromise if they don’t agree on a subject. Each person should have an opportunity to voice their opinion and to have it heard. In some instances though, there may be one person who has a better understanding of the situation and should have more input. Some examples are, if a spouse has a better understanding of the family schedule, they would obviously have more input on the timing of a family outing. Or if one spouse is really interested in the stock market and does lots of research, they would be better qualified to make a decision on an investment. It’s really a simple concept but sometimes the execution can be tricky. It’s even more difficult when spouses share a business. So the question becomes, how do you determine who is in charge when spouses work together?
The first step is to realize that your business is a partnership and not a competition. In a partnership, both parties are working toward a common goal….success of your business. Sometimes that will mean that one spouse will have a larger role in determining how the business will function. This in no way diminishes the other partner, it just removes the opportunity for competition. Healthy competition in sports is vital, but in a business partnership it can be catastrophic. If the two main players in the business can’t agree…..how can the business be a success?
The second step is to determine the hierarchy of the business. It’s never a good thing to appoint a supreme ruler in a partnership. In fact, that would be the exact opposite of a partnership. The most obvious way is to determine what role each person will assume in the business and what special skills they bring to that role. Obviously, the partner who is the dentist would be the one to make all decisions in regard to patient care. If the other partner is in charge of all things accounts payable, that partner would be the best one to make decisions regarding those issues. The process of defining roles within the business can be difficult but it is crucial to determining the hierarchy of the business. Once you have roles determined and hierarchy established the relationship between spouses will feel more like a partnership and less like a competition.
The third step is to respect the partnership. Each spouse needs to appreciate the contributions of the other and to adhere to the hierarchy of the business. Equally important is that all members of your team are aware of the partnership hierarchy and respect the role of each partner. Even if one partner has a very limited role in the day to day process of your business all team members need to realize that your business is a partnership.
Finally, navigating the journey of business ownership and working with your spouse can sometimes be a bumpy one. That is why we are here to help you with some helpful tips and advice learned through years of experience and a willingness to share our stories. Grace and I are an impartial third party who have “been there, done that” and have “seen that, fixed that”. We would love to help you make your ideal partnership a reality.
By: Kim Cavallari